LinkedIn For Journalists – Stories, Sources And Success

LinkedIn for Journalists – Stories, Sources and Success By Sue Ellson

LinkedIn for Journalists – Stories, Sources, Success

by Sue Ellson BBus MPC CDAA ASA WV SPN – First published on LinkedIn on 20/03/2016

You may also like to watch the recording and see the slides from ‘LinkedIn for Journalists and Media Professionals‘ on 12 January 2022.

As a journalist, your role is to research, document, write / film / record, and present news in an honest, ethical, and unbiased way. It could be published on multiple platforms (print, digital, audio, video) and it could also require a variety of recording methods (still and video cameras, mobile devices, audio recorders etc). You may also need to personally edit and produce your final copy for proofing or sub-editing.

You also need to be enquiring and thorough and have the ability to investigate the facts, often within a tight deadline. You need to be able to ask difficult questions, gain trust quickly and be willing to explore ideas outside of your comfort zone. You need to keep up to date with general news and technology and be willing to pitch story lines to senior staff or editors whilst being proactive in your approach.

Journalism can involve staying up late and getting up early. Travelling a long way or just around the corner. Keeping up to date with privacy, contempt and defamation laws and being willing to take calculated risks.

Some journalists can’t imagine doing anything else.

They live to write or share stories through pictures, cartoons, word, voice or video. They thrive on headlines, heroes and heretics. They love a challenge. For some, LinkedIn is a challenge!

Melbourne Press Club Quills Awards Crown Palladium 18 March 2016

Ways to Protect Your Identity as a Journalist on LinkedIn

Before I talk about Stories, Sources and Success and LinkedIn for Journalists, I would like to start with some key pointers on protecting your identity if you are investigating sensitive matters via LinkedIn.

  1. Change your Privacy Settings and make yourself ‘Anonymous’ or ‘Private’ when viewing other people’s profiles at https://www.linkedin.com/psettings/data-privacy – if you are on the free LinkedIn account, you will not be able to see who has looked at your profile whilst you are ‘anonymous.’ You can either do this on a case by case basis or leave yourself private and pay for Premium https://www.linkedin.com/premium/products.
  2. Change who can see your Connections (even if you choose ‘Only You,’ your shared Connections will still be visible – if you and I are both connected to each other and Roger, I will see you are connected to Roger but if I am not connected to Mary and Bill and they are connections of yours, I will not see them if you have ‘Only You’ turned on) at https://www.linkedin.com/psettings/connections-visibility.
  3. Turn off ‘Viewers of this profile also viewed’ at https://www.linkedin.com/psettings/browse-map – there is no point showcasing your competitors when someone visits your LinkedIn profile!
  4. Sign out of LinkedIn and do online searches without being logged in. You will not have access to the same amount of information but in other respects, you may have more information because some of your searches within the LinkedIn Platform will be limited by the range of first and second level Connections you have or the free membership plan. You may also like to use the Google ‘Advanced Search’ tool https://www.google.com/advanced_search and use it to search through the ‘site or domain’ and enter ‘LinkedIn.com’ (no need to remember all those Boolean Search requirements https://ahrefs.com/blog/google-advanced-search-operators/).
  5. You may also like to turn off notifications of edits to your LinkedIn Profile https://www.linkedin.com/psettings/activity-broadcast) just to keep your activity a little ‘quieter.’
  6. As a last resort, make your Public Profile visible to no-one (if absolutely necessary) https://www.linkedin.com/public-profile/settings. You can also Hibernate your account https://www.linkedin.com/psettings/account-preferences. Do this before deleting your LinkedIn Profile – if you do delete your Profile, you can’t get it back (or the Connections). If you have duplicate LinkedIn Profiles, read this article and follow the instructions to backup your data and then later, Merge your profiles (created with two different email addresses, even if you no longer have access to the other email address) at https://www.linkedin.com/psettings/account-management/merge-connections. Make sure you add all of your email addresses (current and past) to your LinkedIn Profile so that you do not accidentally create a duplicate LinkedIn Profile in the future https://www.linkedin.com/psettings/email.

Stories

There are many ways to find stories on LinkedIn. You can:

  1. Do an Advanced Search through Posts published by LinkedIn Members at https://www.linkedin.com/search/results/content and see what is being written on your topic of interest. This can also lead to good quality sources of further information on the topic. (If this link doesn’t work initially, do a keyword search on any word you like, then click Posts and do another search with the words you want). If you click on the Search Box and then the magnifying glass, you can do searches across multiple locations – companies, people, schools, groups etc.
  2. You can look at a person’s LinkedIn Profile anonymously (change your profile viewing settings at https://www.linkedin.com/psettings/profile-visibility) and once you are there, look at their ‘Articles’ via their ‘Activity’ if they have any.
  3. Keep an eye on your own Newsfeed https://www.linkedin.com/feed/, particularly if you are a specialist journalist with a lot of Connections in your area of interest. Scan it every so often for story ideas.
  4. Look at various Company Profiles and their recent updates to see what news they are sharing and also what comments they are receiving and who writes them. Again, if you are specialising in a particular area, consider following some of these Company Profiles to ‘tell’ the LinkedIn algorithms that this really is your area of interest.
  5. Consider joining some Groups, but be aware that you may need to be ‘approved’ by the Group Owner or Manager and this can take time and other people will see that you are a member. You can also decide whether or not you want to show the names of the Groups you are a member of on your LinkedIn Profile at https://www.linkedin.com/groups/ by clicking on the cog next to the Group name and unticking the box.
  6. Check out individual LinkedIn Profiles of people and see what Connections you share or if the facility is turned on, check out the details of ‘Viewers of this profile also viewed’…see their name and headline, visit their LinkedIn Profile and have a look at their Recent Activity.

