Ask everyone you interview or talk to for a business card, and give them one in return. They not only contain information; they also contain messages and images that suggest the character of the owner and the organization. My first business card from the Poynter Institute had gold lettering; get the message? It also got my title wrong.
Study the card immediately, and ask if everything on it’s correct. Sounds like an obnoxious question, but half the time, the answer is no. The commonest mistakes are the title and the e-mail address, which tend to change often.
Now you have the person’s full name, full title, full spelling of the organization, its address and logo, its phone number and that of the source, the e-mail address, maybe a fax number, and, if you’re really lucky, the home phone. You’re ready for any Stylebook requirement copy editors ask for.
Some writers staple business cards into their notes; very efficient and accurate storage. Others have files of business cards, organized by name, story, business, city, somehow. I love annotation, so I tend to write notes on business cards to remind me who the person was and anything distinctive. Needless to say, if the card has errors, correct them.
Several writers I know keep business cards in no order at all, usually in a drawer, and pull them out at random to get story ideas. My friend Dele Olojede would call up people from his unorganized pile and ask them what’s going on.
Why would you give a source your card? It helps to establish your image in an interview as a reliable professional. It allows the source to call you the next day when she figures out what she really wanted to say. And it gives the source a way to find you much later when she wants to tip you off.
[Got any neat tricks with business cards?]