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Is Facebook Useful for Connecting with Journalists?

Facebook can be a great place to get professional help.

With 70% of journalists using social media networks to help them report, it almost seems obvious that the #1 “Social Network”, Facebook, would be a valuable resource for reaching out to journalists. We saw that Twitter can be a useful tool, but is this necessarily the case with Facebook?

To some, Facebook can be very personal. Jeremy Porter claims he would never reach out to a journalist for the first time via Facebook. In fact, Porter writes that he would only connect with a reporter he already knew as he believes it’s best practice to connect with journalists through Facebook if you already have a relationship with them, especially if it’s personal.

If you have preexisting relationships with journalists, then the social network giant can be a great place to bounce around ideas with them. If not, Twitter and LinkedIn are better media to connect through.

Although Jeremy shies away from using Facebook to pitch to journalists he doesn’t know, he says it’s a great place to promote yourself to those looking for your knowledge. And if you are trying to maintain professional relationships, you need to keep your profile professional. Be clear with who you are, who you work for, who your clients are, and the types of stories you can be a reference for. Also, update your statuses regularly with what kind of work you are doing.

A great article by Leah Betancourt shows that Facebook can be a very useful resource for journalists to find leads and sources as well as to connect with other journalists. Jeremy Porter’s  point about updating your status and page is proven in a story Leah tells us about a reporter who was friended by a bioethicist from Alden March Bioethics Institute named Glenn McGee.

Glenn wrote a status update complaining about work, wrote about lawyers, and was suddenly out of a job . The reporter’s curiosity was sparked, and he assigned a team to cover what was going on at the institute. Three stories were written.

Glenn’s Facebook page was a lead for that reporter, and although it may not be a great idea to start negatively commenting about your job on Facebook, this scenario displays some of this social network’s usefulness for journalists. Mandy Jenkins uses a similar approach. She looks at her professional friends’ news feeds and finds out what’s going on with them, what groups they have joined, and other important information.  By doing this, she can get a quote and gain a lot of inside information.

Leah’s article notes that reporters are also using their ‘friends’ to help with their stories by having them provide previously unknown sources, assist with asking questions, and give information about potential stories. This type of networking has gained popularity.

Help A Reporter Out (HARO) was originally a Facebook group predicated on this type of networking that connects journalists and sources. After reaching a then group capacity of 1,200 people, HARO expanded by creating HelpAReporter.com. Sources like this can be of great value to a practitioner looking to get a story covered.

HARO group page on Facebook

Based off of this information, conducting yourself in a professional manner on Facebook, displaying that you are a useful source of information, and getting involved with groups like HARO can be very valuable in connecting to journalists through Facebook.

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