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Freelance Journalists: Your Media Secret Weapon

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Picture it. The movie: “The Devil Wears Prada.” The characters: Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly, the cold and heartless editor-in-chief of (fictional) Runway Magazine, and Anne Hathaway as Priestley’s always flustered coffee assistant turned esteemed editor.

While this may have been a semi-accurate portrayal of the magazine industry when the movie hit the big screen in 2006, the digital transformation of publishing giants and public relations has resulted in a more informal editorial process.

What this leaves the PR community is a perfect tool belt full of freelance journalists who have taken their careers into their own hands – no staff title necessary. Don’t overlook these media mavens who know how to get your brand (whether it be Priestley’s sky-high Louboutin’s, or a B2B client) into the right publication.

Next PR spoke to writer Melanie Rud, whose freelance work has been featured in Shape, O Magazine, Women’s Health, Refinery29, Allure (the list goes on), about what it means to be a freelance journalist in 2020. Here are three reasons you should not be shying away from reaching out to freelance journalists during your next media relations campaign:

1. Expansive media relationships

Being a staff writer is great. Company culture. Benefits. The whole nine yards. However, having that title stuck to your name leaves less room for growth in relationships with other editors from different publications.

One reason freelance writers are a publicist’s secret weapon is their extended relationships with other editors. By working with other editors, they reach a wider audience and build relationships that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

Working with freelance writers lets you build upon existing relationships with multiple publications at one time. Just make sure you nail down what your freelance writer’s beats are, helping you match your client’s needs to the writer’s strengths. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Don’t stick to the status *beat*

Another beautiful thing about freelance writers is their wide array of expertise. If your writer is a political staff writer, she’s a political staff writer. If she’s a freelance writer, she can be a political writer, a tech reporter and a beauty writer.

Know your reporter friendlies and figure out what their beats are, if they have more than one. Keep those in mind as client campaigns come up and lean on them for more than one project to keep the relationship mutually beneficial.

3. Treat your freelance journalists well

This one should be obvious! Ideally, you read that and thought, I already do. Freelancers can be a springboard to better media coverage for your client, so use them as a resource to elevate your outreach. Their connections, vast areas of expertise and awareness of specific industries make them critical to your brand’s campaign.

Don’t ever discount them right off the bat just because they aren’t on the publication’s masthead.

Some tips on maintaining these relationships from our resident freelancer, Mel Rud:

  • Follow their interests. If you see your favorite freelancer has been writing about Iceland and you work with a travel client, mention that! She’ll love a personal pitch as opposed to a generic one.


  • Know the tone. Some journalists want more info; some are direct and to the point. Figure out what they like and cater your outreach to them. “I’m a pretty chatty person, so if you pitch me and mention a picture of my dog you saw on my Instagram, of course I’ll like that,” Mel mentioned to us. If you’d like to follow her dog while you’re at it, join the club: @bygeorgethedog


  • Share statistics. Use industry statistics in your subject line, or immediately in the body of an email, to get a writer’s attention. Any content or info that will make the writing process easier for them, makes them quicker to reply to you.


Freelance journalists can be the last step you need to take a media outreach campaign from good to wow. As Miranda Priestly once sarcastically said, “By all means, move at a glacial pace, you know how that thrills me.” So take these tips and go forth in pitching freelance journalists.

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