You’ve written a great article about a timely health care topic, sent it to one of your favorite publications, and are anxiously waiting to hear if the piece has been accepted. You wait. And you wait. And you wait. Crickets.
Sound familiar? Most people who have attempted to pitch a bylined article are well-acquainted with this form of rejection. Even the most seasoned PR professionals, who interact with editors every day, have experienced it.
In fact, it’s becoming harder and harder to place contributed pieces. Many publications no longer accept them, and if they do, their editors are dealing with fewer resources and ever-expanding workloads. Most editors barely have time to skim contributed pieces, let alone read them thoroughly.
How do I know? Because I’ve been in their shoes.
I spent several years as a writer, editor, and editorial director at a large healthcare publishing company. There, I oversaw content and strategy for publications such as Managed Healthcare Executive, Physicians Practice Journal and Drug Topics.
Since I made the leap to health care consultancy Sage Growth Partners more than three years ago, I’ve experienced the thrill and challenges of pitching content firsthand. I’ve also seen how valuable a successful pitch can be for clients. Capturing earned media is decidedly worth the effort.
To help your company successfully capture earned media and experience its many benefits, I’ve assembled this list of seven tips based on my experiences on both the editorial side and the pitching side.
- Ask yourself the “Two Key Questions” prior to submitting any piece
When reviewing contributed pieces, editors often consider two key questions:
- Is this content valuable to my readers?
- Is this content overly promotional?
If the editor answers “yes” to question #1 and “no” to question #2, it’s likely that they will publish your piece.
Editors weigh many factors when determining whether content is valuable. These include whether it is timely, relevant, compelling, and well-written.
They also refuse any piece that is overly promotional—even a hint of self-promotion can lead to rejection. That means leaving your company name out of the article entirely and keeping it confined to an author bio with the company name, description and a link to the website.
Your thought leadership should be promotion enough.
2. Include new and compelling data
Incorporating new, interesting, and credible data helps contributed pieces stand out to editors.
For example, a company might survey 100 hospital and health system leaders on their top patient engagement needs and challenges. The survey responses would yield trends and insights to support and ground their article.
3. Select the right author
When reviewing your piece, editors will carefully consider the author’s credentials and may reject your piece if the author isn’t the right fit.
Select an author whose credentials match the content. For example, for a clinical piece, find a physician or other clinician. Many publications prefer a single author, so try to limit your piece to one.
4. Make it easy for the editor
As noted, editors are extremely busy and receive numerous pitches each week. The less editing they have to do on your piece, the better.
Prior to submitting your article, make sure it adheres to the publication’s style and tone by reviewing their recent articles and matching the style of your piece to theirs.
Tailor the title and description of your article to fit your pitching target. The title should speak as directly to that publication’s readers as possible.
5. Engage in publication-based pitching
When you’re ready to begin pitching your article, focus on personalization.
We recommend crafting a short and compelling subject line for your email, writing a brief and personalized note and attaching your piece.
In your note:
- Reference and compliment a recent article that the editor wrote or published on a similar topic to your contributed piece. Then, explain how your piece expands and relates to that topic.
- Note why your piece is relevant to the publication’s readers.
- Explain that you are happy to make any modifications or edits necessary.
6. Don’t give up easily
If you submit a piece to an editor and don’t hear back, be sure to follow up. Editors are busy, and you may have caught them on a rough day.
A good rule of thumb is to follow up once or twice by email, and then with a quick phone call. We’ve placed numerous pieces as a result of a second or third follow up.
If you receive a rejection note or if you don’t hear back from an editor within two weeks, try pitching your piece to another publication.
7. Build connections
Once an editor has published one of your pieces, send a short thank you email. Then, continue building a relationship with the editor by contacting them every couple of months. This outreach should include a mix of promotional and general outreach.
Contact the editor when you have a new contributed piece to pitch or relevant news to share, but also reach out regularly with compliments when the editor publishes interesting articles or special coverage.
This non-promotional outreach will help foster a long-lasting industry connection that will benefit your organization over time.
Not every piece you publish will be picked up by the media but following these tips will ensure your time and effort isn’t wasted. If a piece isn’t picked up, publish it as a blog on your own site. And, when you receive rejections, ask editors for more information on why they rejected the piece. Then, apply those lessons learned to your next article and pitch. Over time, you’ll build more connections with editors and experience greater earned media success. And if you lack the time or confidence to do it yourself, earned media experts like Sage can be a resource.
Aubrey Westgate is VP, Account Services, at Sage Growth Partners. A marketing and communications professional specializing in content strategy, planning, and creation, she combines years of content strategy and development experience in healthcare B2B publishing with a strategic focus on elevating brand awareness and demand generation. Prior to joining Sage Growth Partners, she held a variety of editorial positions, including Senior Editor of Physicians Practice Journal, Executive Editor of Managed Healthcare Executive, and Editorial Director of Managed Healthcare Executive and Drug Topics.