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Brittany Dowell

6 Tips for Breaking Through the Contributor Clutter

Brittany Dowell
6 Tips for Breaking Through the Contributor Clutter

If you know anything about dating, you know that first impressions can mean the difference between a second look and no chance in hell. Nothing can cut a potential relationship short more quickly than a bad pick-up line or poor table manners.

In that regard, online publishing is similar to dating. While you’re probably not trying to romance editors, you are trying to establish good rapport so you can stand out, especially as everyone scrambles for a piece of the content pie.

According to a 2015 report by the Content Marketing Institute, 80% of marketers use publishing on blogs as a B2B content marketing tactic. What’s more, the term “guest posting” saw a huge burst of popularity in terms of Google searches in 2011, and it only continues to rise. Even TIME magazine is getting involved, with guest contributors accounting for 10% of its overall traffic.

As a result, the online publishing industry has become saturated with content in an effort to attract as many readers as possible. To get noticed, you have to produce impactful content that separates your voice from the senseless noise.

Create Authentic Content to Stand Out in a Sea of Spam

People now rely on the Internet for real-time news and answers to their most pressing questions, and even though they choose to stare at screens instead of papers, they’re still looking for engaging, solid content.

Unfortunately, like anything produced on a mass scale, there’s a lot more low-quality content than there is good content. The majority is promotional rather than educational, leaving readers feeling doubtful and uninspired.

The good news is that among all the bad, there’s room for talented writers with great ideas to shine. Guest posts that are written by industry experts can be seen as a form of social journalism. It’s information straight from the source, matching consumers’ increasing demand for authentic content. Content marketers who create high-quality content will stand out to editors and have their content published more quickly and easily.

The trick is to shine as brightly as possible the instant an editor has his eye on you. For this very reason, the way you approach an editor is extremely important. In a way, it’s like any other courtship — when someone catches your attention, you contact him in hopes of sparking a mutually beneficial relationship. But the relationship will only continue past that initial point of contact if you’re able to impress him.

If you want to separate yourself from the contributor crowd, keep the following tips in mind when connecting with editors:

  1. Do your homework. If you’re going to pitch to a publication, you need to know a fair bit about it. You should be familiar with its format, style and standard word count. What has been published recently? Who’s the target audience? If you know these things, you’ll be able to show the editor how your piece fits in with the rest of the site, and that’s key.

You should also research the people behind it. You need to find the gatekeeper — usually the contributor editor — in charge of reviewing guest pitches. The last thing you want is to send your pitch to the wrong person. With the amount of contributed content increasing, you need to make the process as hands-off as possible for the editor.

  1. Research the editor. You need to know whom you’re pitching to before you pitch, and with the unprecedented access we have to information these days, there’s no excuse not to do a little research.

If it makes sense, weave in something you’ve read about or by the editor. For example, “I read your recent article on the importance of content strategies when it comes to content marketing. I couldn’t agree more, but I think more weight should be added to the cohesion element behind a strategy. I actually wrote a piece that dives into this critical aspect further.” Light flattery doesn’t hurt, but play it cool — appearing desperate will only scare him away.

  1. Know the terms, and offer exclusivity. With everyone clamoring for content, editors aren’t interested in reworked pieces you originally published elsewhere. They want fresh stories with fresh ideas. In fact, many publications use plagiarism checkers and stonewall any authors who were previously caught plagiarizing material. Be original in your content, and let the editor know that your piece of content hasn’t been published anywhere else.
  1. Tell the editor about yourself. This isn’t the time to play hard to get. If you have specialized knowledge or a unique experience that makes you a reputable source, say so. Include relevant biographical information that will highlight your expertise on the topic you’re pitching. Show the editor exactly why he should accept content from you.
  1. Make it easy. You want the editor to accept your content for publication, so make it as easy as possible for him to say “yes.” If the publication’s articles include social media links along with a headshot of the writer, send those along. Include everything the editor needs in the very first pitch email. And make sure your post follows the publication’s guidelines as closely as possible.
  1. Foster a long-lasting relationship. If you want to establish a long-term business relationship, there are a few things you can consistently do. First, be reliable and meticulous in your pitches. Second, check in with the editor from time to time if you haven’t published there in a while to stay top of mind. Lastly, ask the editor if there are any topics he’d like to see covered. See if your expertise aligns with his content needs, and then follow through with inspiring content.

With so much contributed content being thrown their way, publication editors tend to tune out the bad seeds. But if done well, contributed content is a great way to increase brand awareness in your specific target audience. The majority of publications post demographic and geographic data about their readers in their media kits. Do your research before posting to ensure you hit the exact audience you want.

Remember, it’s only clutter if it’s useless or unwanted.

Brittany Dowell is the Vice President of Content at Influence & Co., a content marketing firm that specializes in helping companies showcase expertise through thought leadership. Influence & Co.’s clients range from venture-backed startups to Fortune 500 brands.

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