In our last PR-focused blog, we talked about why news releases aren’t necessarily going to get the job done for your business these days, and how you can begin to open conversations with journalists and influencers instead. This time around, we’re going to talk about the next step: contributing content that editors will publish and audiences (including prospects) will take notice of.
In this day of reduced editorial staffs and the unlimited capacity of the web, trade publications and online industry sites are as hungry for content as those who do inbound marketing. You don’t always have to “pay to play,” and you’re not limited to self-publishing on your website. Instead, if you write and submit content that meets a publication’s needs, and do it thoughtfully and well. This is a particularly effective tactic for small and mid-size B2B companies that want a specific, targeted audience to get to know them.
To create content that editors will publish, you first need to answer one big question: What can your company say that’s valuable to others in your industry? Answering that question will make your writing interesting to others and, at the same time, highlight your expertise. If you want to head into thought leadership territory, you should be able to discuss something that offers your company’s unique perspective and expertise, at least some of the time; thought leadership is a worthy goal, but it doesn’t have to be present in every article or blog you write.
After you’ve identified your subject matter, these additional guidelines can help your submissions stand out.
Do your research and target your efforts
Before you approach any magazine, website or blog about including your work, do a thorough review of it to figure out:
- Whether it accepts contributed content, and if so, what kind. Many, but not all, trade publications, industry websites and blogs do. The editorial guidelines on a publication’s website will tell you what contributions it will take. And be warned; for the most part, your contribution needs to be original, or at least greatly revised from anything you’d like to repurpose.
- What others have recently written about. You want your topic to fit into the publication, but not repeat anything that’s been covered in the past few months (unless you have new information or perspective to add).
- How many people read the publication (online and in print, if it still appears on paper) and what industries they’re in. Are they part of your target audience?
- The general tone and quality of the publication. Does it reflect your organization? Is it someplace you want your content to be?
Researching publications is much easier than it used to be, thanks to the internet and the prevalence of online content. But you’ll still want to review a year’s worth of issues to make sure it should be on your list of targets. There’s a practical element to this, too: like most public relations activities, writing and pitching content is labor-intensive. You want your efforts to count, so you need to choose your targeted publications wisely and strategically.
Believe the editorial guidelines
In addition to outlining the contributed content the publication accepts, the aforementioned editorial guidelines include such information as:
- Whether you need to pitch an idea or submit a written piece
- Word count for submitted pieces
- Whether or not you may mention your company in an article
- The need for photos and graphics
- The format for a submitted piece (usually, Microsoft Word).
Those may be called guidelines, but they are actually rules. Believe them and abide by them. It will make the difference as to whether your article is published – or not.
Make sure your submission is well-written
The world may have embraced acronyms, abbreviations and emojis for texts and social media, but standard grammar, spelling and punctuation still count in articles and blogs. Assuming that you already have a good grasp of your content matter and standard written language, here are some of the best editing and proofreading tips we know (other than using spellcheck, which should always be your first line of defense):
- Get some distance from your work. Give yourself enough time to walk away from a draft – at least for a few hours, but a day or two is better. You’ll see it with fresh eyes and will be able to pick up weak points and mistakes.
- Edit and proofread your writing on paper, not on a screen. In an attempt to get through the large amount of content we’re exposed to, much of it on a computer, we’ve become a nation of skimmers. That means we pass over errors. Paper offers a different reading experience and helps us see mistakes.
- Read your work out loud. That also makes you slow down and look at every word.
- Ask one or two people to give you feedback and edit your writing.
Targeted, on-point and error-free copy might make the difference between publication and rejection. It definitely will make you and your organization look smart. And it’s also a big help to editors and bloggers; they’re inundated with requests, so the less work they need to do on your submission, the more favorably they’ll look upon it – and anything you send them in the future.