Moving into the second year of my course, I know I’ve established a lot of contacts in different topics and geographically within the North East patch. Building up contacts is something that is reiterated a lot during the first year of your course – and so it should be because it’s one of the most important foundations to lay down as you begin your journalism career.
I’m still building up my contacts of course so I’m not an expert but below are some tips that I’ve picked up and put into practice.
A reminder before we go on, contacts take time to build up – you have to build up trust.
So how do you build up contacts as a journalism student?
First and foremost talk to people. As a journalist you’ll be working with people so it’s good to put in some practice talking to them. Everyone is just like you or me so learn to strike up a conversation with people you see. I once spoke to an elderly woman about learning shorthand. Turns out she’d learnt it when she was younger and she gave me some tips! Unfortunately she didn’t have a mobile phone but she lives in the patch I volunteer in so it’s likely I’ll see her again!
Going out and getting some experience in the field helps you build up contacts because you become a familiar face. That’s how I got some of my industry contacts because I’ve been on the same jobs that they’ve been on too on a number of occasions. It’s also how you get yourself out to the community and groups within it. It’s definitely helped me make most of my contacts.
Of course getting people’s contact information is a great idea too. If you’re going to an event and interviewing the event organiser, after the interview get their contact details so if they have something coming up again then they can contact you or vice versa. It works that way for every story you do. If you see a story then get onto people and get their contact details – and give them yours too.
Sticking with social media you can use Twitter as a way to get contacts. Every so often I tweet out and ask if anyone’s got a story. It doesn’t always work but it lets people know that I’m actively looking for something to report.
I also use my Twitter biography.
In my biography I have what I volunteer as – a newsreader and reporter and the most important part – my email address. When someone clicks on my profile they can see that I’m looking for stories in the North East. They can email me quickly too. I’ve only used this tip for the past few days but it’s helped me to build more local contacts.
There’s also a programme that you can use in conjunction with Twitter called Tweetdeck. I use this to pick up hashtags related to the patch I’m in. If you see a tweet with a location in that matches your patch (the location you volunteer in) then that’s great as you can use your instinct and contact the person. From there you can build up contacts in your local area.
It’s always important to remember that the worst you’ll get is a no. I’ve gotten used to the rejection because you need to have a tough skin in journalism.
You can also use LinkedIn to build up contacts in the industry. Search for people who work where you want to work or have a job in the area you want to go into and connect with them. Drop them a message and introduce yourself. They may take a look at your profile in return! You can do the same on Twitter!
There’s obviously more traditional routes to building up contacts too.
Getting yourself onto press release lists is a good start. Contact organisations locally and nationally and explain who you are and what you do. It’s good to mention what location’s you volunteer in too so they can send press releases that relate to your work. Using a professional email here works too!
Using the phone is a great way to build up contacts especially if you want to find information for your story. I remember being told that it’s easier to ignore an email than it is to ignore a phone call. So pick up the phone – you’ll get used to it.
The last two tips I can give are ask contacts to recommend other contacts. It’s likely that they’ll have contacts in the area themselves so it’s good to ask if they know anyone else you can speak to.
And finally once you’ve made a contact stay in contact!