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Archive for May 10th, 2010

Reporter tip: Keep your cell phone number, use Google Voice to get a local one

Monday, May 10th, 2010

I briefly mentioned in my post on Saturday that I use Google Voice as a cell phone number for local sources to call. I realized I’ve never written about this great tip for reporters who’ve moved far from home but don’t want to give up their old phone numbers. I use it sort of like a forwarding e-mail address or a redirected domain.

Step 1: Get an invite.

I joined Google Voice in July 2009. I got my invite from Google a few weeks after after signing up on Google’s site. Users have a small number of invites also. So look around.

Step 2: Pick a new, local number.

I was able to scan through a catalog of numbers in Lafayette’s 765 area code. You can even search for words or, as I ended up doing, sequences of numbers. I picked 729 and chose the first option where those were the last three digits. My birthday is July 29, so it’s insignificant to anyone else but it was cool to me that I had some say in the number, so I wanted to take advantage of it.

Step 3: Forward calls to your real number.

You can forward calls to pretty much any number. I chose to send it to my cell phone, which has an Akron, Ohio, 330 area code. You can even send your calls to multiple phones to be answered on the first to pick up. I opted not to do this because at my office, we pick up other peoples’ ringing phone when they’re out of the office and take a message. But if you have your own office or other people don’t answer your desk phone, that may be an option for you.

Step 4: Customize your experience, preferences, etc.

You’ll want to set up your voicemail box at a minimum. But also look around at the preferences (e.g. do you want it to answer immediately, answer and give you a menu, etc.) and set those that work for you. For example, I set it up so my voicemails and SMS texts are e-mailed to me. This way it doesn’t use my phone’s texting plan and it transcribes my voicemail, so I don’t have to listen to them immediately or sometimes at all. (Note: Sometimes the transcription is humorously bad. Usually, I can at least tell who it is, though, and always I can go in and listen if needed.)

Step 5: Start disseminating your new number.

You could send it out as a mass note to your local sources. Or just start giving it out instead of your old number. You don’t need to explain Google Voice to anyone. Just start telling them, as I did, if you want to reach me on my cell phone call 765-xxx-x729. Eventually, they’ll start calling that. In addition to all the cool points above, the nice thing here is people no longer have to call an out-of-area-code number. It’s local, and local for those landline-lovers (and businesses with landlines) means the call is free.

Bonus: Get the Google Voice app.

Or at the least check out the nice mobile site. The app allows you to make calls that show up from your Google Voice number, without having to dial into Google Voice. With the Android app, it actually asks me at the start of every call whether I want to call from Google Voice or not. It also stores all those other messages in one place (though I’ve found it’s somewhat overkill to have e-mails of your sms/voicemails if you have the app).

The other cool thing about this service is if you move to another news organization in another community in the future, you can change your Google Voice number. It’s $10, but honestly, $10 seems a reasonable price to pay to keep your contacts, settings, etc. all tied together but front a new number.

So anyway, there are lots of other ways to use Google Voice, but this is how I use it. Any one else have some tips I missed?