If you plan to package information, publish a customer newsletter or establish yourself as an expert by writing and/or speaking, you’ll find yourself collecting information all of the time. Once you begin doing so, it’s easy to depend on your regular sources and forget about the other options you have for finding useful material.
To make your information gathering more effective, you’ll want to tap into as many sources as possible (without making yourself dizzy).
Before you do, however, set up a system for handling the material that you collect. A series of folders or files labeled with broad categories is likely to be the easiest system whether you are clipping artless of saving online discoveries.
Since ideas are fleeting and can occur at anytime and anyplace, you have to be prepared to preserve them on the spot.
Although you’ll depend on personal experience for some of your writing and speaking, your work will be livelier and have more impact if you support what you have to say in a variety of ways.
Here are some sources to consider.
° Conduct a poll or design a questionnaire. We love to know what other people are thinking and doing. As a result pollsters have created a booming business interviewing folks on every conceivable subject. You don’t need to be Gallop to conduct a poll of your own and publish the results.
If you have a mailing list, you could send a questionnaire to your readers. Or you could spend a few hours at a mall or airport polling anyone who would talk to you.
Members of an affinity group, conference attendees or trade show exhibiters also make fine candidates for polling.
Subjects might be right in front of you. John Schroeder, author of Garage Sale Fever, created a poll by asking folks running the sales he visited how they planned to spend the money they earned from their efforts.
Once you’ve got the results (and it doesn’t have to be highly scientific), write a press release or include your findings in some other work.
° Interview interesting people. Experts in your field, your peers, unusual folks in your neighborhood are all good subjects for interviewing. More and more video interviews are showing up online in blogs and YouTube channels.
The key to a successful interview is to come prepared with questions you want answered. Sometimes that requires doing preliminary research on your subject. At other times, you can ask your subject for suggestions about topics they most want to discuss. Or you may find a combination of both fits.
° Subscribe to related publications in your field. What are the trends in your industry? New discoveries? Who are the movers and shakers? Keeping up in the information age can be challenging, but the better informed you are, the more credible your work will be.
Take time to glean information from trade journals, general publications and specialty newsletters. Subscribe to blogs that are a fit.
As an expert, one of your jobs is to scour huge amounts of information and pass along the most pertinent to your audience.
° Keep up with the latest books. Of course, you want to keep posted on the newest titles in your field. If you regularly review books on your blog or newsletter, you may find that book publishers are willing to send you review copies of their new titles. (Yes, for free.)
Here’s how it works. First of all, you must request titles that are new or nearly new. When you come across a title that appeals to you, write to the promotion department of the publisher. Keep your message simple and to the point.
Say something like, “As book editor of Move Ahead News, I would like to receive a review copy of Fred Brebble’s Secrets of Fabulous Fortunes, which I believe would be of interest to our success-minded readers. Thank you.”
Not all requests will be granted, but when you do review a book, send two copies to the publisher. You may even find an excerpt from your review included as a testimonial when the book comes out in paperback.
° Do hardcore research. Your reference librarian can be a great asset to your research efforts. Take time to get to know what resources your local library has—and doesn’t have.
Backing up your ideas with quotes, examples and stories from other experts in yourfield can add credibility and also demonstrate that you’ve done a thorough job of investigating your subject. Don’t skimp.
Sometimes your information gathering will take on the personality of a detective hunt. At other times, information will seem to drop into your lap.
Either way, the more you have to draw on, the more interesting the search will be for both you and your audience.