In this era of iPhones and Google, I was surprised to discover that they still exist.
My memories of Roladexes tend to be of them appearing in movies, when a character was trying to look someone up, they would spin their Roladex like a roulette wheel and voila! The perfect name would be delivered. For some reason I found this incredibly sexy, and now I think I know why.
I get the same feeling when I go to my spreadsheet of expert contacts, do a search for some obscure subject, such as ‘blushing and social anxiety’, or ‘carbohydrate intake and colon cancer outcomes’, and voila! Up pops the name of someone who I know to be an expert on this particular subject.
Cue sexy feeling. *shivers*
A journalist’s contacts file is almost as valuable as their computer or mobile phone. In fact, I would argue it’s more valuable because a computer or any other piece of technology can be easily replaced. A contacts list takes a lifetime to build up and is effectively irreplaceable.
Cultivate your contact file as you would a crop of black truffles, a field of saffron, or – if it’s your thing – a supremely engineered hydroponic marijuana plant.
Every time you interview someone, record their name, title, field of expertise, institutional affiliations, contact details, areas of interest, what you interviewed them about, and any other bits of information that might prove useful.
Do the same for experts you hear talk at conferences, or read interviews with, or see profiled on an institution’s web page. Do it for media contacts at research institutions, organisations and companies. You never know when one will come in handy.
I have over 600 individual names on my contact list, as well as separate spreadsheets for organisations, hospitals and companies.