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Resources for the modern journalist. From Loose Wire

LinkedIn: Finding sources

Journalists can use LinkedIn not only to control their visibility online, but also as a way to add, interact with and cement ties with sources. For one thing, LinkedIn makes it possible to research potential sources (or recruits, or employers) more easily. If nothing else, journalists should be encouraged to familiarize themselves with LinkedIn for this purpose alone, since the data presented on LinkedIn is likely to be more up-to-date and better collated than more or less anywhere else online. For another, LinkedIn provides plenty of opportunities to find new sources relatively easily—and to communicate with them.

Messages on LinkedIn can be bilateral and direct—akin to an email message—or they can be with groups. One way to do this is to ask or answer a question circulated to a group of contacts. Another channel of communication is via Groups, organized by interest, by membership (or former) membership of an institution, or by location.

Finding a source, then, can be done several ways:

  • Keyword searches of companies
  • Keyword searches of industries/interests/places
  • Studying the contacts of a source with whom one has an existing connection. If you’ve found one person in the industry/profession you’re interested in, chances are they’re connected to other people in the same area, or company.

Search on LinkedIn is like Google: it’s multilayered. Mastering the Advanced Search function allows you to drill down through the 50 million odd people on LinkedIn by many variables, so use it (including for former—as well as serving–employees of a company or organization you’re trying to write about.)

If you find you’re searching LinkedIn a lot, use add LinkedIn as a search engine in your browser (Opera, Firefox, Internet Explorer.) This allows you to search LinkedIn without having to visit the LinkedIn webpage first.

Connecting with a source is relatively simple: For a journalist, the front door is usually the easiest (whereas other professions usually require an introduction.) A LinkedIn profile may not provide an email address, for reasons of privacy, but in most cases there’s usually a link to the company website where either the person’s contact details can be found, or a switchboard number.

If you want to connect via LinkedIn, you can use one of several options, listed on the right hand side of the person’s profile. I would recommend the Add xx to your network option and choose We’ve done business together, choosing your present company from the drop-down menu. Be sure to explain in the personal note why you want to talk to them. Few people turn away a journalist.

There’s a page specifically for journalists on finding sources: http://learn.linkedin.com/journalists/

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