Sources

LinkedIn can lead to all sorts of sources. If you are looking for subject matter experts or thought leaders, you will often find them on LinkedIn. You may have found some of these people on another social media platforms (e.g TwitterYouTubeFacebook or Instagram) and you can follow them on LinkedIn too (even if you are not connected to them).

  1. Select Influencers or hashtags you may like to follow or even look at more closely for your particular story or idea https://www.linkedin.com/feed/follow – see what they have shared, their Connections and consider Following them.
  2. If you find a good source, also consider looking at who they are connected to for a different angle on the same story. Have a good look at the keywords they have used on their LinkedIn Profile and do an Advanced Search for other people with the same or similar keywords to see who appears. Consider looking for someone from a different city or country. Then do an internet search for that source and see what other online content they have produced (and see how their LinkedIn Profile performs for a name search – some very high profile people have a lot of news sources that ‘beat’ their LinkedIn Profile).
  3. If you are investigating a particular organisation that has a Company Profile on LinkedIn, you can have a look at first and second degree Connections you have with that Company and the Employees who have chosen the Company from the drop down menu on their LinkedIn Profile. Some employees may not have ‘chosen’ the Company from the list (which is why the Company logo may not appear on their profile), so you could also do an Advanced Search by Company Name (very relevant for new enterprises or community organisations without a LinkedIn Company Profile).
  4. When you look at individual LinkedIn Profiles and the person has certain skills that have been endorsed, you can look at who voted for them and consider looking at their LinkedIn Profile. This can lead to some very obscure and unexpected sources!
  5. Search through your own first level Connections and find people you are already connected to who may have an interest in your story or topic. Give them a call and ask them if they know someone worth talking to. This will help keep your existing Connections alive and if you message them on LinkedIn, you will be able to look back on this in the future before you send your next message to them).
  6. If you are looking for a potential ‘whistleblower,’ you could look for people who have previously worked at an organisation. Alternatively, if you are investigating a story about a a new startup enterprise, you can have a look at the track record of the new leaders – are they serial ‘disasters waiting to happen’ or serial ‘dynamos with a great track record’?
  7. If you want to attract good sources, not only do you need to come up in LinkedIn Search Results, people need to be able to contact you! For this reason, I suggest that you add your contact details (email address and mobile phone number) to your Summary and Contact and Personal Info sections. If you only include it in your Contact and Personal Info section, and don’t update your visibility settings https://www.linkedin.com/psettings/privacy/email, people will only be able to see it if they are connected to you.

Success

Journalists can be perceived as news-makers or news-breakers. The people who uncover the ‘truth’ or perhaps ‘destroy’ the truth. As I stated at the beginning, a journalist’s role is to research, document, record, and present news in an honest, ethical, and unbiased way.

This process can be challenged by a deadline, a word or time count, inappropriate editing (leaving out important details) or an ill-informed editor! It could also be a simple misunderstanding or misinterpretation and sometimes an additional piece of information could have made a big difference. I know that many individuals and organisations have been challenged by how their story has been ‘interpreted’ by a media representative!

Journalism is a career that can be a precursor to many other careers. For some journalists who have lost their jobs, it can be very disappointing to consider a career other than journalism.

However, a journalist has a huge range of transferable skills!!!

Quick side note: If you are currently in a paid journalism role right now, please make sure you have added your work email address to your LinkedIn Account https://www.linkedin.com/psettings/email and do not remove it from your account when you leave the organisation – that way people who know you via this email address can still ‘find’ you on LinkedIn if they do sync their email address with LinkedIn or they invite their contacts to connect on LinkedIn.

The first part of this article talks about a variety of those skills and I would like to make a few suggestions for consideration when thinking of an alternative career related to journalism:

  • media training
  • media advising or consulting
  • social media production or management
  • digital media development (including apps, games, education etc)
  • enterprise media relations
  • public relations (often known as the dark side)
  • communications role (also on the darker side)
  • writing – for an enterprise, website designer, your own books
  • teaching – either journalism related or not
  • consulting – for a consulting practice or freelance
  • portfolio role – a bit of this and a bit of that, locally or internationally and perhaps in another field altogether (art, sport, business etc)
  • contracting – regular gigs for regular or irregular clients – you may also be interested in my book ‘Gigsters – Any Age or Ability, Employees, Experts and Entrepreneurs.’

