29 Jul Taking the Time to Think Through an Authored Article
I was recently searching for relevant reporters and publications for a new client media list
when I stumbled upon Gigaom’s new(ish) guest post policy. Released May 31, 2014,
Unfortunately (and I’m sure they aren’t the only publication), they grew tired of sifting through countless junk stories in order to find the few good pieces of content.
Per their post, “But increasingly, those voices have lost most of their authenticity…Wading through the endless off-topic pitches in our email@example.com email inbox is a chore I’m loath to ask any self-respecting editorial person to do anymore; sure, you can throw out the obvious SEO scams, but the deluge of PR-submitted guest posts (most of which are clearly ghost authored) we receive each week forces us to wade through considerable muck in order to find the very small number of gems.”
This isn’t earth-shattering news but it is a shame and brings up a few lessons we should all keep in mind when pitching and then writing an authored article for any publication.
Stick to what you know – Too many times, executives and PR personnel alike try to stretch what the executive or company knows to fit into a coveted magazine. Sometimes, we get it stuck in our heads that we have to be placed in a specific publication in order to hit real success even if it isn’t the best fit. As PR professionals, it is our duty to vet the real opportunities and advise our clients wisely instead of chasing every publication that accepts guest articles regardless of the subject matter.
Follow the editorial guidelines – You’ve vetted the opportunity, the publication is a fit and you have great expertise to lend to a topic the readership will really find insightful. Now you need to write the article. Have you looked at the requirements: word count, writing style, deadlines, and image/graphic guidelines? It’s important to read the guidelines first before bringing the opportunity to your client. If the publication requires data points but your client doesn’t have data to share, then it’s a moot point. Or you’ve spent time writing a 2,000 word article and then have to spend exponentially more time pairing it down to a mere 500 words because that was what the publication required. It would have been helpful to know these things from the beginning.
Promote thought-leadership, not a product – This may be the most important rule to follow. As noted by Gigaom above, overly promotional articles are giving both PR agencies and the companies they represent a bad rep. If you/your client truly have valuable information to share on a topic, it can be shared without mentioning a company/product name in every paragraph. It’s fine to mention the services or products similar to what your client/company provides but then stop there. Why are these services or products beneficial? What solution do they provide and what are key tips to know? Do you have data to support your claims? Even better. Save the promotional stuff for advertorials or paid opportunities. You’ll build a lot more credibility by being a thought leader, not an agenda pusher.
While it’s saddening that a publication has been forced to close such a great opportunity, maybe it will make us think a little more the next time we write a guest post. We’ll take the time to consider the publication, content, and readership. We’ll review the editorial guidelines and we’ll put more thought behind how we share our expertise.