For brands, entrepreneurs, and freelance writers who want to raise their thought leadership profile and that of their companies, few things are as effective as a well-crafted article shared in a top-tier publication. Not to mention, content marketing is a thing these days––a powerful marketing tool. Yet it can be difficult to determine what kind of content these publications want to receive.
Fortunately, top-tier publications across industries have public submission guidelines. These guidelines offer valuable tips for emerging and well-known thought leaders who want to see their name and ideas in top publications.
In an effort to share a more comprehensive picture of what top online and print publications want, I combed through the pitching guidelines of ten publications — including The Guardian, Wired, and FastCompany — to provide a general rule of thumb for thought leaders to keep in mind when pitching content.
Read the publication and write with the reader in mind
This is obvious, but it’s important. To put together a great thought piece, you need to do your research, and you need to read the publication that you’re interested in contributing to.
In particular, take a close look at the thought pieces the publication has published. Is the audience general, knowledgable or expert? Is the editorial style formal or informal?
Too often, editors are on the receiving end of guest posts that aren’t the right fit for their publications. A former editor at FastCompany was clearly tired of receiving such pieces when he wrote, How To Write Thought Leadership Pieces That Get Published And Don’t Make Editors Want To Die, which also provides invaluable guest post guidelines for any thought leader.
Often, the pieces aren’t the right fit because the person sending them hasn’t read the publication. It is important to read the publication so you can become familiar with:
- The editorial style and tone. Is it casual or formal? Is humor welcome or does it strike a more serious tone? Does it use colloquial language?
- The ideas readers are interested in. Think about how your expertise gives you a unique perspective on big and trending topics the publication explores. Avoid dense jargon and abstract, blanket assertions that readers will find confusing, unfounded and obvious; use strong examples to support what you say.
- What types of content they publish. Reading a publication will give you a good idea of what it is interested in publishing, and what it isn’t. Keep in mind that if a topic has recently been covered, editors will steer clear of it for a while. So if FastCompany ran a story on the best hiring practices for tech companies last week, it is unlikely to be interested in your piece on hiring web developers this week, no matter how well it is written or impressive your credentials may be.
Make it easy for editors to find you and assess your credibility
Ensure your company or personal website is SEO optimized for your name. You should also be prominently displayed within your company’s website under “Leadership” or “Team” pages. Build a professional presence on LinkedIn and other social media sites. This will make it easier for an editor to find you.
When they find you, impress them with your expertise. Write an author bio that clearly shows why you have the expertise to comment on what you’re pitching about, and list the publications to which you have previously contributed. Do not include fluff––for example, that you are the best business coach in the world; have been voted a supermarketer; or are a popular keynote speaker.
Develop a great pitch or article, not a thinly veiled marketing message
After you have familiarized yourself with the publication and made it easy for editors to find you online, you are ready to either pitch your idea, or to begin writing your article. Some publications and editors prefer to receive a completed draft, while others want to see a pitch first. Do some research to find out which is the case for the publication you are interested in contributing to.
As you do, remember to:
- Be human. The publication is interested in your personal perspective, not the canned lines of a PR press release. Write the way you would speak.
- Take a stance. You are writing an opinion piece, not a reported piece. There is no need for objectivity — rather, you should be making a clear argument, and use your expertise and sources to back it up.
- Sell an idea, not a product or service. No editor (or reader) wants to read a sales pitch thinly veiled as an article. Rather, they want you to draw on your unique perspective to say something about your industry or area of expertise. This isn’t the place for self-promotion; instead, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate how you can contribute valuable insights.
- Share why your guest post is right for their publication. Are many of their readers from your industry? Do you have a fresh perspective on a topic popular among their readers? Explain why your piece belongs in their publication.
- Make it timely. If appropriate, relate your article to an event or occasion of interest to the publication’s readers and people in your industry. These “hooks” can be as straightforward or as creative as you like. For example, a piece about black engineers in your industry could be pegged to the release of a movie like “Hidden Figures,” or a piece about corporate philanthropy could be linked to the beginning of the holiday season, when giving is top of mind.
- Polish your pitch. Proofread your article. Get a second set of eyes to look it over. Use a free online grammar and spell checking tool, like Grammarly. By this point, you have spent a lot of time on your pitch — don’t let a bunch of typos and bad grammar stand between you and publication.
As you prepare to hit send on that pitch or article, don’t forget to cross your T’s and dot your I’s. Consult the submission guidelines again to make sure you have given the editor exactly what they want.
Make sure you’re sending it to the right person and email address. If you follow these guidelines, it’s only a matter of time before you see your ideas in the online and print pages of your favorite publication. Good luck!
Ilana Plumer is the Senior Director of Marketing at Main Path Marketing, which provides premium level content marketing services to mid-market businesses. With over 12 years of marketing experience, Plumer builds and oversees holistic content marketing campaigns for her clients. Plumer is committed to integrating content marketing with social media, digital PR, and email marketing to elevate her clients’ brand voice.
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