How to Be a Freelance Publicist | The Ultimate Guide

With apologies to Andy Warhol: everybody can’t possibly be famous for 15 minutes. There’s too much competition for the spotlight.

With the explosion in the use of digital media as a marketing and promotional tool, there are more contenders than ever for public attention. 

While many brands are downsizing their internal teams, they’re increasingly aware of the value of promotional support – and they’re willing to pay.

This means – lucky for you – that your services as a freelance publicist are in high demand.

Hint: It’s not about the parties!

Publicity parties and expensive lunches are so 2010.

Today’s publicists are hard-working multitaskers. Yes, they often schedule and manage public appearances for A-list clients. 

But they also cultivate relationships with the media, create press releases, maintain client websites and social media, deal with negative press, act as spokespersons, and collaborate with advertisers to craft their client’s brand.

And as a freelance publicist you may be contracted to multiple clients – so be prepared to juggle.

Be Your Band

It’s not just about who you know.

It’s also about who you are and how you’re perceived. 

When you develop a personal brand, you’re being proactive. You’re taking control of your career growth and building credibility.

With the proliferation of social media platforms, your personal brand is a powerful tool that helps you stand out in an increasingly congested digital universe. It isn’t about selling: it’s about being “seen” by peers and clients. 

Be sure to maintain active accounts on social media platforms. Salaried employees generally adhere to a strict separation of work/life profiles.

But as a freelancer you have more leeway, so you may prefer to offer a balance of business-related and personal news. You want to create a community – clients, employers, influencers, peers – who will continue to be assets in your life and career. 

But don’t underestimate the professional benefits of personal branding. A carefully-crafted branding statement on your social media can be a good way to catch the attention of both potential clients and employers.

In just a couple of sentences – aimed at your target audience – summarize who you are and what you can offer. 

Incorporate it in your social media, on your profiles – anywhere you need to provide information about yourself. The more platforms you appear on, the more effectively you’ll be able to build on your contacts.

Yes, It’s Still About Who You Know

As a publicist, your main objective is to get media coverage for your clients. 

So it’s essential that you build connections with influential media – and cultivate them.

Define your media outlet targets.  Do some research to learn which journalists write, talk about, or mention keywords related to your client or your client’s industry.

Google them and check out their social media profiles to get more information. Follow them on social media and regularly engage with them.

Create strategic alliances with them. Make “just-for-you” offers. For example, give them exclusive coverage of a major client, or “package deals” in which you offer exclusive access to a major client in return for less extensive coverage of a smaller client.

Offer free invites to product launches, special events, trade shows, etc. Do not discount sponsored posts. They bring a lot of publicity and awareness to your brand.

If you do not have the budget to take the sponsored route, offer special affiliate commission rates to the publisher so they get a recurring commission for the sales they bring to your business.

Make it hard for them to say no.

Making The Pitch

If you wait for the media to come to you, you’re in for a very long wait – and competitor brands will be grabbing the attention you want for your client.

Be proactive. Deliver a strategic pitch. That means:

  • Identifying the right journalist(s)
  • Building a relationship
  • Personalizing the pitch (tailoring it based on their interests, stories they’ve covered, recent industry news, etc.)
  • Drafting a great email with an unmissable hook 
  • Documenting the email pitch, date, journalist details – then setting reminders to follow up
  • Following up (graciously), whatever the response. Let them know you value their input – and keep the communication lines open.

If you really want to make your pitching process efficient, consider templates. They’ll allow you to customize every email that goes out, detailing specifics on names, dates, events, etc. And they’ll relieve you of the headache of repeatedly starting from scratch.

As you’re building your killer contact list, the question is bound to arise: how do I know what to send, to whom, and when? 

Good Timing

Once you’ve got a fix on your target audience, pull out this handy marketing tool: automated email sequencing.

A sequence is simply a series of personalized emails that are automatically sent to specific target groups on your email list, based either on their actions (trigger-based) or on a predetermined schedule (time-based).

Trigger-based emails could be sent, for example, based on recipient actions like reading or downloading your content, or writing that includes mentions of your brand or brand industry.

They can allow you to initiate, cultivate, and maintain contact with your target audiences. 

Time-based email sequencing sends emails (or autoresponders) at designated time intervals. 

They can generate buzz for a brand, product, or event.  And, once contact is established, they’re a perfect way to maintain that contact with regular follow-ups and updates.

Here, too, templates are great labor-saving tools that allow you to individualize while optimizing efficiency. You’ll only have to set up your emails once – then they’ll do the work for you. Because you have better things to do than continually press “Send”.

The Big Picture

You’ll have plenty to keep you busy as a publicist. There are no shortcuts: take on each project as a fresh opportunity to tell your brand’s story in a creative way on multiple platforms. Compel media attention.

Generating publicity is no longer about boozy lunches – but it’s also about more than cranking out clever emails. It’s an ongoing process of deliberate relationship building that requires consistent effort and commitment.

Stick to it, and it will pay off in relationships that you can continue to build on and draw from throughout your career.   

If you tackle your work strategically you’ll get results. You’ll start to see media mentions, reviews, even features. Thanks to some amazing digital tools that Hedda Hopper never dreamed of, you’ll have no trouble staying ahead of the game.

And you’ll probably even have time for lunch.

Anand Srinivasan

Anand Srinivasan is a marketing consultant and the founder of Hubbion, a free to use task management tool for startups, small and medium businesses.