Getting the media to call you as an expert is great. So is posting thought leadership on your LinkedIn or website. But there’s a certain cachet to getting a full article written in your own words published by an outside publication.
From boosting your profile with new audiences to helping your website’s SEO, there are a ton of benefits to this tactic. But there are some pitfalls many people and organizations fall into when trying to get these authored articles placed.
Here are a few ways to help your story stand out in an editor’s inbox for the right reasons.
Ask for guidelines
If a site doesn’t have readily available submission guidelines, don’t be afraid to email and ask before you start writing. Some sites may have word minimums and maximums; some will want you to write in a certain style. Firing off a quick email before you start writing can save a lot of wasted time down the road.
Say something original
When you’re brainstorming an idea for a post, don’t always go with your first idea.
It’s almost certainly everyone else’s first idea too.
That means not only are you facing stiffer odds on a competitive Google search, you’re also more likely to make the editor you’re pitching yawn. Chances are good they’ve read five variations of the same obvious story in the last week.
Instead, dig deeper. Can you offer contrary advice on your first idea? Can you get granular and deep on an area in which you have specialized experience? Is there an emerging area where you can break new ground? How about a case study?
You want to stand out from all the dozens of other submissions the site is getting. Be creative and avoid the impulse for an easy story.
Consider your audience
Every website has a different target audience. Some are broad and general — that might be a time for beginner-level material. But if you’re aiming for a site that appeals to professionals who work in a given industry, don’t waste everyone’s time by defining industry-basic terms or writing about something that everyone in that industry should already know.
Check the outlet’s About Us page. See how they define their audience. Look at their recent content — is it written for freshmen or graduate students? Try to match the tone and difficulty level of what you’re seeing.
There’s plenty of room for content aimed at both neophytes and experts. Just make sure you’re offering the right level to the right people.
The people you’re pitching, like everyone else in the universe, are overworked and overstressed. If they look at your submitted story and realize they’re going to have to spend time fixing comma errors, run-on sentences and other copy issues, they’re likely to just move on to the next story just to save time and energy.
Make sure you’re really taking the time to scrub your copy and make sure it is clean. If you can, look at other stories on the site and see if you can determine what style they use. Are they using the Oxford comma or no? These small details can make a difference if your content is borderline.
If you’re writing in a language that isn’t your native tongue, first of all, know that you’re awesome. That’s quite the feat. But if possible, get a native speaker to take a look at the story before you submit it.
Finally, one last pro-tip: Only one space goes after a period. It’s a hard habit to break to cut the double space, but make the effort, or use find and replace to get rid of them after the fact.
Ask for feedback
If an editor passes on your story, it’s perfectly fine to ask for feedback to improve the piece. You may not get it; see the above point about editors being stressed and overworked. But a few words of advice can help you revise the piece and potentially take it from the reject to the front page. Accept the feedback you get with humility, not defensiveness, and try again.