We’ve heard it again and again; the media landscape is changing. While in recent years that statement has been widely repeated when discussing public relations, it can be tricky to identify what this actually means when it comes to PR.  One of the more tangible ways this shift has manifested itself is in the rise of the freelancer. With publications increasingly keeping their staffs small, more and more editors have begun to rely on freelance writers for content. This opens up a world of opportunity for brands, as relationships with freelancers continue to be an excellent way to generate authentic, valuable and meaningful coverage. For public relations professionals, working with freelancers can be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Here are some of the reasons why:

The Power of Flexibility

Though many companies and brands were once wary of the “freelance” moniker, these relationships are becoming just as valuable to cultivate as on-staff writers. While the power and prestige of the masthead isn’t going anywhere, the strength of working with freelancers can best be described in one word: flexibility. Especially in the world of travel, flexibility is key.

These days, we’ve seen that more publications are turning to freelancers who have the ability to travel more freely than staff writers to share firsthand accounts of their experiences. Freelancers are able to have a more flexible travel schedule because they aren’t tethered to one place, making travel much easier without the need to be putting in office hours or attending staff meetings. Freelancers are often also producing great #InstagramEnvy, sharing images from a sunny beach one day and an arctic tundra the next. Whereas staff writers may be limited with the days they can be out of the office and need to travel on a weekend, freelancers don’t have the same requirement. This flexibility can often lead to mid-week travel, making hotel availability easier and the great personalities within the destination to have a bit more time to interact with press.

New York Travel Writers Association President and freelance travel writer Kelsy Chauvin, who spends hundreds of days a year on the road, also acknowledges the power of flexibility. “Freelancing is fantastic for its flexibility, since as a travel writer I need to be able to take off weekdays, sometimes at the last minute. But every day that I’m traveling is a day not writing, and therefore not earning; so, it’s vital to be discerning about which trips to take. For financial sustainability, I aim to write at least three articles for every press trip I take; though sometimes it may take a year or more to get them all published.”  Despite the many conveniences of flexibility, it also means being able to adjust on the fly and being able to push yourself to work irregular hours. Travel and lifestyle writer Allison Tibaldi notes, “Being a freelance travel writer is a true privilege. Not only do I explore new destinations, I have fantastic access to the people and places of that destination. While it is a wonderful job, it is a job. I think the biggest misconception is that it’s all fun and games. It is a job I love, but we keep a full, tight schedule while on location, with early mornings, full days and often late nights.”

Travel by nature is incredibly experiential and publications still place value on storytellers who are able to paint a picture for readers based on their own personal understanding of a place. Publications are always looking for contributors with the latest off-the-radar experience, and PR pros are always looking to get their client in front of new eyes. Therefore, a symbiosis of sorts is formed – a relationship mutually beneficial to both parties involved. Since both freelance writers and PR professionals understand the value of the pitch, this type of relationship makes sense.

Getting Creative

Another component of freelancing is creativity. Freelancing lends itself to creativity and requires a little bit of out-of-the-box thinking. This can come from finding unusual workspaces (ever finished a story from the floor of a busy train station while trying to submit and not get stepped on at the same time?) to the creativity needed to find a compelling angle to a tried and true destination.

Just like the PR pros, freelancers are trying to catch an editor’s attention. When working together, we can double the efforts, angles and creative hooks to try and find a platform to tell our story. Since freelancers aren’t necessarily bound to one publication, numerous articles across outlets can result from a single trip, meeting or experience. If an experience captures a freelancer’s heart, odds are they’ll remember it as they continue to pitch. Investing in the right freelancers can be a creative way to stretch a client’s budget. Introduce a freelance writer to your brand or product, and odds are they might help you see things in a new light, too. Freelancers are not only seasoned storytellers, but they also know the importance of building and staying true to a brand, as so many are also experts at cultivating their own personal brand.

The Importance of Connections

Perhaps the most important thing of all that PR professionals and freelancers have in common is understanding the importance of building a strong network of personal connections. Freelancing is contingent on the relationships built with editors, agencies and brands. You need to be seen as a trusted source by all parties. In an industry where reputation is everything, building your network with strong, savvy colleagues is essential.  This is beneficial both when working together on the next big story and for building personal relationships. When speaking with Jillian Dara, a globe-trotting freelance journalist who contributes to numerous publications, she summed up her favorite part of the freelance experience as follows, “Having worked both in-house and now freelance, I love that as a freelancer my relationship with many publicists evolves from strictly professional communications to a personal friendship. When you’re in-house, I think there is a certain barrier that exists as a result of representing a company—but as a freelancer, you are the company! So, I’ve really enjoyed being able to grow these relationships which makes work feel even less like work.” In a business so focused on people-to-people relationships working with those who understand the worth of and seek out personal relationships is incredibly valuable and can lead to more authentic story telling.

While the value of working with publications and their staff will always be held in high regard, the modern freelancer is a valuable connection to have. Gone are the days when publications or brands looked at freelancing with a wary eye. Today, having an expanded network of freelance writers only increases the avenues down which stories can be told.