Freelancers can be an immense asset to PR agencies. Reliant on their industry reputation and often able to write for numerous publications at once, freelance writers can be a valuable source of coverage for clients.
As an agency we have to find the right balance between working with media contacts or freelancers. PR professionals are often more familiar with the processes of journalists employed by the media, who are seen as a safe and reliable option. However, there are equally many benefits to working with journalists who work for themselves. We recently attended the TravMedia webinar ‘When it Pays to Work with Travel Freelancers’ - here are our top tips and tricks for working with freelance journalists.
As freelancers are often very knowledgeable and specialised in a destination or area, it is essential to choose the right freelancer for the job. If PR professionals make sure they really know what they want from the outcome of the piece, this makes it easier to narrow down the options. Identify the type of writer you want and see what their specialisms are - it is easy to check a freelancer's credentials, previous work, writing style and media connections on communication softwares such as Cision, Vuelio or Prowly. Checking their track record and previous publishings is the most important first step to a successful working relationship.
If you are choosing between a freelancer or a staffer, consider the job itself. Freelancers are often good for trips or events in remote locations, where in-house media might be unable to send someone, freelancers are often dedicated enough to the story to make a long trip. Also be aware of if your client, destination or accommodation has been written about recently. Choosing a freelancer who’s ‘go-to’ outlet has just printed a multiple-page spread on your tourism board makes it much less likely to have success there.
Communication is the most important aspect for a healthy PR-freelance relationship. The best way to make sure this communication runs as smoothly as possible is to have clear objectives of what you are asking of the freelance journalist. Communicate with them about what you want from the piece, and what you want the style to be, and most importantly what the client wants from the piece.
Communication is especially important during press trips. In order for there to be no issues during the press trip, make sure the expected deliverables are communicated extremely clearly beforehand. The golden rule of hosting freelancers on press trips is that confirmed commission is required, so make sure this is always stated and clear. It’s also vitally important all parties know exactly what will be included ahead of time - consider everything from airport transfers to evening meals.
Lastly, look to clarify when the piece is due to be published. Clarifying this as early on as possible leads to less back and forth and allows client expectations to be managed.
Freelancers normally work across multiple publications, which gives them the opportunity to spin stories for different audiences, using slightly different angles to generate more coverage. This is especially true when freelancers take extended trips, as they need to make sure that the long time away from their desk pays.
On top of this, freelancers can also get commissioned for round-up style pieces months after visiting a destination, meaning that travel clients are more likely to get continued shout-outs, which is a gift that keeps on giving for PR professionals and their clients.
Presenting freelancers with this topical hook, lead-in-line or unique aspect about the press trip means they can use it when pitching for commission, and saves them time. It is a win-win; PR professionals can push a relevant theme which shows their client favourably while freelancers benefit from easier commissions.
Equally, get the advice of your freelancer in what angles they think commissioning editors will want to see. Often with a lot of experience, they have good relationships with editors and know what will get picked up for commission or what is currently relevant.
Cultivating relationships with freelancers means you will be their top choice for their next feature opportunity, and they have a close and reliable PR contact who they know will respect their craft, creating a mutually beneficial relationship.
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