The amount of personal relationships needed to join the PR industry is daunting. Developing a network of peers can take decades.
As a 24-year-old in the industry, I often found my youth to be an obstacle that would keep established journalists from reading my pitches or accepting my offer to have a coffee and chat. After much trial and error, it became apparent that by looking only at the renowned, established publications we so often turn to, I was ignoring young professionals like myself.
The one thing about young journalists is that they tend to be freelancers.
Whether it be the result of layoffs, freedom of choice or some other reason, I found that freelance writers tended to be closer to my age and have similar interests. More importantly, they’d accept a coffee from someone fresh out of school.
Going to a staff writer used to mean that you were approaching their publication. Your relationship with that writer was your relationship with their place of work.
A good relationship with a single journalist doesn’t necessarily mean you have an in at one publication anymore. Now it might mean that you have an in with every outlet they contribute to.
This is a two-way street. Freelancers may have an in at specific papers, but PR pros can introduce them to new outlets, creating a mutually beneficial relationship.
As an associate account executive, I have the opportunity to work with a variety of arts and culture clients. Whether it be art fairs, nonprofits, public art projects, galleries or institutions, our clients are always doing something worth writing about. Forging relationships with young freelancers offers infinite possibilities for each of our clients to have their stories told in a way that sets them apart from competitors.
So often, PR pros are viewed as little more than salespeople for story ideas trying to pitch writers their project as a transaction rather than a collaboration. I haven’t had that experience with young freelancers.
I recently pitched a freelance journalist, and rather than writing a cut-and-dry, one-dimensional story, they instead shared their thoughts with me, asking for further information and brainstorming art publications that might be a good fit.
It’s happened several times, with journalists commenting, “I could see this being a good fit for…” or “What do you think of me pitching this to…” These responses allow me to balance both the journalist’s vision with the interests of our clients to create a story people genuinely want to read.
For young PR pros entering the industry, don’t be disheartened when a prominent editor ignores your email. Instead, turn to the young writers, the ones in the same position as you in their field. Take them to coffee and listen to their ideas. Work as peers and tell your story together.
Lachlan Woolsey is a digital marketing & media associate account executive at Fitz & Co.