Many journalists are concerned about the lack of funds for investigative journalism – and become alarmed when media companies choose to reduce costs rather than increase revenues.

I am essentially a self-funded untrained journalist as I have personally been publishing content online since 2001 (see a selection at https://sueellson.com/publications) and I have also been an advocate for a variety of causes – and I have completed all of these tasks on my own time and at my own expense.

Of course it is not ideal (or perhaps even fair and I am quite sure that a good editor could have improved my writing along the way), but I live knowing that I am making a difference to the world I live in – and if you can find meaning and purpose in your work, whatever that is, please do not limit your options to being a journalist in a traditional paid environment.

There is so much opportunity out there. An alternative job can be used to ‘pay the bills’ so that you can still follow your passion. Social media and websites have democratised news content (and sometimes ruined it!) – but you can definitely still get your story out there! You just have to be a bit more creative and smarter about your approach.

After personally being sacked, retrenched and having contracts cancelled, cut short or changed, I am accustomed to the challenges of being ‘out of work.’ If you want more job security in the future, please consider expanding your network via LinkedIn and building your reputation outside of your journalist role right now – that will keep you going – financially, professionally and personally in the future and allow you to ride the wave of change that every other ‘out of work’ person has been on before you if the ‘worst’ does happen.

I can assure you that the first time I was sacked, it led to some of the best work I have ever done. You may also be interested in this article on ‘Can Unemployment Be Good For You?

Ways to collect information

Whilst members of the general public may be reluctant to provide information to journalists, some consultants, advisers and senior executives are prepared to answer written answers to questions that have been provided. This can be a speedier way to source information from multiple sources and can potentially elicit more considered and helpful responses, particular for ‘information’ type pieces.

For example, you could state where you are from and the background concepts for your story and then provide three to five questions you would like answered.

These can either be open or specific questions and they may also include ‘what could you do better’ type questions so that you can uncover solutions for the future. I was asked to ‘provide four habits of your own, and why they are detrimental’ for an article on workplace habits that can make you appear unprofessional. This provided me with an opportunity to reflect on my own challenges and the journalist converted this information into practical solutions for readers. I was very impressed by this journalistic strategy!

Further Resources

LinkedIn has a range of tools that are specifically relevant for journalists. You can visit the Press Room at https://news.linkedin.com and source a lot of information about LinkedIn.

They also have a specific topic on LinkedIn for Journalists via https://news.linkedin.com/media-resources/linkedin-for-journalists and there is a LinkedIn for Journalists Group https://www.linkedin.com/groups/3753151 that requires you to be a current professional news journalist, working full time in a newsroom for a mainstream news media outlet, so you can learn more about how to use LinkedIn as a tool to uncover sources, story ideas and scoops. They even offer Premium Membership Upgrades which can help you even further.

I do not recommend that you globally import Contacts – it is better to personally invite people to connect to you on LinkedIn with a tailored message (you also have a much better chance of them saying yes)! Email invites can only be sent to up to 10 people at a time and a maximum of 100 per day via https://www.linkedin.com/mynetwork/import-contacts/iwe/ (available via the My Network icon on the top menu)

If you would really like to work for a particular company in the future, please start Following them immediately (by visiting their Company Page on LinkedIn). In the top box on your screen, there is a drop down arrow on the left, choose ‘Companies’ from that list and then type in the name of the company to find them.

Remember that if you are reaching out to Sources for content, they are likely to do an online search on your name before responding – so having a good quality LinkedIn Profile is also a good way to get your sources to respond to your media requests. 

Showcasing your biggest scoops and achievements is also a good idea (in the Publications or Projects sections of your LinkedIn Profile). Don’t forget to connect your Twitter account to your profile and quote your phone number in international format if you are sourcing information from overseas.

I include a lot more tips on how to use LinkedIn for your purpose in my book ‘120 Ways To Achieve Your Purpose With LinkedIn.’

You may also be interested in this article on ‘How to choose your next job or career‘ and I really encourage you to read this article on ‘What is LinkedIn? Why should you create a good LinkedIn Profile? and ‘LinkedIn Keywords – What Primary and Secondary Keywords should you use?

If you love writing, you may also like ‘LinkedIn for LinkedIn for Authors, Writers, Playwrights, Script Writers, Ghost Writers, Literary Agents, Publishers and Distributors.’

I welcome your additional comments, suggestions and feedback on this article and if you have any questions about LinkedIn, please contact me directly!

The photo above was taken at The Quills, the awards night for the Melbourne Press Club at Crown Palladium in Melbourne on Friday 18 March 2016. I first joined the Melbourne Press Club on 5 February 2008.

Keywords

#LinkedIn #LinkedInProfile #journalism #journalist #media #digitalmedia

First Published: 20 March 2016

Last Update:  13 July 2021

See my other posts on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/sueellson/detail/recent-activity/posts/

See my other personal presentations at https://sueellson.com/presentations

See my other written articles at https://sueellson.com/publications

See my books online at https://120ways.com