Strategy of the Week


Get to know freelance writers. While a relationship with a New York Times reporter or the editor of the leading magazine in your industry is key, well-connected freelance writers can offer not only great placements but a wide variety of placements. Jen Schmits Thomas, principal with Hetrick Communications in Indianapolis, discovered just that when she met a freelance writer working for The Chicago Tribune in 1998. The freelancer was assigned to write a feature story on the restoration of the West Baden Springs Hotel, a National Historic Landmark in southern Indiana. Thomas got to know the writer well while she was working on that story, and learned her style and her interests. The next year, Thomas pitched the freelancer a story on the dedication of the nation's only Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial. She knew the freelancer loved human interest angles, so she focused on the 100 men who would be visiting Indianapolis to dedicate the memorial. She emphasized the stories behind some of the men, and the pitch resulted in the freelancer's visit to the city and another story in The Trib. It was her next pitch to the freelancer, however, that was a true coup: She emailed the freelancer a personalized pitch, calling it "a Janet kind of story." "This time it involved a gutsy new mock slavery program at a nationally-known living history museum," Thomas says. The freelancer sold her Tribune editors on the story and covered it. Although The Tribune paid her for the story, internal problems got in the way, and the story never ran in the paper. Officials with The Chicago Tribune gave the freelancer free rein to sell the story to other papers. "The writer pursued other media outlets, and in February 2000, the piece ran in USA Today with a front-page tease!" Thomas says. "It proves the value of working with freelancers and learning what kinds of stories individual writers enjoy." (jen@hetcom.com)

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