Updated July 5, 2022
Content marketers know how to sway people. You know exactly who your audience is, what they need, and exactly how they want to consume it.
You can use the same skillset to persuade editors at third-party outlets to publish your contributed content. Then, you can widen your brand’s reach to new people who have an interest in your content.
Contributed content is always in demand among editors. But you must have a good strategy to connect with and ensure your content resonates with the managing editors – the gatekeepers of influential publications.
Fortunately for marketers, editors also have a soft spot for quality contributed content. They want content from people who speak their audience’s language and can provide expert insights culled from years in the trenches.
Your in-house experts offer real-world wisdom about how to break into or thrive in their fields. Editors are eager to publish that knowledge – if it provides real value to readers, viewers, or listeners. Brands can see huge returns on content marketing by tapping into these editors’ audiences. These tips can help you understand the best opportunities and successfully pitch your content to the editors.
Find the right publication
Content marketing is designed to help brands distinguish themselves as thought leaders and get in front of the right people. Developing a content marketing strategy takes hours of research and refining, but all the hard work on third-party distribution is wasted if you don’t work with relevant publications.
Here are a few questions to ask before reaching out to editors to identify the right publication fit:
- Who do you want to reach? Find out which publications, video channels, podcasts, etc., your target audience consumes the most. Where do they live online? Where do they go to find industry news? What is a highly regarded media outlet in that industry? Initially, you can look at publications lists like this top technology publications article for example. Aggregate as many of these lists as possible, then dive into the publication demographics, traffic data, awards, page rank, social media following, etc., to gauge its fit. You won’t earn quality engagement if you push content to an audience that doesn’t care about your topic.
- What’s your goal? Refer to your content marketing strategy and decide the priority for the content. Is it to boost brand awareness? Drive leads to your site? Build your subscriber base? The goal should help you narrow the list of where you want to pitch.
- What type of content are you producing? Before choosing a content property, determine whether you want to publish a long analytical piece, an evergreen topic, a how-to article, or a hard-hitting and timely op-ed. Then, go after publications that specialize in that form.
Some writing styles lend themselves to one publication over another, so pay close attention to your brand objectives and the publication’s tone. Always make sure your writing style and brand image align with the publishing outlet.
- Is the media outlet valuable to my brand? Closely evaluate the publication’s audience, traffic data, page rank, and social media engagement to ensure you reach enough relevant readers and spark sufficient engagement to make the publication choice worthwhile.
Win over editors with 6 tips
Once you know which publications are best suited to your brand, prepare your pitch and start writing the piece.
Editors often are drowning in pitches, so they’re quick to dismiss a submission that won’t work well for their audience. To develop content that editors want to publish and strengthen ties with them in the process, start with these six tips:
1. Avoid promotion
Editors say a top problem is contributed content with too much brand promotion. They also find it often lacks original, valuable insights. Editors want to educate their audiences, so build your content around solving common industry problems or offering a unique take on new trends. You can pull examples from your brand’s experiences, but don’t insert them simply to mention your brand.
Before we publish a piece of content, we ask if the company mentions serve a purpose in the content. If they help illustrate a point for readers, the references stay. If not, we cut them and refocus on the original insights. Promotional content drives away readers and weakens the publication’s credibility. Your team should fully understand the difference between promotional and educational content (and why promotional initiatives are leading to content blindness) before pitching it to editors.
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2. Find out pitch protocol
Learn whether the publishing outlet prefers to see a pitch (i.e., the idea or angle) or a completed article. (Media sites often detail submission guidelines on their site.) Many editors accept pitches before commissioning a piece, which gives you a chance to get feedback on your idea before putting time into developing it. However, if they want finished pieces, don’t submit pitches. Ignoring the publication’s protocol decreases your chances of getting published and makes editors wary of working with you.
3. Follow the publication guidelines
The publication’s parameters inform all content decisions, including topic ideas. These guidelines outline the publication’s style to create content consistency. Paying close attention to audiences, writing styles, and nitty-gritty details will up your chances of getting published and minimize the amount of work an editor will have to invest in it.
4. Edit your article thoroughly
Most editors receive many submissions. They don’t have time to clean up sloppy prose and poor grammar. Rigorously edit and fact-check your piece and run it through an online plagiarism checker before submitting it. Clean, well-written content stands out to editors and lays the groundwork for an ongoing relationship.
5. Listen to editors’ feedback and take it seriously
Take Content Marketing Institute, for example. The first time I contributed to this site, Lisa Dougherty, the director of blog community and operations, took the time to offer feedback on the article. In the email, she mentioned liking the piece but wasn’t publication-ready. She wanted it to be in tip-top shape for the CMI audience.
Don’t let your ego get in the way of this valuable advice. Editors know their audience better than anybody else, and they can help you develop better content and become a better writer. The revised piece I turned in was substantially better after I made the changes based on Lisa’s feedback.
6. Share it like crazy
Once the piece goes live, share it widely with your networks. Post it in relevant LinkedIn Groups and encourage your team to share it. You and the publication editors want to get as many people to read and share the article as possible, so come up with a killer social media strategy for promoting your brand’s content, and you’ll drive traffic to both the publication and your article.
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7. Understand the data that they value
To truly understand an editor’s motivations, you need to understand the data they value for their site. Ask them what things they value most like unique visitors or time on page. Most editors are commonly measured by their increase in page views. Here is an example of some of the marketing data that commonly comes up when editors are being measured by their revenue officers. If editors feel that you care about them meeting their goals, then they will love you for it.
Satisfy demand with quality content
Publication editors are starving for raw, original content from real experts with real experiences. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to reach your audience on a more personal level and boost your credibility. But remember: Aim to educate the publication’s readers first, and in time, they’ll come to you for more helpful, high-quality information and see your company as a trusted partner and resource.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute