As a PR professional, you’re well-versed in writing guest posts/contributed content (same thing) on behalf of your executives, spokespeople, or even yourself. You’ve determined the outlets your audience is reading or watching, you’ve created a refined media target list, and you have a great topic in mind for your client or subject matter expert (SME).
More often than not however, the first step to getting your content published is pitching the reporter an abstract of what it is about. An abstract is an effective description of what you are proposing to write and a lot of reporters will ask for this FIRST to be sure the final content you deliver is aligned with their media outlet’s own objectives. There are some exceptions where an editor won’t want or need an abstract, but it’s always important to ask and tailor your process to what best fits theirs.
What is an abstract?
Think of your abstract as the elevator pitch to what you want to convey to readers. An abstract summarizes your proposed topic in a clear, compelling, and concise (about 200-400 words) way. The abstract gives a reporter or editor a first glimpse of your work, and its purpose is to help convince that publication that your content is worth sharing with their audience.
5 Essential Elements of an Abstract
There are five fundamental points that your abstract should include:
1. Audience Relevance
Viewers and readers are the lifeblood of any publication, so it’s imperative that the abstract (and of course your content) directly relates to their target audience and also provides readers with meaningful takeaways. Translation: it must be relevant for your audience. If what your SME is saying is not something the audience absolutely needs to know, keep digging and find something compelling.
An example of this would be if you work for a company that manufactures drones. In an email to a tech outlet, you say, “Jane Doe from ABC Drone is a leader in the drone space, and the technology her company uses is proprietary and unheard of because of XYZ. She has an interesting take on [insert something really important the reader should know – something in the tech space]. Her piece is also relevant and timely, as it [insert how it ties into what’s happening in the world/news cycle right now].”
Because the pub is focused on tech and there is likely some relevant angle to both its audience and the news cycle, this article could be a great piece to include in the media outlet and would likely catch an editor’s eye.
2. Unique viewpoints
Putting a fresh spin on a familiar topic is critical to making your content appealing and worthy of publication. In your abstract, you must clearly convey your opinion, even if it’s an unpopular one or goes against the grain. What are you saying that nobody else is? Go big and go bold.
Back to the drone example, if your client or SME’s perspective is that drones create a significant privacy threat, write about that particular topic and cover what is timely for the audience to know right now. This viewpoint can create a healthy discussion and provide a fresh perspective that hasn’t yet been covered by that particular media outlet, but that gives a balance to their overall coverage.
Lastly, when it comes to sharing a viewpoint, it’s important that you position a SME that has credibility and deserves to be listened to. In the drone example, you wouldn’t usually position a CMO for a drone safety issue if the CMO doesn’t have directly-related safety experience (that might fall under R&D or a CTO/tech SME). Be sure the SME you feature has the necessary background and unique commentary to stand out and be taken seriously.
One caveat, be sure the viewpoint shared is authentic and honest. The viewpoint should be one that is truly shared by the company or SME and not something that is crafted as a shock-factor or only to be polarizing.
Trending topics are especially desirable, as all publications want to publish content that ties into what’s happening in the news cycle. If you are seeing a political or technological trend that you can leverage to your advantage (again, authentically), jump aboard.
Going back to the drone example, if there is a development with drone technology, let’s say there are new capabilities to its flying height, you could include in your outreach something like this:
“In yesterday’s news cycle about drone technology reaching new delivery heights, there were concerns about damage to personal property or injuries to people from drone malfunctions at such a high height. Here are some thoughts from John Smith, former fighter pilot and CEO of Drone USA, about why he thinks there needs to be government regulation around drone use and what the FAA should do about it.”
In this example, it’s clear why the SME might have an immediate and important stance on this position, both with his position as a CEO of a drone manufacturer and also background in aviation. His authority in this space and the timeliness of his opinion on drone safety is key to catching an editor’s attention.
The concept of value takes relevance and timeliness to the next level by demonstrating how your content will help solve readers’ problems, address their pain points, and even answer questions they haven’t yet considered. Anticipation of what’s to come is a great way to deliver value to readers and ultimately, the editors of the media outlet (adding your client or SME to their list of great resources!).
In other words, figure out a way to combine what is happening to the world and what is most important to the media outlet’s audience. The impact of your content is then both valuable and meaningful.
For instance, if we think of the drone example, the abstract should include details about the kind of common questions readers will have such as what retail drone deliveries look like and why it’s currently only safe for packages that weigh five pounds or less.
Building authority and reinforcing credibility of your client or SME is a main objective of getting published. To that point, be sure to include in your abstract why your client or SME is the best person to author this piece. Include a 2-3w short sentences at the end, about who they are, what makes them an expert on the topic, and why people should listen to them. Include links to their LinkedIn profile if that’s helpful. If space allows, feel free to link to other news they’ve been featured in.
For example: “The author of this piece will be Samantha Smith, ABC Drone’s R&D VP. She’s been at the forefront of drone development for the last decade, working with some of the largest drone manufacturers worldwide, including DEF Company, which created the first delivery drone prototype. This is her LinkedIn profile [hyperlink], and she was also recently featured on X media outlet.”
Like all of the examples in the paragraphs above, it’s imperative to include even a few short lines about the SME you position to show their credibility in the space.
Anyone can send an email to a reporter talking about what they’re good at, but for surefire success, you must ensure that your abstract includes all five of these essential elements. In doing so, you’ll know that your abstract will provide the most value to readers and ultimately your client or SME will be considered an authority on that particular topic.
As you ramp up your own authority and credibility for your practice and your own clients, consider enrolling in my new LinkedIn Learning course called “How to Build Your Own PR Practice.” To learn more and enroll, please click here.