Don’t Forget Freelancers —A PR Tip for the Fourth

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    Cast a wide net. No, not fishing advice, or an Internet command. If you feel you have exhausted your outreach to conventional reporters, editors, producers and assignment desk people, despair not in your quest for coverage. Consider the freelance writer or producer. They’re out there, and they are more in demand now than ever before as media companies trudge through the recession with less staff. Of course, there are more freelancers now than ever before, too, but that’s another story.

    Said companies often will backfill with a little help from the brave and noble freelancer (and these days, that can often be a former staffer who was cut or opted out). I can’t think of a section of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, for example, that doesn’t rely on one or two freelance bylines every day of the week. Knowing who they are and what they cover can be a good way to pitch your story if you’re not working with a PR agency or consultant.

    Advantages to Working with Freelancers

    1) Freelance writers and producers usually have tight connections to editors, upon whom they rely for work — and vice versa. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, usually grown over time that proves its worth with every publication or piece that makes its way into your local newspaper, on to a radio or TV broadcast, and into a magazine.

    2) With the economy, or recovery, or whatever you want to call it taking its sweet time to make the nation whole again, it’s likely that this trend will become more commonplace. Magazines have always used an abundance of ‘lancers to fill their pages because it’s a business model that works. Newsprint and to some extent, broadcast are now embracing it.

    3) Freelancers are hungry for work. Speaking from personal experience, the nonaligned scribe either is hustling to make ends meet and/or working a part time job so they can do what they love more, write or produce. If you feed them a good story, chances are they will come back to you when their own story ideas run out, or perhaps offer you as source in another piece — thus achieving one of the goals in PR: to make media aware of you enough so that they call you as source rather than your PR person. It happens. All the time.

    4) Freelancers generally abide by the same rules and professional conduct of those in full time positions so there’s no need to feel that these individuals are somehow second-rate or are not to be trusted or won’t do a good job. I know a handful of freelancers that write and produce circles around their peers and I often pitch them as regularly as I do the folks “inside.” And they usually have more time to hear your pitch.

    5) Freelancers can turn into staff employees overnight. When hiring freezes go away, job offers sometimes go to these individuals first. Having a good relationship with a freelancer in that case just become a huge plus for your or your organization.

    Do your homework and see who’s freelancing articles in the media you need to reach. Given the many means of finding contact information on many social networking sites, or by just calling the media company where that person is contributing work, can usually get you the information you need to make the connection.

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    For more resources, see the Library topic Public and Media Relations.

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    Martin Keller runs Media Savant Communications Co., a Public Relations and Media Communications consulting company based in the Twin Cities. Keller has helped move client stories to media that includes The New York Times, Larry King, The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, plus many other magazines, newspapers, trade journals and other media outlets. Contact him at mkeller@mediasavantcom.com, or 612-729-8585.