Thursday, April 30, 2009

Finding An Expert

Guess what? You can find experts to interview, even if you've never published an article. Here's how I secured my very first interview (which led to an article I sold to RPPs multiple times).

1--Prepare the article and/or interview questions. I prefer to have an almost completed article sitting in front of me before I request an interview with an expert. Why? If the article is complete, I can choose my questions based on what I have already written. The answers complement my article and it doesn't take long to plug in the expert's responses. On the same note, I fully prepare my interview questions before I request an interview. If an expert is willing to answer my questions immediately, I better have those questions prepared!

2--Geography. I chose to attempt an interview with a psychologist in Georgia for my first RPP article. Why Georgia? I was in Georgia, visiting my parents, I am from Georgia and I knew that Georgia had at least 3 RPPs. It was just a comfortable place to begin. The second expert I interviewed was in Baltimore. Why? Because Baltimore's Child was the first RPP to publish my work and I hoped to continue working with them by acquiring an interview with a local source.

3--Find the expert. Instead of closing my eyes and pointing to a name in the phone book, I decided to look for professional associations that would include, as members, psychologist from Georgia. I found the Georgia Psychological Association online. 

4--Request the interview. Once I had my target association, I went to the "contact us" option on the website. In my subject line I put, "Interview Request." In the body of my email, I simply stated that I was working on an article, gave the article title, and said that it would be submitted to Atlanta Parent, as well as other regional publications. I indicated that I would need a psychologist that worked with pre- and post-partum clients so that his or her expertise would correlate with my subject matter. I had a favorable response within an hour. (I was so excited I could hardly respond to the email!).

5--Follow Through. As soon as I had a name and contact information for my expert, I ran with it. I emailed immediately (as it was to be an email interview). I again explained my purpose for the interview, thanked the expert for her time and posted the questions right then and there in the body of the email. I also gave her a deadline for her responses by saying, "I will need your responses by May, __, in order to meet my deadline. Yes, I did have a deadline--I set the deadline for myself in order to complete the article, submit and get busy on the next one.

6--Follow Up. My expert was a pleasure to work with and I let her know that. I sent her (and my contact at the Georgia Psychological Association who set up the interview) a hand-written thank you note right away. As soon as the article was in print, I sent a another brief note of thanks, my business card and a copy of the article with instructions about how to locate it online. I sent both of those contacts holiday cards as well. Do I want to work with them again--you bet. Do I hope they remember me--you bet.

7--How Many Sources? I have found that interviewing one source per article has worked well for me. I typically include some anecdotes from real people in the article, too. 

8--Identify the Source. If I am submitting an article to Kansas City Parent, but my source is from Atlanta, I simply omit the location of the source. Instead, I say Dr. Who is a pediatrician with over 20 years experience. 

There are so many smart, educated people who want to share their knowledge with others. Most of those people are working in fields where they are already striving to help people every day. If you present yourself with confidence and treat others with respect, I believe that you can land interviews with the experts of your choice. 

How do you find experts? I'd love to know!

Next Thursday I will write more about my experiences with RPPs, so come back for a visit! Until then, happy writing.


  1. Great post, Julie. So far I've found experts "in my own back yard." When sitting down to think about an article, it's amazing when I realize who I know in my circle of friends or family who has information to share about that topic. This doesn't always work, of course, but it's a great starting place!

  2. Julie, once again, I am impressed with your thorough tips provided here. You really should be submitting these to get paid! (Try Funds for Writers and Writing for Dollars, 2 places that are always looking to pay for articles on the writig process.) Though, I completely appreicate the free advice you give. : ) I will definitely put this to good use. I'm also amazed at your growing list of clips. You're rockin'!
    Question: what key words did you use in your online search for the psychologist(s)?
    ~Mary Jo

  3. MJ--Thanks for the info about Funds for Writers and Writing for Dollars. I had wondered how I might could develop these ideas more fully and perhaps produce an article. I think I will stash your idea for post-moving consideration.

    I think I simply googled "Atlanta Psychologist." I was more specific with my needs once I had a contact to work with.

  4. Thanks for the great tips and inspiration.

  5. Excellent write up! I will also recommend this article to my other pals.
    Find Expert Advice