So it’s established. They’re out there. Floods of reporters. All over LinkedIn.
The question, then, with so many journalists in that space, is this: How can communicators use LinkedIn to become sources or to promote their clients to journalists?
Arketi Group, a high-tech public relations and digital marketing firm, also found that 85 percent of journalists are on Facebook, up from 55 percent in 2009. Eighty-four percent use Twitter, up from 24 percent.
Mike Neumeier, principal of Arketi Group, says the spike of reporters on LinkedIn is good news for PR professionals and others hoping to catch the media’s attention.
“You don’t have to stalk them and pitch them through LinkedIn, although you certainly can,” he says, “but you can find a lot of background information on journalists.”
LinkedIn tutors reporters
LinkedIn is also doing its best to help members of the media use the platform. It hosts phone tutorials for reporters and has created a professional journalists group in which it shares “tips and tricks for using LinkedIn to uncover scoops,” says LinkedIn spokeswoman Erin O’Harra.
“Think of it like an ongoing tutorial with new tips and tricks that you can pop in on whenever you want,” she says.
When preparing a pitch, LinkedIn can help communicators research a reporter, find common interests and use it to shape the pitch, Arketi Group’s Neumeier says. It also helps an executive or other source prepare for the interview.
For example, it can be useful to learn about reporters’ backgrounds and what industries they have covered, Neumeier says. If they have just started working for a technology publication but their background is in aviation, this will shape your approach.
“You can make some assumptions that they’re in a new field and you need to make sure that you’re not speaking jargon,” Neumeier says. “Or the converse is true. If it’s a reporter who’s spent 20 years in aviation, you don’t need to educate them on what an airfoil is and how it happens. You can elevate your conversation.”
Stephanie Dressler, a senior associate with Montieth & Co., says LinkedIn is a great way to build relationships with journalists. Content sharing on LinkedIn is user-friendly, and many people connect their Twitter feed and their LinkedIn account.
“As a communications professional, you can really get a sense of what the journalist is interested in at the moment in a professional and social context,” Dressler says. “LinkedIn allows users to comment on or ‘like’ content that their connection shares which can help form a relationship, but also can be used to volunteer a source.”
From internship to job offer to story
One day she saw a question asking, “How do you turn an internship into a job offer?” Because she had done just that, she responded, and the reporter focused the story on her.
“While my story is nearly a drop in the bucket in terms of the scope of coverage,” she says, “I think it reflects one important tactic in how comms/PR pros can be using LinkedIn—watching the LinkedIn Answers section and engaging as much as possible.”
She adds that even when you respond to a question that hasn’t been posed for an article, there’s a chance your reply will be seen by a writer researching another story.
“Adding the RSS feed to your regular monitoring routine is an easy way to make it part of your day-to-day, so it’s not quite as time consuming to browse,” she says.
What do the reporters think of all this? Freelance business journalist Lin Grensing-Pophal says she has previously used services such as ProfNet and HARO to find sources but is increasingly turning to LinkedIn, particularly to dredge up hard-to-find voices.
LinkedIn has turned up sources for her articles on QR codes (for an insurance trade publication), workplace violence (for a trade publication) and the best LinkedIn groups for IT professionals (for a computer publication).
Tips for becoming a source
Here’s what she suggests for those who wish to become sources (or help a client become one) through LinkedIn:
- Make sure your profile includes keywords that describe your areas of expertise. “When I look for sources I’ll typically do so through a search based on these types of keywords,” she says.
- Include your email address on your profile—don’t make it hard to get in touch with you.
- Respond right away. Reporters are often on a tight deadline, so sources who reply first tend to get the nod, Grensing-Pophal says.
- Be honest in your LinkedIn profile. She often reviews the information there “to make sure the source is really is an expert versus a wannabe expert.”
- Include a link to a professional-looking website that adds to your credibility.
One way to circulate your name is to join LinkedIn groups that include your clients’ target audience, says Becky Boyd, vice president of MediaFirst PR. For example, she has a client who provides supply chain planning software, so she has joined such groups, along with groups devoted to the oil and gas industry and consumer packaged goods. There she posts press releases, case studies and other information.
“Reporters will see that information and will view your client as a thought leader,” she says. “I have gotten several media placements out of doing this, plus leads for my client.”
However, if you are researching reporters on LinkedIn, there’s one thing to bear in mind. They may be looking you over, too, Arketi Group’s Neumeier says.
“They’re checking you out to see what your background is, to see how long you’ve been in the industry, to see what type of experiences you’ve had,” he says.
Russell Working is a staff writer for Ragan.com, where this story first appeared.