As a PR or a small business owner, when you desperately have the need to get some news or a story out there, your tactic (as was mine) may be to identify the relevant media and send your press release off to the correct editor. Sometimes you’ll be successful, sometimes you won’t – such is the nature of PR.
So why the need for freelance journalists?
To answer this question, I went straight to the horse’s mouth. Several extremely helpful freelance journalists including Hazel Davis, Louise Bolotin, Anne Wollenberg and David St Vincent came to my rescue and put me straight. Here’s what they say about why and when you should approach a freelance journalist with a potential pitch:
- It’s vitally important to develop strong relationships with freelancers. Freelancers and editors receive dozens of press releases each day but a freelancer relies on these to keep the creative juices flowing (and food on the table); and is more likely to work their backside off to pitch it to an editor, if the angle is strong enough. If your pitching skills need a little extra help, you’d be well advised to approach the freelancer in the first place.
- Do your homework first – have the idea clear in your head, then identify a freelancer who has had articles or features recently published in a relevant title.
- Freelancers are particularly appropriate if your news has an actual story behind it, rather than being simply a product promotion. For example, you may be starting a new business, but is it completely different to what you were doing before? Have you struggled to be able to achieve your life’s ambition? Have you become successful against the odds?
- If you don’t specialise in specific industries with regards to your PR services, it’s impossible to build up relationships with all possible editorial staff. Freelancers can bridge this gap for you, perhaps having a strong relationship with an editor who may not know you from Adam.
- Whether or not your press release is used can often depend solely on whether you’ve hit the precise angle a particular editor is looking for. If you haven’t worked with them extensively in the past, there could be a good chance you’ll miss. A freelancer is trained to know exactly what will hit the mark and can tailor your story accordingly.
- Spare freelancers the embarrassment of contacting an editor with a pitch that has already been passed to several other freelancers, who have also contacted that editor. Choose the one you feel is most appropriate. If you don’t hear back from them, chase it up by email. (DON’T pester in-house editorial staff who don’t know you very well/at all with chase up calls, however).
- When emailing, make sure your subject line is interesting, informative, targeted and relevant for the freelance journalist, so that it stands out from the rest of the emails they receive on a daily basis.
So there you have it, if you have been ignoring the vital work that freelance journalists play in securing editorial, you might want to take a fresh look at how you’re approaching the whole process.
Some freelancers may agree with these points, other may argue – do feel free to leave your own opinion, as all feedback is useful.