Using LinkedIn For Backgrounding People and Companies

UPDATE: Next “LinkedIn for Journalists” training will be held on January 10. Read below for details….

I suppose that a lot of you use LinkedIn as a professional social media platform. Well, did you know that it can also be a good reporting tool? As a journalist, you can use LinkedIn to conduct background research,  identify potential sources and reach out to your core communities.

I took a LinkedIn training, and here are some highlights on how you can use LinkedIn for reporting.

Before we start, let’s get familiar with the navigation bar because a lot of searches will start from there.

1. Finding Sources

  • Advanced People search: Click on “Advanced” on the right side of the search bar, and you can search people by company, including past and current employees.
  • Company search: Search companies by clicking on the right third drop-down menu on the navigation bar, and you will be able to see how many people among your first and second-degree connections work at a certain company.
  • Groups search: The “groups search” is located in the fourth menu from the left. When you’re looking for sources with particular interests or that fit a certain description that makes them hard-to-locate, that search can be handy. For example, if you want to do a story about housewives, there’s a group called “stayathomemom”. You can either join the group or connect to group members.
  • Skills search: This function is most useful if you’re researching on a story about a certain industry. Searching with skills, you can find experts and see the trend of a profession. For example, when you search for people with expertise in oil/gas, a bar chart will show up on the upper right corner comparing relative growth with related professions’. It’s not accurate enough to meet our data usage standard, but you can get a sense of the trend. Where to find this function? It’s called “skills & expertise” under the “More” drop-down menu.

2. Conduct Background Research

  • Asking Questions in Your Status Update: Ask questions in your status update if you have already connected with a lot of your core audiences.
  • Answers and Groups search: If you don’t have a lot of connections related to your beat, you can go to the “Answers” panel (More–>Answers) and the “Groups” panel and search for information or ask your own questions there.

3. Reaching Out to Your Core Audiences

  • Groups search: Follow your audiences and their groups on LinkedIn. There are thousands of groups of teachers, for example, and many of the groups are very active. Using LinkedIn may be tricky for economy and energy audiences, but explore it and the results may surprise you.
  • Status update: One advantage of sharing your work on LinkedIn is that you may be able to reach directly to your core audiences, especially after you have joined related groups.

Some of the searching or connecting may be blocked when you don’t have a LinkedIn Premium account, which provides benefits such as sending InMails to people you aren’t “connected” to. However, upgrading is not free, but there are some work-arounds:

  • Attend a LinkedIn for journalists training. You can get a free one-year upgrade to LinkedIn Premium by attending a training. The next planned training is on January 10 at 8 a.m. PT/11 a.m. ET. You will need to comment on this post declaring your interest to attend, and the organizer will send you the call-in information. You are allowed to take a refresher course and obtain a renewal every year.
  • Keep an eye on one-month upgrade trial opportunities. LinkedIn provides loyal users free one-month upgrade trials from time to time, so check your emails and keep an eye on such opportunities.
  • Ask your colleagues and share resources: If you don’t have a LinkedIn Premium account, you colleague might have one. Send an email and ask for help.

LinkedIn has additional tips and tricks for journalists on their site. Check it out and share yours below!

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