By Kevin Elliott
Marketing your business takes many forms – social media, video, word of mouth, etc. But one of the most effective and long-lasting marketing techniques is getting articles published.
The Marketing Gift That Keeps on Giving
The benefits are many. If you are published by a third party outlet, you automatically have more credibility. And online articles last basically forever (try that with paid ads). Articles are also great for gaining awareness with unexpected prospects in the nooks and crannies of the internet.
I love writing and getting articles published. Other than Wewa Blog, my writing has been featured in:
- The Washington Post
- Desktop Documentaries
- Distributed Energy
- Power Engineering (ghost written)
- Innovator Magazine
- Public Roads Magazine (ghost written)
- The Florida Department of Transportation Research Showcase Blog
- The U.S. Air Force News Service
Most of these are for non-film publications, but the methods for getting published are the same. I’m not saying that if you follow the instructions below you are guaranteed to get published. I will guarantee these tips will up your chances, though.
Step 1: Write Well
This sounds obvious, but I teach writing at the college level and many of my students think they are better than they are.
You might think you are a great writer, but before you start sending manuscripts to editors, do this: Find the most critical person in your life who also has decent writing skills and let them critique a piece of your writing.
Hit up your old English teacher on Facebook, whatever. But nothing I say below matters if your writing sucks. Editors HATE when they have to make lots of corrections to a submission from a freelance writer. Don’t waste their time or yours.
If you are a good writer, keep reading.
Step 2: Find Your Target Publications
Look at the list of my articles above. You can probably tell the type of company I was working for when I wrote them. Would it surprise you to know that I was working for Air Force energy engineers when I wrote for Distributed Energy, Power Engineering, and the Air Force News Service? Or that I wrote the piece for Desktop Documentaries in my role as co-owner and producer at Wewa Films?
The content of your article must be super relevant to the readers of the publication. Magazine editors do not lay awake at night wondering how they can help build your business. They lay awake at night wondering how they can please their readers and get more of them.
So find the publications that match most closely with the nature of your business, your business goals, and their readers.
At Wewa Films, we have a cinematic, documentary style, so I targeted Desktop Documentaries. However, we don’t do feature films, so something like Indie Film Hustle is a step too far.
Step 3: Find Contact Info
Other than good writing, finding a contact at the publication is the hardest part. Here are a few ways I’ve done it.
Meh: Start With the General Inbox
Most sites have a general “info@_________” inbox in the Contact Us section. You will almost never get a response with these, but there is no reason not to try. However, do not stop there.
Good: Find Something More Specific
Next, look for an email with the word “editor” or something similar in it. This should at least go to someone connected with an editor who can make a decision about you. And it’s okay to send the same message to multiple inboxes at the same company. It is likely that different people (if any) monitor them. Here’s one I found on the No Film School blog.
Better: Find a Specific Person
You see in the pic above that sentence about contact information for each contributor? Now we’re getting somewhere. You’ll probably find actual human emails there. Here’s what I got when I clicked it.
Look! You can email the editor in chief and managing editor! But which should you email? Both. Should you email the copywriters? Nah, the editors are the decision makers.
Best: Find Their Writer’s Guidelines
Once you identify a target publication, simply Google its name with the words “writer’s guidelines.” Many times, you get nothing. But sometimes, you get gold.
Writer’s guidelines are published by outlets actively seeking articles from people like you. They publish the writer’s guidelines to let you know exactly what they want. So give it to them. For instance, Desktop Documentaries publishes specific guidelines for submitting articles for consideration.
They even tell you the types of articles they want to publish!
Another Way to Find Business Emails
Try Rocket Reach. Cool tool. And no, they do not pay me (though I wish they would).
Side Note: Is it Okay to Pitch People on Social Media?
Only through business pages, not through personal accounts.
Step 4: The Email
A good email pitch has five elements:
- An Ask
For example, here is the actual email I sent that led to me being published in the Washington post.
The entire email is three short paragraphs. Get to the point. Which brings me to the next point.
Make it obvious what your pitch is about. This article was my story in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. So I included that in my subject line and first sentence. Don’t beat around the bush and write a wordy, fluffy email. Editors (and everyone else) hate that.
The storm had happened only a month before this email, so it was still in the news. And, in my research, I knew the Washington Post had been covering the aftermath. I figured my story would be relevant and interesting to them. It was.
Notice I mention their previous coverage of the hurricane. This lets them know I have read their stuff, something all writers and editors love.
In this case, I attached a finished manuscript that I asked them to publish. Again, say what you want. The article will either be good or not, relevant or not, valuable to their readers or not. Don’t pretend. Make a specific ask.
Side Note: Even This May Not Work
I sent this same pitch to the New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, and several other outlets. I got no response at all.
Step 5: They Respond!
More often than not, you get no response, so prepare yourself for that. That’s why you should pitch lots of places to up your odds. But when they do respond, it’s exhilarating!
Step 6: Write!
One of two options. If you sent a manuscript with your email, the editor will either ask you for specific edits (cut word count, etc.) or will edit your article themselves.
If you did not send a manuscript but only an article idea, it’s time to write. If you have their writer’s guidelines, follow them to the letter. If they want 1,000 words, you must hit it within 25 words above or below. If they want your article in a Word doc with Times New Roman 11-point font with one-inch margins, you better nail it. Don’t drop the ball now.
You must also hit the deadline. Do. Not. Submit. Your. Article. Late. Under any circumstances.
If you do not have writer’s guidelines, ask for them. Specifically, you need word count, format and due date.
Do I Get Paid?
Sometimes, but usually not. You’re in this for the exposure and marketing value. That said, it’s not impossible. There isn’t a lot of money in freelance writing, though.
Conclusion: Writing is Marketing Time Well Spent
Writing is hard, time-consuming work. Which is why most people don’t add it to their marketing mix. But writing has great, long-lasting benefits. So put in the work and gain the advantage on your competitors who won’t.
P.S. – Here are some related articles you might like: