Before you pitch your idea for an article or column, you need to select the publications that will help you reach your goals. Hundreds of influential blogs, trade journals, and business magazines seek contributed content. And each one has a different set of guidelines.
You may have a few publications on your list already. Some of the most popular publications include Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, and Inc. These are well-respected, prestigious publications with loyal audiences. So they should be on your list of publications to consider. But don’t be surprised if not all of these publications stay on your list — or that none is your top choice.
You want to be recognized as an authoritative expert, and you want to raise your profile by publishing articles that build your authority and increase your visibility. But to be effective, your pitch strategy must be grounded in research and a deep understanding of your goals and objectives.
Create your pitch strategy by answering these five questions.
Writing articles for third-party publications is one way to share your ideas with a broader audience, demonstrate your credibility, and cultivate your community. But knowing which publication to pitch requires you to think more deeply about your goals. To create your publication roadmap, answer these five questions:
1. What is your primary purpose for publishing on third-party platforms? Are you publishing articles on third-party platforms because you want to promote your business and inspire readers to signup for your newsletter, download a resource, or register for a webinar? Are you publishing articles to get more backlinks to your website so you can improve your SEO (search engine optimization)? Are you publishing articles to share your expertise, build your authority, and increase your visibility? You may be publishing articles for all three of these reasons, but what is your primary purpose?
Knowing your purpose helps you establish filters so you can choose the right publication. For example, if your primary purpose is to improve SEO or inspire readers to signup for your newsletter, you want to look for publications that allow you to have a contributor bio and backlink at the bottom of each article you write. Entrepreneur and Inc. only offer a simple byline with a link to your author page. But Harvard Business Review includes a contributor bio and backlink at the bottom of each piece.
2. Whom do you want to read your articles? Who is your primary audience for your articles? Are you writing to connect with prospective clients, colleagues, or industry leaders? What publications does your intended audience read regularly? If you’re trying to connect with prospective clients, you might want to consider industry trade journals and association blogs.
3. What do you want to write about? Do you want to share your insights and expertise? Or do you want to interview other experts and incorporate their perspectives into your articles? Writing for a third-party publication can help you secure an interview with people you admire, but not every publication welcomes these types of profile pieces. Entrepreneur prioritizes your stories and lessons learned. They allow you to quote other experts, but only if they are well-known business leaders. Other publications, including Inc., are more flexible and are happy to accept actionable and informative profile pieces, so long as they are not overly promotional.
4. How often do you want to publish articles? Do you want to publish articles regularly or more sporadically? Some publications request that you pitch an idea for a column. For example, Inc. asks contributors to make a six-month commitment and encourages them to publish an article every two weeks. Entrepreneur also allows you to have a column, but you don’t need to establish a schedule. Harvard Business Review requires you to pitch each piece individually.
It’s worth noting that while most publications require original content, content that has never been published to your blog or another outlet, many allow you to republish your article (with a link back to the original) after a short waiting period. Keep this in mind as you seek to balance writing for publication with writing for your blog, newsletter, and social media.
5. How many publications do you want to be affiliated with? Do you want to write for one publication? Or do you want to write for several publications? Or would you prefer a hybrid approach, where you write primarily for one publication but occasionally pitch articles to others? Finding the right balance can be tricky. Pitching articles takes time, and not everyone enjoys the process. So choose a strategy that fits your personality and plays to your strengths.
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can create a shortlist of publications for further consideration. You’ll want to study each of these publications closely, reading several articles and reviewing their contributor guidelines to determine which ones are a good fit. You’ll find that each publication has a particular personality — a voice and tone that is unique to that publication. Industry leaders, colleagues, and prospective clients will make assumptions about you based on your affiliation with a publication. Your reputation is the most critical asset you have in this business, so make sure you protect it.
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Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications and a strategic thought partner to consultants who wish to build their authority and increase their visibility by publishing articles in industry trade journals and business magazines like Inc., Entrepreneur, and Insider. To learn how to raise your profile, register for Pitched to Published, a free monthly Q+A focused on writing, pitching, and publishing articles.