The Society of Professional Consultants

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Evaluating the Publications on Your Shortlist

Monday, August 01, 2022 7:01 AM | Erica Holthausen

Hundreds of influential blogs, trade journals, and business magazines seek contributed content. But not all of these publications will help you reach your goals. Before you pitch your idea for an article or column, identify the publications that will help you reach your goals. That will give you a shortlist to consider.

But how do you narrow down that shortlist?

Your pitch strategy must be grounded in research and a deep understanding of your goals and objectives. Once you have your shortlist, you must evaluate each option to make sure the publication’s style is compatible with yours.

We are judged by the company we keep. Industry leaders, colleagues, and prospective clients will make assumptions about your ideas, skill level, and credibility based on your affiliation with a particular publication. Make sure the publications you affiliate with reflect your personality and values.

Three elements to review to determine a publication's style.

Every publication has a particular writing style. The way the message is crafted influences the reader’s impression of the message. Style includes diction, tone, and voice. You want your style to complement the publication’s style. To determine the publication’s style, evaluate these three elements:

1. Diction. Diction is the choice and use of words and phrases in speech and writing. Pay attention to the positive or negative connotation around the words and phrases that appear in a publication’s headlines. Notice how the choice of words and phrases also influences whether the publication sounds formal, academic, or casual.

2. Tone. By paying attention to word choice, you also get a sense of a publication’s tone. Does the article you’re reviewing sound objective or subjective? Logical or emotional? Intimate or distant? Serious or humorous? Formal or casual? Respectful or irreverent? Enthusiastic or matter-of-fact? Think about the tone of a specific article. If the tone is serious, could it have been written as a humorous piece? Ask yourself why the writer chose to write in this tone. Is this the dominant tone across all of the publication’s articles? Or did the subject matter require this particular tone?

​3. Voice. A publication’s voice can be difficult to put into words. Voice makes an article recognizable as one published in a particular media outlet. A publication’s voice is its personality. Think about BuzzFeed and Harvard Business Review. What makes these publications so different from one another? Voice. While tone varies depending on the situation, voice is consistent.

​To get a sense of a publication’s style, you’ll need to study each one closely. Read several articles from the last year, and pay attention to the headlines. Headlines are where a publication’s voice shines. If a publication’s headlines, graphics, or topics of interest elicit a scowl or eye-roll, it’s probably not a good fit — no matter how popular the publication.

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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.

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