The advantages of getting published in a leading online publication or a top blog are well known. From writing credits to contributor credentials, from social sharing to SEO boost, guest blogging is a great option for many entrepreneurs.
But unless you have an inside line on this, chances are that you are cold-pitching your blog post. Most editors want articles that are well written, have relevant content and are generally error-free – all that’s a given. But if they get pieces that need potential rewrites and back & forth with authors, they will just consign the submission to oblivion.
Basically, editors want articles that are ready to publish!
While the quality of your content and expertise is paramount when pitching your blog or article, your query won’t even get past the initial stages without the basics.
To cut through the noise and grab attention, there are 3 simple rules to keep in mind when you peddle your next masterpiece.
Research before you reach out
What kind of content style do they have and does it align with yours? Is it human interest stories, authority pieces or tips and advice kind of articles? Who is the target demographic and what is the overall tone? Is the content evergreen or current, like in case of news magazines? Apart from standalone topics, can you newsjack or cash on some topical (and time sensitive) content like the holidays or Mother’s Day?
Read the previous work and the contributor guidelines to ensure that your submission is relevant to their audience.
Yes, you should write in your area of expertise but customize the context.
On Maroon Oak, our focus is professional and therefore we are always looking for articles that are meaningful for women entrepreneurs and #WomeninCareers. So an article on managing family time with work is great but a piece on toddler tantrums will be suitable for a parenting blog.
Many publications ask for “actionable takeaways” “compelling arguments” or “interesting stories with audience appeal.” Hubspot has very specific, well laid out contributor guidelines and these are worth a read, because a lot of other media outlets prefer a similar style of articles too.
Focus on content, layout & style
This seems obvious but is an often overlooked piece of the puzzle. Apart from the topics, most publications share specifics on length, format and submission process. Many even post style guidelines on grammar and syntax.
As a smart contributor, your initial homework shows a respect for their time.
Not reading or adhering to the rules only shows its absence.
Original only or reprints too?
Some blogs want original articles, others are ok with sharing previously published content. Most will also check for plagiarism so ensure that original means not written before by anyone else, not even you. Also, plagiarizing might land you in the blacklist for the future, so tread with care. A lot of writers unwittingly tend to repeat sentences or ideas or get influenced by another writer’s work. So before submission, it’s a good practice to check your own content for plagiarism using tools like Copyscape.
Send pitch or entire article?
If the guidelines don’t specify it, you can go with both, but definitely start your email with a summary. Include the article title and description (usually – 1 para long, 3 at most). Do mention the length in number of words. If you’re not including the article, it’s ok to add a brief outline e.g. for an article on 5 Ways to enjoy Europe on a Budget, you can share the five headings with a line describing each.
If you’re writing for a small or mid-sized blog, it’s okay to even run the topic outline by them first. But most of the above will still apply.
Whenever you put in the complete article, then always – and I mean always – adhere to the word limits.
Check the format
How do they want the submission? Word attachments can be tricky because of compatibility or malware issues so many ask authors to paste the article in the body of the email or enclose it as a web document (Google Doc or Microsoft Word Online) – remember to enclose a shareable link. Some publications want submissions through their own portal or through a Google form.
Proofread your pitch and article
Errors on grammar and syntax, and poor formatting are a put-off so double check your words. Use tools like Grammarly to ensure that you are ‘sharing advice when you advise someone.’
Remove redundancies, eliminate word repeats and focus on readability. If you’re worried about which syntax omissions look bad for you, Entrepreneur magazine has one of the best style guidelines for contributors.
Personalize your query
Look up the recipients
Do yourself a favor – research the names of the editorial team before you pitch. Most media outlets will list their team members, so address it to the right department even if there’s only a common email e.g. email@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org. For a blog, you might be writing to the owner or founder. If you don’t have names, address it to their Editorial team.
In any case, stay away from generic forms of address.
Don’t bcc publications
We receive a lot of canned, cookie cutter pitches that go – ‘Hello, I was on the internet and came across your blog. Do you want to publish my article….’ In other words, a casual or offhand intro, usually mass-emailed.
Many editors have mentioned that they get put off with a ‘Re:’ or ‘Fw:’ in the subject lines of emails – a clear indication that the email is repurposed. A smart way to manage this is to create a template on gmail that lets you create a fresh email each time. You can also save an email message template for Outlook. Or watch this video.
Build a connection
Personalize your email message for each target. You can refer to a recent article that you liked or a specific comment about the lineup.
E.g. I really enjoyed your recent post on How to make Yoga a family activity or Your articles on using AI for Small Businesses offer great ideas! Personalizing takes time but it’s worth the effort if you want to get the reader’s attention.It also tells them that you bothered to research.
Even when you ‘talked’ to someone on a Facebook group or liked a Tweet asking for submissions, do reference that exchange when you pitch. So the next time you pitch your great idea, a little revision, a lot of reviewing and a judicious eye to detail can take your blog post really far.
Read part-II of this article on how to craft a winning pitch for your blog or article.
Pooja Krishna is an Entrepreneur, Consultant and Mom. She has worked both in large corporates and managed startups over the last 20+ years. A co-founder of Maroon Oak, she’s also founded Win Thinks, a small business consulting company, and Trading Paces, which educates amateur and pro stock traders. She blogs and teaches workshops about Brand Strategy, Social Media & Future ready Career Solutions. She loves being a Classroom Mentor and teaching students across the U.S. about Job Skills and Entrepreneurship. Read her interview on Huffington Post.
A trivia buff and yoga & hula hoop enthusiast, Pooja loves spending time with her family playing board games and watching documentaries.
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