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    11 Tips for Pitching Freelancers

    Much like doing taxes or jumpstarting a car, some things just aren’t always taught in schools, they’re learned by doing. In PR, working with freelance journalists is much the same. Sure, you may have received a few generic tips here and there about working with the media at large, but what about the nuances of what makes freelancers tick, the value of pitching them, and how to build a lasting relationship? 



    We recently had the pleasure of having Jonathan Small, journalist, author, producer, podcast host, and music aficionado on to speak with our community about the best ways to work with freelancers toward a mutually beneficial partnership. 


    P.S. want to be a part of our exclusive OnePitch community?! Email to be added to the Pitch Posse Slack community!


    Jon shares tips, tricks, dos, and don'ts that all comms and PR folks should keep in mind when working to secure and place coverage with freelancers. Without further ado, here are 11 actionable tips for working with freelance journalists. 


    Quick Zoom Out: What Freelancers Cover and Covet


    Per Jon, freelancers, like many other reporters, typically seek out trends, news, and angles that no one is picking up yet, and on the flip side, are often interested in stories about something well known but positioning in a way that’s entirely unique. The best way to get this information in front of them leads us to our first tip, which is that…


    Tip #1: Email is Your Best Friend


    Always pitch by email. In this day and age, email is the preferred channel for work communications, because folks don’t like to be fielding calls on their personal lines or fishing through DMs that could potentially get lost in a sea of other messages. 


    Tip #2: Know Your Target Through and Through


    This is a well-known tip for pitching any type of media, but bears repeating especially when it comes to freelancers who don’t always have a set beat. Do your research to understand what they’re currently focused on (it may have shifted since you last pitched!) and check out their social media for an up to date roster of their coverage. 


    When it's time to reach out, personalize your pitch as much as possible by relating it back to their focus area and ensuring it's newsworthy, timely, and in line with what they usually cover. 


    Tip #3: Relevance is Key


    This is where Jon recommends that PRos “think like a journalist.” You wouldn’t pitch them something outside their coverage area that isn’t newsworthy and without a timely hook. Think to yourself - if I were a journalist, would I write this story? Why? Asking simple questions like these and putting yourself in their shoes is a great way to gauge if a pitch is worth pursuing.


    Tip #4: Numbers are Your Friend  


    In PR, third party validation is essential for building credibility and trust with your audience. The same goes for journalists, who rely on credible sources and external endorsements to strengthen the integrity of their reporting. 


    It’s for this reason that whenever possible, back up your pitch or story idea with a stat or data point that speaks to the story you’re trying to tell. You don’t have to go Pew Research mode either - these data points can be as simple as trends, quotes, testimonials, or even anecdotal evidence that reinforces your narrative. The key is to provide concrete evidence that supports your message and adds credibility to your pitch!


    Tip #5: Use Subject Lines to Your Advantage


    Crafting a subject line (that isn’t cut off by Outlook) can feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to feel insurmountable when you keep this in mind - think of subject lines as headlines. Read your target’s coverage to understand how they typically structure their headlines and mimic this format in your pitch. This way, not only have you taken away some of the heavy lifting in helping them come up with a compelling headline, you also increase your chances of having your pitch read.


    Bonus tip from Jon: leverage the curiosity gap approach! Hear from Jon below on what this means how to leverage it.  




    Tip #6: Call Out the Problem, And How You’re (or Your Client) Is Solving It 


    In Jon’s words, “nobody wants to read a PR pitch about how great someone or something is,” as this can come off as self-serving and disingenuous.


    The best stories tell tales of “rags to riches” or overcoming problems or obstacles. Focus on the journey, the challenges, and the triumphs, to create narratives that resonate deeply authentically show the value of your brand or message.


    Tip #7: Keep It Unconventional 


    This is another tip that may feel like it goes without saying, but is worth repeating as it can be difficult to put into practice. Your pitch should present an angle that is fun, fresh, and hasn’t been considered before. On the flip side, maybe it has been considered, in which case you can offer a unique and unconventional spin.


    Some examples of how to present this in a pitch include mythbusting, what not to do, unexpected tips and tricks for getting something done, secret weapons, and overcoming and learning from mistakes.


    Tip #8: Short and Sweet is Your Recipe for Success


    No one likes to read a pitch the length of the next great American novel in their email inbox. Long and dense walls of text aren’t appealing and can make a journalist delegate your idea straight to the trash folder. For this reason, a good rule of thumb for length is around 200 words with a clear who, what, when, where, why, and how, and only one spokesperson to avoid crowding. 


    Tip #9: Sweat (But Not Too Much) the Small Stuff


    In PR, grammar and punctuation matter. Full stop. Take a minute to run your pitch through Hemingway editor (a great free tool), Grammarly, or even just the Editor function on Word or Google Docs. Ensure your pitch is going to the right editor and that there isn’t someone better suited to cover your idea, and take a second to confirm that the pub hasn’t covered something similar recently. If they have, refer back to tip #7! 


    In addition, check the links you’re including to be sure they aren’t broken and go to the right places. Small things like this go a long way toward ensuring your pitch is read and pursued!


    Tip #10: Get to Know the Writer


    Freelancers often float from place to place, meaning that they might not always have a newsroom community to lean on for support or collaboration. Build a relationship with them beyond needing coverage - take them out for lunch or coffee (via Zoom if needed), read and share their work, and send them encouragement when they write something you enjoy.


    Make conversation by understanding what they’re covering, planning to cover and what their dream article would be. Who knows - you might have just what they need to achieve it! 


    Tip #11: Follow Up…Within Reason! 


    No one likes a pushy PRo. Keep your follow-ups to around two messages maximum out of respect for your contact and their inbox, and avoid calling them on the phone or following up via their LinkedIn and Twitter. 


    If you’re working with a contact that published coverage you helped facilitate, follow up by thanking them on email and posting to your (and your client’s) social media platforms. Not only does this offer them more exposure but it also strengthens your relationship and shows appreciation for their work and collaboration. 


    Bonus Tips From Our Community


    We’re fortunate to have a great community willing to share insight and bolster our writing. Katrina Froelich, senior account manager at af&co., notes that “sometimes you can work with freelancers to help them craft the pitch to the outlet you are trying to secure” and that “teamwork makes the dream work.” We couldn’t agree more! 


    In addition, don't forget to be clear with your goals and expectations so that everyone is on the same page toward success from the outset. 




    Want more exclusive insight like this straight from freelancers, journalists, editors, and everyone in between? Join the OnePitch community today by emailing with a request to be added!


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