Coming off a Leadership class and with a growing interest tracking the impact of journalism, in January 2013 I started tagging each email connection I made between relevant people who I believed would get value in meeting each other.
You won’t be surprised to know that I charted the thing and want to share what I think I learned.
I made 143 connections, nearly one a week over the course of three years — 2013, 2014 and 2015. I averaged three a month in 2013; nearly six in 2014 and more than three last year. Almost all were between people I met in a professional capacity at Technical.ly, though I eagerly incorporate my personal life with the reporting I’ve done for years.
Most were between sources or members of the communities I’ve reported on and were largely aimed at a joint benefit. These tagged connections were limited to email introductions, not the also frequent in-person or occasional Twitter or Facebook connections I aim to make.
I’m protective of making introductions — relationships are currency, after all. I relish in doing them for people I respect to others whom I think will get value but avoid otherwise. I think it’s one of the most important acts people can do — warm introductions between willing and relevant parties — particularly reporters, who should be deeply well connected. But it must come with vetting and intention. I get frustrated when I’m pressured to make a connection I don’t find value or when I’m introduced to someone who seems more interested in using me than connecting with me.
So what’s the point? I’m not quite sure yet, to be honest.
But the goal was to offer a data set related to what the value a connected and eager beat reporter can mean for a community. I hope it’s something that joins the years-old journalism impact conversation. I do know I’ll continue tagging connections and hope to see how things change. A good next step might be to someday look back and see what (if any) meaningful relationships came because of those introductions.
Here are a few data points that stood out to me:
- 4 of 36 months had no introductions
- As much as three in four had relevance to my reporting or related work.
- I was actually underwhelmed by the overall number of emails (roughly one a week).
- I went crazy with the introductions in the fall of 2013 and winter of 2014 — that’s the big spike in introductions. What was the change? I went through a few months when I paid special attention for opportunities to make these connections, seeking them out and doing so proactively. That likely resulted in more incoming requests.
- For you process nerds, I simply used a Gmail label to keep track.