Each month, I work with hundreds of journalists, showing them how to use LinkedIn to find story ideas, locate and contact hard-to-reach subject matter experts, and scoop their competition by finding information being shared no where else except on LinkedIn.
It all starts with the power of the LinkedIn search.
Whether you're using the unified search functions at the top of the screen, or doing a much more refined search via the "Advanced People or Jobs" search
, there's a pretty good chance you'll find the information you need to flesh out a breaking story, add dimension to a profile, or contextualize a broader issue with global ramifications.
Even better is the fact that when you do find the "right" person, you have several options on how to reach them. One way is to send them an invitation request. But to be honest, that can seem awkward because you don't really know that person. Indeed, LinkedIn recommends connecting with people you know.
A better option is to use LinkedIn's InMail
function. If you two are not connected, you can pay for an InMail, or buy a premium upgrade to send a free InMail. Journalists who join LinkedIn for Journalists and take a tutorial with us may qualify for a premium upgrade. Details about the program can be found here
Another way to communicate with someone you're not connected to is to message them through a group you both share in common. (I talk about this in my tutorials, too.) So when you're checking out someone's profile, be sure to take a look at their groups. If you share one in common, you could exchange messages for free via that group.
Of course, there's no guarantee that the potential source will get back to you, even when you work for a big news outlet. To improve your chances, be sure to talk about what you two have in common. Did you go to the same school? You can learn that through our Alumni tool. Did you serve on the same board? Check out the "Volunteer Experience and Causes" section. Do you know a few people in common? Look at the right side of their profile page. Once you know what brings you together, be sure to mention this in both the subject line and body of your message to the potential source.
Here's an example of a recent success by LinkedIn for Journalists
member Teresa Meek
Just wanted to let you know that I used a source I found on LinkedIn while on deadline today. I needed a consultant with very specific expertise (FDA Part 11 controls for laboratories), and everyone I contacted from a Google search was too busy to talk to me today. But I found a recently retired consultant who created a LinkedIn group on the subject. He had time to talk--and saved my neck.
We've also had some other success stories. A longtime radio journalist in San Francisco said she was able to use LinkedIn recently to find and reach the person she needed for a story, but because she is rather private, I won't share the details here.
Another success story involves a USA Today reporter using advanced search functions to learn about a company's upcoming plans. The story about how this reporter used LinkedIn was published by the International Journalists' Network
When Twitter was denying to the press its intention to become a public company, a USA Today reporter broke the story that it was in fact gearing up to launch its IPO.
How did he break the story? By using LinkedIn to keep tabs on the company. Twitter posted a job ad on LinkedIn for a stock administration analyst whose job duties would include filing the needed U.S. Securities and Exchange form "when we are ready to go public."
I could go on and on about the dozens of ways that LinkedIn can help journalists, but I think you get the picture. With more than 2 million groups, 3 million company pages and 300 million members sharing their aspirations, accomplishments and insight, it's easy to find story ideas, potential sources and occasionally break a great story on LinkedIn.
Yumi Wilson is LinkedIn's journalism educator and corporate communications manager. A version of this post appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.