“I’m not your friend,” is a typical response. “I’m just trying to do my job.”
But that was 10 years ago, long before social networking sites came onto the scene.
Easy and dangerous.
—He can identify you as a spammer.
—If he thinks your invitation is improper, he can blacklist you and “out” you to other journalists.
—He can post a nasty comment about you on his Facebook page. Or worse.
Journalists create Facebook pages as one way of taking advantage of Web 2.0 tools. It’s is a great place to look for sources—on the journalists’ terms. They can friend other journalists. They can listen to and participate in the online conversation. They also use Facebook as a secondary distribution system for their work and link to their articles, op-ed pieces, blogs and videos.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has a policy directing its journalists to avoid adding sources or contacts as Facebook friends.
“It may compromise your work by letting friends see other friends on your network,” the policy document says. “It may also not be in your interest to identify yourself as a ‘friend’ of a source on their network.”
So what should you do if so see a journalist on a social networking site and you want to connect? Here are three ways to start building the relationship:
- Publicity Hound Harry Hoover has compiled a list of “Journalists Who Twitter.” He suggeests that if the journalist is on the list, you can follow him or her and reply to their tweets when appropriate. If they have a page on Facebook or LinkedIn, you can email them on Twitter and ask if it’s OK to connect with them on those sites.
- If the journalist has a page on LinkedIn, check to see if any of their connections are also your connections. If so, you can ask the connection to introduce you. If you’re introduced, do not pitch. Instead, offer yourself as a source for background information, story ideas and commentary. (See “How to Use LinkedIn to Promote Anything—Ethically & Powerfully.”)
- Can’t find them at any of the social networking sites? Google their name and see if they blog. If so, read the blog and comment several times over several weeks.
Let’s see what other Publicity Hounds have to say about this topic. Journalists, what’s your policy or your company’s of accepting friending invitations from people you don’t know? Is this more trouble than it’s worth, or have you made valuable connections?
Freelancers, what’s your policy?
Sources, have you connected with journalists on these sites, or others? If so, how? And what was the result?