The 101 Guide to Media Types: From Freelancer to Influencer
September 1st, 2021
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There’s nothing quite as thrilling as turning your great big idea into reality. Whether you developed an exciting new product that fills a void in its industry or you offer a hands-on service that changes people’s life, entrepreneurs are the bravest of them all for believing in their hustles. As you dabble into all of the various aspects of running a business — from accounting to supply chain — interacting with the writers may feel like a curveball. Everyone wants to score a feature in ‘The New York Times’ or be picked as ‘the’ product for the holiday season.

However, not all media types are the same. But, what is the difference between a freelance writer and a staff writer? What do an associate and senior editor do? And are influencers and bloggers the same thing? As a new brand, it’s easy to get confused. But don’t worry, at The Press Hook, we’re here to help you navigate these different relationships and to craft the perfect pitch for the right audience.

Here, a deep dive into the most common media types, including frequently-asked-questions for each:

Freelance journalist

As you can probably gather from the name itself, a freelance writer doesn’t just work for one publication but for several. This means they continuously pitch a variety of outlets, usually on a weekly or a monthly basis. Sometimes, a freelance writer will build a niche within a specific industry — beauty, travel, pets, parenting, etc. This helps them to establish their name and collect more bylines. It also makes it easier for publicists and brands to deliver the pitches they actually want to read since they’ve established themselves as a guru in the space.

However, sometimes, freelance journalists contribute content across various beats. As an example, a freelance lifestyle writer may cover home, family/relationships and beauty, among other topics. While this could be slightly trickier for brands to target their outreach, a helpful way to understand what a writer covers is to read their recent work. This way, you can get a sense of what they’re interested in and currently researching.

Freelance writers build their own hours and control what stories they decide to take on; however, much of their decision-making ends there. What do we mean? Typically, a freelance writer is assigned a piece from an editor (from their own pitch or the editor’s bank of stories). The freelancer submits the article — and then it's out of their hands. The editor will decide the final edit, the publication date, and what is included or not. This means a freelancer could accept a product sample from your company, love it, add it to their round-up… and the editor could still cut it last-minute. The same is true for hotel features and expert interviews, too.

While it may be frustrating for a brand not to have any guarantees, remember, it’s all part of relationship building, and the freelancer can consider you for future opportunities, too.

Freelance writer FAQ:

Can you pay a freelance writer to be included in a story? No, this is not ethical.

Can a freelance writer add your product to a story that’s already published? No. Once they are paid for the story, it’s out of their hands.

Can a freelance writer guarantee inclusion? No.

Staff writer

If you come across a talented wordsmith listed as a staff writer or columnist, this typically means they are employed by one publication. In some cases, this means they have a recurring column that appears online or in print, typically at the senior level. Other times, they are hired as a junior level to churn out several stories a day — ranging from features to news content.

The best way to better understand what a staff writer covers is to visit their byline page on the outlet’s website. This way, you can scroll through all of their recent work to get caught up and briefed.

Typically, staff writers have more control over the content they are writing and the products they decide to include. Many have a selected niche that they’re heavily invested in, making them the go-to writers for the industry. Because of this, they can be notoriously difficult to score a ‘win’ with, but it’s not impossible. It’s vital to make your pitches specific and personalized when you’re catering to this crowd, so they know the email was intended for them — and not thousands of journalists.

For most publications, an editor oversees the staff writer and makes the final judgment call on the publication of a story. While some have more authority, it’s typically based on seniority and experience.

Staff writer FAQ:

Can you pay a staff writer to be included in a story? No, this is not ethical.

Can a staff writer add your product to a story that’s already published? Maybe. But they may not have the final approval.

Can a staff writer guarantee inclusion? In most case, no.

Editor, digital and/or print

For brands and writers, the most important people to impress are editors. They are at the top of the totem pole, so to speak, and they make the decisions. They approve story pitches, assign our articles, deal with invoicing, and have the final call on content before it goes live. As you can likely predict, this means editors receive hundreds (if not thousands) of pitches per day from eager brands and publicists who want to be featured. Especially if you’re going after the top-tier outlets — think: Vogue, The New York Times, Travel + Leisure, CNN — it’s likely you will get lost in the chaos.

How can you stand out? The more personalized your email, the better. Figure out what section they cover for the publication (usually found on the masthead or LinkedIn), scour their social for relevant information (aka if you’re a pet brand and they have a dog) and remain in contact without being pushy. It’s also intelligent to target your efforts to associate-level editors since they typically do more assigning to freelance writers and handle a higher amount of content. Typically, the more senior an editor is, the more time they spend organizing content, dealing with advertisers and paid content, and so on.

Remember, there are still no guarantees in inclusion, even if you send your product to the editor-in-chief. While editors have more say-so, nothing is promised, so you should always invest in relationship-building.

Can you pay an editor to be included in a story? No, this is not ethical. You can purchase a paid piece of content from a publication, but it’s different than earned media.

Can an editor add your product to a story that’s already published? Maybe.

Can an editor guarantee inclusion? In most cases, no.

Influencers and bloggers

In recent years, a whole new media category has popped up: influencers and bloggers. It can feel like the wild, wild west pitching and working with this crop of media professionals in many ways. Here’s the deal: social media and influencers are in control of their own demains. This may be the run their Instagram and TikTok accounts, their own websites, or all of the above. Because this is their business and income, a brand is far more likely to pay for a placement vs. earning one with an influencer or blogger. While some will rave about products they love without being compensated, it’s not the standard approach.

With this in mind, brands sometimes have more of an opportunity to control their narrative with influencers and bloggers. Each individual has their own policy, but some will allow brands to write the caption themselves or agree to post a certain amount of times. This avenue of coverage isn’t as coveted as a mention in a national newspaper or magazine, but it can be extremely effective. Primarily if you work with an influencer within your niche, you have a high chance of reaching your target audience and thus boosting sales.

Can you pay a blogger/influencer to be included in a story and/or post? Yes.

Can a blogger/influencer add your product to a story that’s already published? Yes, but there may be a fee associated.

Can an blogger/influencer guarantee inclusion? If it’s paid content, yes.