The traditional media landscape has decreased over the last few years and the trend shows no signs of slowing. In 2015, the number of journalists in the newspaper industry declined 38 percent, leaving employed journalists doing more with less resources and making it increasingly difficult to place stories in media outlets.

The newsroom shrinkage is driving a growing pool of unemployed writing talent.  A sizeable number of journalists are either unemployed, under-employed or working in a different field. Many have turned to freelancer and contributor roles. In 2017, PR professionals see expanded use of freelancers (or contributors) within media outlets. Establishing working relationships with freelancers is imperative for story placement.

Here are three tips to help build a solid relationship with a freelancer:

  1. As a freelancer, writers are focused on building their portfolio, proving experience and viability across a variety of formats (digital, magazine, newspaper) and genres (news, lifestyle, feature). They are actively networking and looking to build connections that can lead to future work. Reach out to freelancers with information about events that are open to the media and where they might meet editors and make connections to capture assignments. Invite freelancers to press events, junkets, as well as press conferences.
  2. Identify what types of stories the freelancer likes to write and offer stories to them that fit their preferences and complement their strengths and interests.  Do not pitch freelancers blindly. Freelancers write for very different outlets. As such, an angle that might work for one contact, may not work for another. A little bit of research can go a long way. If you’re unsure about their preferred medium and topics, reach out and ask what they’re interested in writing about. Be patient. Freelancers juggle multiple deadlines. A genuine request could get a favorable response.
  3. Get to know freelancers on social channels. Because their writing assignments can vary, their work may appear in several digital outlets which they’re probably posting about on their social channels. Show them you’re interested in their work and retweet, cross-promote, comment on what they’re writing about across the spectrum. Show genuine interest and respect. Freelancers can be difficult to contact. Editors keep their contact information private, and many freelancers intentionally keep low profiles. Establishing a connection through social can potentially pave the way for an offline conversation later and a mutually beneficial relationship tomorrow.

Bottom Line: Keeping healthy and honest relationships with freelancers can lead to successful storytelling opportunities. PR professionals who cultivate positive relationships will be better able to capture freelancer’s attention and work with them.