Your content is only as good as your sources. Whether your content marketing and brand journalism rely on internal resources or external subject matter experts, quality interviewees are crucial.
But few of us look beyond credentials when choosing sources. Some of that's because we're in a hurry and bona fides are an easy thing to check off. Some of that, though, is because we're not putting enough value on other kinds of traits, such as:
1. Different Perspectives
In journalism school, we're trained to seek out opposing views to represent different sides or perspectives on our topics. Yet there are always sources with slightly different perspectives that really round out a story. Here's an example: I was sourcing a story about falls in seniors. I interviewed an emergency room doctor, who gave me all kinds of great information about what happens to us after we fall, and especially if we don't get up quickly. A gerontologist I interviewed offered a lot of insight on why older people fall. I could have gotten a good story from just one of those experts, but combining their different perspectives created a more robust article that was ultimately more useful to readers.
3. Racial & Cultural Diversity
We make an effort to use sources of various races and cultural backgrounds to mirror the audience our content is designed to serve. I know some of my white colleagues are uncomfortable asking people for referrals to sources of color, but it's important to push past those feelings and do it -- or spend more time on Linkedin (as an example) to identify qualified sources of other races and from other backgrounds. We produce better content and build credibility when we our background and quoted sources reflect and represent our audience more accurately.
4. Gender Diversity
Women are in the majority in the United States, yet analyses of news coverage shows that men (and really, only white men) are interviewed far more than women. And people who are transgender non-binary are even less represented. Again, including a range of voices in your pieces is important to provide a fuller look at your topic, and to help people relate to your content by seeing themselves in it.
There are, of course, many other kinds of diversity to consider when sourcing, such as demographics, geography, etc. Depending on your audience, one or more other factor may take priority.
The idea here isn't to label your sources (though that may be appropriate in some circumstances where certain aspects of their identity is cogent to the topics). The goal is to deliberately broaden our reach when sourcing stories to include more kinds of people and different ideas.
Another critical benefit of diversifying sources: It helps us uncover and address our own biases, so we can be more effective and objective writers and journalists.
Here's the slide deck from my presentation on this at the National High School Journalism Conference in April 2017. Download the presenter notes for tips on where to find more diverse sources.