Most news sites don’t make their writers’ contact info easy to find. If it were, reporters would get even more slammed with pitches, spam, and crazy reader rants than they already are. The further down the digital rabbit hole the email is, the more effort it takes to find (and the more it weeds out uncommitted people and bots).
I’ve gotten pretty good at finding people’s email addresses, so I’m sharing my process here. Start at step one, and you should find most emails by around step four. The tough ones will have you going all the way through eight.
Let’s say our starting point is an online article by Mary Watson on Publication.com.
1. Check the top and bottom of the article page, keeping an eye out for italics.
Some articles mention their writers’ emails in these spots, especially for guests who aren’t regular contributors. It’s easy to overlook.
2. See if the writer has a bio page on the publication’s site.
Usually their name is a clickable link that takes you to a page with all the pieces they’ve written for that publication. Often there’s a brief bio there, too, and it may contain contact info or another lead, like a personal website.
3. Find their twitter account.
Almost everybody writing articles has a twitter account where they share their work. Their twitter bio may contain their email address, or at least a link to their personal website.
4. Go to the personal website.
Like twitter accounts, most writers also have personal websites. Let’s say our Mary Watson has a column on Publication, but she also has a personal site where she posts about her penchant for alter egos. She likely has an “about” and/or a “contact” sub-page with her preferred way to get in touch. Two-thirds of the time, this is where I find the email.
It may be a personal email address, unrelated to the publication where you read their story, which means you risk annoying them by sending them a work email at their personal inbox. At least it’s something. You may also find the dreaded contact form, which allegedly sends your message to the person but gives you far less control over sending, tracking, and follow-up. Don’t settle for it; you can usually do better.
5. Scour other social media.
Some journalists share a lot of their info on Google+, LinkedIn, and other sites, which you can find through Googling or in links on their personal website. Google+ also lets you email them if you have a profile yourself, but it’s sort of like a contact form: it’s not the real thing.
6. Google them.
Try searching their full name in quotes with the word “email.” For Mary, it’d be [“Mary Watson” email]. Obvious as this is, few people try it. I’ve found email addresses in unexpected places this way, including comments that journalists have posted on other people’s blogs asking them to talk, old forums, and even tweets to sources. Dig through a few search result pages if you need to.
If they have a twitter account, you can also try Googling that in quotes. If Mary’s handle is @mwatsonsherlock, she’s probably used that somewhere else on the web (maybe in connection with an email address).
7. Figure out the email pattern.
Most companies, news sites included, follow a pattern for their employee emails. It might be first.last@company, for example. Try to find the address of another writer at that publication and apply that rule to your person. Email-format.com can provide this pattern for many big companies.
If I suspect Mary’s email is email@example.com, doing a quick Google search of that email in quotes (“firstname.lastname@example.org”) will show me if there’s ever been an online mention of it. If it’s real, chances are good that I’ll find something.
8. Guess intelligently.
If you’ve gotten all the way here without finding anything, you may have to send your message to a few of the likeliest email address candidates and see which ones bounce. The one that makes it is your winner.
In the unlikely event that you couldn’t find anything, go back to twitter. A quick tweet saying “Hey, wanted to send you something personal but can’t find your email. What is it?” often works.
And a final note: just because you now know how to stalk a person’s email address doesn’t always mean you should. Think before you send. We all get a ton of email, especially journalists. Make sure your message is helpful, to the point, sane, and authentic.