On a recent episode of Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income Podcast, writer Kimanzi Constable shared his strategy for going from bread maker to author with more than 82,000 books sold. When he released his first eBook, no one purchased it. Less than two years later, he hit 100,000 site visitors.
How? Guest blogging on sites like Huffington Post and Mind Body Green.
Listening to that episode in my car, I was singing “hallelujah!” After a 10-year career in PR, I know firsthand how effective guest posting can be for building an audience and generating sales. I once had a client CRY because I got her an article in the Wall Street Journal. She knew how much of a game-changer that would be for her business. I write for Huffington Post and it is instrumental in solidifying my credibility and leading me to new opportunities.
A lot of new entrepreneurs may feel shy when it comes to contributing to major media outlets. They may not be in a position to hire a PR firm, don’t know how to do it themselves, and may feel like what they have to share with the world isn’t good enough. I’m here to tell you that anyone can contribute to these media outlets as long as you have something unique to say and value to add. And that’s why you’re in business, right?
Step one: Establish a presence as a writer online
If you don’t currently have writing sample available online, you won’t get accepted as a guest contributor to top media outlets. Start with your blog and get really consistent there. Then, reach out to guest blog on other blogs in your industry. You want to make it easy for the editors to say yes; to achieve that, you have to prove that you have an extensive presence online.
I also recommend cross-posting to LinkedIn and Medium to augment your reach. In a 2013 interview with Marie Forleo, Gary Vaynerchuk sang Medium’s praises as a content channel and last year, Elon Musk used Medium to announce the a new Tesla Model S feature, prompting TechCrunch to ask “Is the company blog dead?” Powerful
Next, build up your presence on Twitter if you haven’t already. Some entrepreneurs might not think Twitter is a worthwhile channel to grow their business, but it is if you want to grow your thought leadership and get the media’s attention. Journalists, probably more than any other industry vertical, LOVE Twitter. And chances are, when you pitch that editor at Fast Company or Huffington Post, he or she will look to see what you’re up to on Twitter. If you have build a decent following and consistently post great content, they will be more likely to say yes to your pitch.
Step two: Build a rapport with the editors you’re pitching
It’s so much easier to get a ‘yes’ from pitching warm, rather than cold. I recommend building a list of the editors you want to pitch at each publication. For example, you can find Huffington Post’s blog editors here. Put them on a Twitter list and consistently retweet (RT) their content. Comment on their posts. Email and tell them how much you appreciated their articles. A little sucking up never hurt anyone!
Step three: The pitch
This is the most important part of the process. Journalists get thousands of emails a day, so don’t waste their time by sending a poorly written off-target pitch. Before you sit down to write it, have a clear understanding of the process for each publication.
For example, Huffington Post asks aspiring writers to submit articles via a web portal. You can do that, but know that they get tens of thousands of submissions here each month. It could be months before they respond to you! It’s much better to build a relationship with one of the blog editors first and pitch them directly. Note — Some people pitch Arianna Huffington and have had success this way. If you feel comfortable reaching out to one of the world’s busiest people, go for it, but I don’t recommend it. I know everyone wants to feel special like, “OMG Arianna Huffington emailed me!” but she will simply forward your email to one of the other editors. When it comes to day-to-day editorial operations, she’s not the real decision maker. You’re just one more email that she has to filter through. Save your email for one of the blog editors, please.
Another example: for Fast Company, you’ll likely be pitching the leadership section. You should read several of the other articles that have already been posted and model yours off of that style. Do some digging to find out who the editor is (or click here to get it much easier).
Your pitch should be brief: 1 – 2 paragraphs max. Get right to the point. Tell the editor what you’re hoping to share with their readers and why you’re the person to do it. Do not be promotional. The reader doesn’t care about your company; they care about the value that you can add to their lives. Always keep that in mind. Finally, link to some of your other writing samples on the web to prove that you’re legit.
Check to see if the publication has writer guidelines posted, but a general best practice is for posts to be between 500 – 1,000 words. Start the article in an interesting way by telling a story or presenting surprising statistics. Write in the “inverted pyramid” style, presenting the most important facts first. Also, organize your article with subheads to break up the content so readers can easily access the information they’re looking for. Consider a listicle format or “tips” article, such as “5 Ways to be More Productive” or “10 Tips for Writing Clickable Headlines”.
Once you get an article in a top publication, promote it on your social media channels and website to enhance your credibility with your audience. Be prepared for an uptick in site visitors and hopefully, sales, but note that it usually always takes time and several guest posting opportunities to make a sizeable difference. Keep the end game in mind.
Any questions? Click here or post them in the comments!