Friends with benefits is one way to describe the relationship between PR professionals and freelance journalists. At Little Red Rooster we know why we need each other – now more than ever – to deliver the best coverage for our clients.
It’s no secret pretty much every media outlet is cutting its editorial teams and this tends to equate to bigger commissioning budgets for freelance journalists, content creators and contributors.
In some cases even the role of editor is being given to a hired hand rather than a traditional long-term appointment added to the payroll. It’s just one way the media world is being turned on its head in the 21st century.
We’ve also recently seen many of our closest contacts in the media choose to leave full-time journalism roles to go freelance for a multitude of different reasons, be it work/life balance, a greater variety of consumer and corporate opportunities, or perhaps a voluntary redundancy offer too good to refuse.
Plenty of PR professionals fall into the trap of only knowing how staff journalists work and can grossly undervalue freelance writers. At Little Red Rooster we realise this is not only detrimental to our relationships with those that have gone self-employed, but also our clients who could be missing out on golden opportunities to reach greater audiences. Here’s why:
Freelancers usually work across several publications, this gives them more reach and the opportunity to spin stories for different readerships. With the right material they can turn one interview into multiple features and that means more coverage for clients and a better ROI.
“Freelancers can be good news for PRs as we can cover a story for several different outlets while staffers are usually limited to just writing for the title they work for,” says tech and science journalist Libby Plummer who has written titles including Wired, Metro, Total Film, and The Huffington Post.
“This is particularly true for out-of-town press events, where we might not be manically filing news pieces or hands-on reviews, but we’ll be able to cover the stories that emerge in the coming days, weeks and even months, for multiple titles.”
A skilled freelancer will have a diverse range of publications he or she can go to with a story pitch (newsflash: more gigs means more money). For PRs this can alleviate the pain of pitching the wrong angle to the wrong journalist because unlike staff journalists, freelancers are far more likely to listen to what you have to say and find a way to make it work.
A freelancer’s livelihood depends on the more they can get published and money is quite the motivator when it comes to producing copy of quantity and quality as well as meeting tight deadlines – another coverage score. Plus, most freelancers have tight relationships with commissioning editors, many of which may prefer working with trusted writers rather than PR agencies.
“One of my most important roles as a freelancer is acting as a filter for the various editors I write for,” says lifestyle, tech and automotive journalist Leon Poultney.
“They know the ideas and invites I approach them with will have been thoroughly considered and suitable for the title, leaving them more time to deal with other matters. Placing a story in multiple outlets from a single trip/event means PRs get more bang for their buck, but it does mean time is money.”
There are many benefits to being a flexible freelancer – working from the bedroom, garden, coffee shop, beach, cocktail bar – but being permanently ‘out of office’ means they don’t have access to the resources readily available at a traditional workplace.
For example, it’s fairly easy for staff journalists to check a PR database and discover which agency looks after a particular brand. In comparison, freelancers are at the mercy of a Google search so impeccable media relations are critical to ensuring our clients are always front of mind.
Whether it’s a face-to-face meeting, phone call or email we hope freelancers will always welcome our outreach because they’re constantly on the lookout for new stories to write in order to bolster their bank balance.
The onus is therefore on PRs and brands to present a well-packaged pitch loaded with newsworthy information leaving freelancers to do as little legwork as possible – aren’t we good.
“It really helps to get exclusive and tailored pitches from PRs,” says Libby. “The guys at Little Red Rooster are great for this, as they take the time to build strong working relationships with journalists, especially freelancers, getting to know which titles we work for and how, so they only pitch us relevant stuff.”
“Trips and events need to be packed with information and PRs should facilitate requests knowing it will assist in creating great content for numerous outlets,” adds Leon.
“I can give a great example of a recent event that provided a nice overview, but failed to go into much detail. The PR department in question took an age to follow up with further requests from a leading tech magazine and have potentially missed out on a large feature and failed to get much in terms of coverage from the trip.”
Chasing clients for information, fantastic photography, spokespeople and expert opinion is just another part of what we do to make a freelancer’s life easier.
Coming through with the goods isn’t just about providing a great service, it’s all part of building and maintaining lasting and trusting relationships we hope will be repaid with thrilling and diverse coverage. This usually leads to even more shouting from the rooftops… well, we are the loudest animal in the farmyard.
Another area where we can be a lifeline for freelancers is covering costs for travel to an event or treating them to things like lunch or drinks. After all, the poor souls don’t have the benefit of being able to put things on expenses or fall back on paid holiday, so sometimes the small things can mean a lot.
Working closely together can offer brilliant benefits to both PRs and freelancers and building personal relationships with journalists is at the very heart of our DNA. The great news is we have the same end goal – delivering outstanding coverage for our clients.