A question popped up recently in a publicity group on LinkedIn, and the moderator asked me to comment:
“I have written some articles and am having no luck getting them into national publications. Any ideas?”
Yes. Stop submitting articles to national publications. That is, unless you already have a relationship with someone who works at the newspaper or magazine or you know these four things:
- Whether they want an article on your topic.
- How many words to write.
- The deadline.
- If they want you to provide a photo or graphic to accompany the article.
I suspect the writer of the question above has written articles and emailed them en masse to various publications. No wonder her efforts have failed. The one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach seldom works. But if you’re willing to do a little research and give the media exactly what they want, article writing can pay huge dividends.
Ask yourself these questions, even before writing.
Who is Your Target Market?
Don’t skip this step! You must know who’s going to be reading your article. You can define them two ways, first by demographics:
- Men or women?
- Where do they live?
- Education level?
- Job title?
- Sexual orientation?
- Income range. Can they afford when you’re selling?
Now, define them by their passions and interests:
- What are their hobbies?
- Favorite TV programs?
- Types of books they read?
- Magazines they subscribe to?
- Radio shows they listen to?
- What business or personal problem keeps them up at 3 a.m.?
- What problems can you help them solve?
How Can You Help Them?
Let’s say you’re a speech coach. You probably wouldn’t write for a local daily or weekly newspaper because they’re too general. But you could write for business newspapers and magazines.
Start local, especially if you’re new to article writing and you don’t have many media contacts. Which publications do local speakers read? American Cities Business Journals publishes weekly editions in more than 40 cities and often print columns and opinion pieces from local writers. Crains publishes business papers in New York, Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland.
You’ll probably find a variety of other publications in your area.
Why is starting local important? Because you face stiff competition when trying to attract the attention of national publications like Inc., Forbes and Entrepreneur. Working with local editors will be a lot easier, and you’ll gain valuable experience working with journalists before pitching editors at much larger publications.
Add to these options the trade press: industry publications that might welcome articles from you. Most important is that your topic must be a perfect fit. See Muck Rack’s “How to Pitch a Trade Press Editor.”
Introduce Yourself to a Staff Member
Establishing a relationship with a reporter or editor can pay huge dividends. You have several options.
The business journals host a variety of events throughout the year, such as 40 Under 40 and Women in Business. Most are open to the public. For the price of a ticket, you can attend these events and mingle with staff members. Here’s a list of events held by the Business Journal in Milwaukee, where I worked as an editor years ago:
Before you go, read several of the most recent issues so you’re familiar with what they write about.
At one of these events, don’t be shy about asking someone from the paper to point out the editorial employees so you can introduce yourself. But don’t suggest an idea for your article just yet. Give them your 15-second elevator pitch and use statistics to enrich your introduction.
If you blog, one excellent statistic you can use in your elevator pitch is the number of articles at your blog. This shows you’re a prolific writer.
Explain your expertise, hand them a business card and invite them to call on you if they need story ideas, background, commentary and trends. Ask if they accept articles from people like you. I’ve written more details on how to meet journalists and broadcaster at media-sponsored events.
After the event, you can send a short email thanking them for their time and pitching three ideas for articles you’d like to write. I’m a blogger, and I love it when someone who wants to write a guest post gives me a choice of three topics.
If the publication you want to write for doesn’t host events, you can invite a reporter or editor to lunch. I’ve written 22 Tips for Breaking Bread with Journalists.
A third option is to go directly to the publication’s website and look for “How to write for us” instructions, though most newspapers and magazines don’t list these.
A fourth option is to establish a relationship with someone who already writes for the publication you’re interested in, and ask for an introduction.
Collect All the Details
If an editor says yes to one of your article ideas, ask for details.
How many words should you write? What’s your deadline? Do they need your headshot? If so, should it be high resolution? Or do they want ideas for things they can photograph to accompany your article? Do they want you to visit the newspaper to have your photo taken?
In your author resource box at the end of the article, include a call to action. It can tell people they can get a free cheat sheet or checklist at your website. Or let readers know that you answer questions in a Facebook group or have helpful videos on your YouTube channel.
Ask someone to proofread your article before you submit it.
You can ask if the editor knows when it will be printed, but it’s your job to monitor this. Don’t keep hounding the editor.
Stay in Touch with Editors
After your article has been published, look for other ways you can help staff members. Tip off editors to trends you’re seeing in your industry. Offer a story idea or two, even if it has nothing to do with you. Email an interesting article you found online about a topic you know interests the editor.
In a few months, suggest three more ideas for articles you can write. Keep reading the publication so you know what topics they cover.
How to Target National Publications
Competition for these bigger publications is fierce. Often, editors will want to know if you’ve written for other newspapers and magazines. That’s why it’s best to start local. You can link to those articles from the “Media Buzz” or “Media Room” at your website.
One excellent way to connect with these journalists is through social media. Follow them and pay attention to the kinds of content they’re writing about. Share it and comment.
Another way is to know who’s writing for those bigger publications. Build the relationship with an established writer, then ask for an introduction to the person who considers article ideas.
When you find an editor who you want to pitch, Google his or her name and see what you can find. Sometimes you’ll find a blog post they’ve written or an interview in which they’re offering tips on how get into their publications.
4 Other Publicity Resources to Help You
- You’ll love the article “60 Contributors to Forbes, Eentrepreneur, Inc. and More Tell How They Got the Opportunity.” Notice how many writers were discovered not by pitching but by being found by the editors because they were blogging or writing elsewhere.
- Hubspot has an excellent article on “
- Muck Rack helps PR pros connect with journalists. Check out the Muck Rack blog. I love their daily emails.
- Writer’s Market 2019 is a valuable resource guide that lists a wide variety of magazines and writer’s guidelines.
Do you write for business publications and have your own tips to share? How did you attract the editor’s attention? What has your gig as a columnist done for your business? Your comments are welcome.