Hey fellow Edsters!
So here’s the scenario: an editor swings by your desk or shoots you a quick email, needing contact information for a specific person ASAP!! Any means of communication will do, but he needs it pronto! So what do you do? Let’s try to tackle this one head-on.
Use Your Office Resources. While you won’t often be looking for a celebrity or dignitary, if it’s ever someone you know the magazine has some sort of contact with, check in with the appropriate editors to see if they have the info on-hand. This may mean “crossing department boundaries” into the Special Projects, PR or Fashion departments, but hey, it’s worth a shot.
For someone less notable, Google is (surprise, surprise) always a good place to start. While you probably won’t find all the direct contact info here, it’s a great place for background info on your subject, hopefully offering their profession, employer or agent, location and any past coverage that they’ve received. If you’re super lucky, this could also lead you to a direct professional website that should have a phone number, email link and physical address all listed for you. Score! But who are we kidding? It’s rarely that easy.
LinkedIn is also a pretty excellent resource. A quick name search will help you narrow the pool, and of course should help specify your person by their professional field and geographic location. If you’ve lucked out and found your person here, most editors are usually content with this, as LinkedIn offers direct emailing options. But if not, try to head back to Google to hunt down a company website or phone number to call for the direct contact info.
Lame as it sounds, I think Calling a Company Directly in search of a contact is pretty cool and efficient, as you get to name drop by saying you’re calling from Your Big-Deal Magazine. Often people are pretty impressed and try to help you out as best (and quickly) as they can.
So let’s assume you’re looking for an everyday citizen who’s been in the news or has enjoyed some marginal publicity lately. Of course she doesn’t have a big deal company or website, so what do you do? How do you find such personal info?! Well here’s where you Use Your Magazine Connections. I’ve found that calling other magazines or newspapers that have previously interviewed the subject is a good way to go. You can find the office (or newsroom) phone number online, and just ask to speak to the editor or reporter of the article, and ask if they can provide that contact information. Just be prepared with all the info before you call (author, date published, section of mag, etc.). Sometimes they’ll give you the info directly, sometimes they’ll put you in touch with a publicity agent of some sort, but either way, you’ll be another step closer to your end goal.
Finally, if none of these work, you may need to hit up the Phone Book. Ugh. But no worries, many have free online versions that can help you hunt down addresses and phone numbers. (www.phonenumber.com has worked pretty well for me in the past). It’s beyond creepy to see what information is readily available online, but hey, we’re journalists — we need to take advantage of every resource that we can.
Also, while not the most reliable sources, as new privacy settings are more and more in tact, Facebook and MySpace are always worth a shot. While you’ll probably have to sift through a bunch of people with the same name, you may be able to find the person and send them a message. Probably not the most professional option, but who are we kidding — it’s probably the best way to get someone’s attention!
So what do you think Edsters? Have you tried any other ways of hunting down an impossible phone number or email? What about my fellow journalism majors? What’s your best bet for hunting someone down? Has anyone ever called a government office for the info? In our era of Facebook-stalking and what not, you’d think this would be a piece of cake, right?!
Until next time,