Marketing Bootcamp

4 Tips on Writing Guest Articles Without Ruffling Editors' Feathers

4 Tips on Writing Guest Articles Without Ruffling Editors' Feathers
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Companies of all shapes and sizes are going crazy for content marketing, with many enterprises spending upwards of 40 percent of their entire marketing budget on creating content, and 76 percent of B2B marketers saying they will produce even more in 2016. However, many companies battle with the balancing act of quality versus quantity in their content marketing strategies. Unfortunately, many focus on the latter in a misguided belief that flooding the internet with their brand name will bring customers rolling in, regardless of whether the content is valuable or not.

However, it does not have to be this way. As the chief executive officer or founder of a company, your experiences have earned you a wealth of knowledge that you could be sharing in the form of guest articles. Contributing authoritative content on respected websites or in leading publications is a powerful way to build a personal brand and social proof for yourself and your company. The term “thought leader” gets bandied about freely nowadays, and as a result has lost some of its value, but if you take the time to comment on industry trends and share past experiences, the value generated for your company will be more than just a few clicks to your website.

As with any type of marketing strategy, it is important to take the time to plan, and make sure that your precious time is well used. How can you go about getting your opinions and experiences covered in a leading publication without getting on the wrong side of editors?

Don’t make your article promotional.

As a PR company, one of our day-to-day tasks is helping to plan, write and edit possible guest articles with clients. A common -- yet equally frustrating -- conversation we have almost daily, is with clients who are determined to promote their company within the text, or use thinly veiled references which may not mention their company by name, but baldly promote their service or product and think that the editor was born yesterday and won’t notice.

“Why you should use a social media marketing software platform” written by a company who specializes in exactly the type of software discussed in the article is - you guessed it -  promotional, and we strongly advise that you don't waste your time writing it. When planning a guest article pretend that you are playing the fun family speaking game "Taboo." On your little white card of things you cannot mention -- not even once -- are "my company," "my product" and "why my product is important." One slip up and you are out of there.

Related: How to Be Your Own PR Machine

Leading publications do not accept promotional guest articles, and are able to sniff out self-promotion like bloodhounds. Sending promotional content guised as a guest article to editors is a surefire way to make a bad name for yourself and risk having future contributions rejected off hand. The only direct link to yourself or your company should be in the byline which offers information about the author. Most leading publications will allow you to provide a live link to your website. The value from the article should not come from promotion, but rather the fact that you have contributed valuable opinions and advice to the wider conversation.

Don’t write unless you have something useful to say.

While attempting to publish a guest article is a million times better than making a weak public relations announcement, the same rules apply: If you don't have anything new and interesting to share, then better not to share anything at all.

You have built something from an idea to a real, functioning product or service, and no doubt had an educational road along the way. Reflect on your personal experiences as an entrepreneur and assess whether there is any actionable advice that you could offer to others. Then take a Google search and see whether the story has been covered before, if it has, then it's best to head back to the drawing board.

Take a step back and look at your areas of expertise. Look at wider trends in your industry or connected fields, and then assess whether you can contribute some new ideas which will be of interest to the general public, or if you decide to go down the route of industry specific publications, what will be of interest to competitors, potential customers and peers.

If ideas aren't flowing freely, then take a look at content that your competitors are producing, and try to find a new angle or opinion which others will find useful and informative. That said, it is best to stick to topics which are linked to your own industry and experiences, as it is your social proof which will validate your ideas. You have to make the case for why you are best or right person to address the topic.   

Related: 5 Steps to Write a Winning Bylined Article

Don’t pitch every article to TechCrunch.

Look at your industry and assess which publications offer a direct route to your peers and potential consumers. Niche publications allow for more technical, industry relevant themes which will allow you to share your in-depth knowledge with an engaged audience. If you are writing about tech, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Have a couple places in mind to pitch to. Sometimes getting placement is just about reaching the right editor at the right time.  

Having an idea of which publications you are going to pitch to before you start tapping away at your masterpiece is key, as it will define the tone and style of writing you should use, and the writing guidelines which you should follow. Most leading publications offer submission guidelines, and abide by strict rules in regards to word count and links to external sites. Some publications such as TechCrunch offer editorial calendars for guest submissions, with each month based around a specific theme such as politics, environment and finance.

Related: Welcome to Guest Blogging 101

Don’t be afraid to mention competitors.

As with any type of journalism, you need to backup your ideas with supporting evidence. The Internet is already brimming with misinformation, so be prepared to back up any claims you make with hard data and opinions from other experts or face a backlash from editors.

While you may have your rival’s photo on your office dartboard, offering the olive branch of peace by quoting a competitor or mentioning their work in your field may well lead to them sharing the article with their contacts and client base, and they might even return the favor in the future.

Planning, researching and writing a publishable guest article is a long, and time-consuming process, which should not be taken lightly. Pitching in the name of a CEO or founders offers more social proof, than for example a head of marketing, but if writing's not your forte, then allow a wordy colleague to step up to the plate. That said, try to be involved in the process and offer real insights and opinions, as at the end of the day the finished product will have your name emblazoned at the top of it. Submitting guest articles is a great way to generate inbound links and build brand awareness, but the main goal should be to establish yourself as a real industry leader based on the quality not the quantity of your contributions.