work life

What makes an expert?

As a writer, I frequently interview experts in various fields because their in-the-trenches insights help explain complicated concepts, or they’re the first to know the latest advances or changes in a given industry.

Then, imagine my surprise, when I’ve been called a handful of times this year to be an expert source for an article, a radio show, and on other blogs! I was shocked that someone dug me up on Google and though that I had the credentials to be a source.

But, of course, that’s exactly how I do it when I’m looking for someone to interview.

So, how do I know who to call on? What makes an expert?

What makes an expert?

The first place I start is, of course, Google. First, I look for published articles. Experts are often published in scholarly or professional publications. Or, in many instances, if someone has been quoted in other mainstream articles, I can assume they’re versed on being interviewed.

Next, I look for social media presence. This varies widely by field, but if someone is active in the social space, I can usually count on that person to be responsive and able to convey ideas for a general audience.

Third, I seek out a personal or professional website. Honestly, these days, if someone doesn’t have a website, I discount their expertise. Even a single page that lists highlights and contact info is sufficient.

Finally, I toggle over to LinkedIn and check out the person’s profile.

Those four points give me a great indication if someone is widely published or cited, if they’re able to convey their ideas well, and if they’ll be responsive to working with the media.

Those are all “soft” criteria, of course, but it’s worked well for me. Time and again, by eliminating potential sources who don’t meet those elements, I wind up with the perfect person for the piece.

How do you seek out sources to interview for your stories? Any points I’m missing?