THE truism. You’re as good as your contacts book. Ergo, it follows that the amount of energy and organisation that you invest in developing contacts and managing them will make your reputation bigger and your bank balance healthier. Besides, meeting extraordinary people is one of the reasons you want to become a journalist: it’s fun and rewarding and there are not many things that you can call ‘fun and rewarding”.
For a radio journalist, there are loads of advantages to having an excellent network of contacts: most of all, there’s instant access to informed opinion or shared experiences or information all of which are vital in radio news. Added to which the contacts systems in most places – I exclude the BBC – are rubbish.
We’ll deal with systems to manage contacts in our next Tips post. But, here are tips on how you find and develop them.
- Everyone is a contact. And I mean “everyone”. Everyone has a story to tell, or an experience to share, or an opinion to give. Not to put too fine a point on it, everyone is “potential material.”
- Network. The whole time like the best journos.
- Talk to everyone. It’s the only way to find out what they have to offer by way of stories, experiences, opinions etc. Don’t dismiss people – amazing stories often come from the shyest people. You may have to mine a bit deep to find the gold but it’ll be worth it.
- Be straight. Tell people who you are and who you work for. No need to hide unless circumstances are exceptional.
- Get people talking about themselves. Conversations about yourself are a waste of your time. Be interested and charming. You’ll learn quickly how to zero in on stuff that could be useful to you. Steer conversations to save you time.
- Don’t be afraid to ask a taboo question. Always ask with genuine interest,charm and a smile. If you touch on a nerve, don’t give up and stay courteous.
- Keep your note-book in your pocket. The temptation, especially for newer journalists, is to pull out the notebook and pen. Not the best idea: it may cause a reluctance to speak.
- Ask permission. No harm in asking if they’d mind you contacting them again. But it’s always a good idea to explain why.
- Contact data. Be first to offer your contact info (a card is useful). It’ll make it easier for you to ask for their phone number and an email address (the two must-haves!) If you sense a reluctance, be flattering, persistent and ultra-reassuring about secrecy etc.
- Contacts book. Log the contact’s details as soon as possible…..or risk losing or forgetting.
Next time, great systems for managing a contacts Book in Tips 18. And there’s even more useful advice on the NBS Radio Journalism course. Apply on this website.