A contributed article is a great way to gain exposure for your brand and ensure your client’s name or company is considered a trusted authority. They are meant to serve as a vendor-neutral perspective by someone with concrete knowledge about a particular topic. Contributed articles (also called bylines) are one of the most used tools in a PR professionals toolbelt when it comes to serving their clients.
However, before securing media coverage, there is a lot of groundwork that needs to be done before seeing your (or your client’s) name published. Placing a contributed article starts long before the content is written and even before the pitch is crafted. In fact, there is a bit of reverse engineering that must take place. Here are some of the most critical steps PR professionals should take when trying to place their content.
Begin with the End in Mind When it Comes to Targeting Media
Creating a target media list for your PR goals isn’t necessarily difficult, but it does take careful attention to be sure your target publications provide fertile ground for your content pitches. And with the proliferation of media outlets these days, it can be hard to discern which outlets are right for your news.
When considering where to start when it comes to placing your content, do a quick search of topics that speak to your target audience and see which outlets are publishing that content. Consider also adding topics that aren’t evergreen and also focus on themes that are timely. For instance, let’s say you’re looking for media outlets that cover certain technology topics related to the cloud. You may want to look up phrases like “security in the cloud”, or “on-premises versus moving to the cloud”.
Now that you have a high level list of media targets, you must vet it to be sure every place on that list will potentially publish your content. Here are easy steps to take to ensure that you’ll be pitching the right publications and increase your chances for publishing success:
1. Review the media outlet’s submission guidelines.
When analyzing a media outlet to see if they might publish your news, go to the media outlet’s website and first check the “about us” or similar section for an overview of the publication. Look for publishing guidelines along with contact information.
Is there a specific section on the website that talks about becoming a contributor? Many sites will have a specific area that details if they accept contributor content, how often, what format and other guidelines they require are followed, and how to submit. These are the best places to start to determine the process for submission, content creation, and getting published on a particular website or media outlet.
2. If you can’t find editorial guidelines, dig into the articles.
Some websites are so vast (and have quite a few brands under their umbrella), that it’s nearly impossible to find publication specifications. Some don’t even have editorial guidelines, but still will take content from an outside source. Don’t give up; there are clues as to how a media outlet sources its material that you can dig up by reviewing the site’s content.
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Take a look at three to five pieces from a section you feel your content would fit into. For example, if you’re writing about your company’s new fitness tracker, the wearable tech section of Mashable might be a fit for you. Once you’re sure about where your content fits in, look at who’s writing the articles about items similar to yours. Is the person who wrote it on staff or are they a contributing writer like you? If the author’s name doesn’t say “staff” or “reporter” next to it, that’s good news; it’s likely a strong signal that your target publication accepts outside content.
To confirm this, you can scroll down to the end of the article, where often you’ll find a short bio of the author. Click through to his or her website to be sure they’re a freelancer or subject matter expert and not directly employed by the publication. Similarly, you can do a Google search and see if that person is connected to the publication.
3. Prune your list into a solid pitching resource.
After you’ve thoroughly reviewed every publication on your list to see if they accept guest posts, now is the time to get pruning. If they don’t, delete that media outlet from your list. If they do, dig around to find the reporter’s name associated with the section where you think your content best fits and record that person’s name and contact information (email, phone, social media handles) on your media list. That’ll be your key contact when it’s time to pitch your content.
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4. Don’t get sucked into a pay-for-play opportunity.
One last tip when it comes to vetting publications: many media outlets publish articles for hefty prices—in upwards of $50,000 or more. These are typically referred to as pay-for-play or sponsored opportunities. If a publication offers you this, I recommend politely declining. PR is designed to build credibility and authority. If your content is only placed because it was paid for, readers can lose trust in your brand and its purpose.
In order to cultivate a solid media list, it’s important to invest in the initial legwork to be sure you’re pitching your content to the right places—and to the right people. As time goes on, be sure you periodically update your list (quarterly is my recommendation). Journalists move on, publication guidelines change, and new media outlets are popping up (and shuttering) all the time. With some time investment, you’ll lay the groundwork so your pitches have the best chance at blossoming into strong PR placements.