Pitching articles to publications is a great way for content marketers to get people reading their stuff.
With sites like Venturebeat and TechCrunch actively sourcing guest posts to fill gaps in their schedules, a well-timed and perfectly crafted pitch could propel a prospective article onto the front page of the internet.
The challenge facing most content writers is working out how to pitch an article effectively. Pitching isn’t easy and it certainly is much harder if you’ve never had to do it before.
Fortunately, I’ve been (un)lucky enough to have spent most of the past three years pitching businesses and sites with article ideas that have ended up online. So here are five Go Editorial approved tips on pitching that will, hopefully, help you secure valuable guest posting opportunities for your business in the future.
1) Know what you want to talk about
The easiest way to get a pitch accepted by any site is to find a topic that you, or your company, can talk about effortlessly.
Although some politicians may try to suggest otherwise, expertise is still very much in fashion. So make sure that you’re honest with yourself and reflect carefully on what you can write authoritatively about. It may limit the scope of your pitches, but it will also keep you focused on where you can make the biggest impact in the market.
Once you’ve done that, the next thing to do is settle on a precise topic, subject matter or area of interest that you think you can successfully pitch an article about.
The best way to do this is to research two things in particular. First, find out what is being discussed in the media at this current moment in time and determine whether you can add something meaningful to the debate. If you can, then it’s a good time to pitch in with an idea.
Second, research what has already been discussed in the market in relation to your expertise and find out when that took place. Although it is likely that there will already be posts on your topics of choice, there are always opportunities to be found in providing fresh takes or updates to previous thinking. So work out if you can build on existing advice in a productive way and craft that into the subject of your pitch.
2) Discover the hook
The secret to any good article pitch is having a hook to bait an editor with. If you’ve got one, they’ll be interested in what you have to say. If you don’t, they probably won’t.
First up, you’ll need to think about what a hook actually looks like. By exploring what hooks people’s attention in current affairs, sport, entertainment and elsewhere, you’ll be better placed to detect whether a piece that your are pitching is going to hook readers and editors effectively.
Then, once you’ve done that, you can start looking for your hook by searching for something that you know only you or your business can offer the market. Exclusive access to an interesting big wig, exclusive data that changes the way people perceive something or exclusive news are all likely to attract a publication’s attention.
This means you’ll need to sit down with your team to find out if there is something that’ll grab attention in house. Analysing in house data, interviewing an influential figure in your team or finding something juicy that you’re able to share will help you find the hook that’ll elevate the overall quality of your pitch.
3) Select your targets
Next, before you start crafting your pitch, it’s important to select which sites you’d like to have your content featured in.
At this point, the answer is something along the lines of “I want to be in TechCrunch.” That is, of course, a worthy goal. But unless you have the right connections or a large enough footprint in the media, you’re unlikely to get that feature in the short term.
Instead, you should qualify which sites you wish to target with a pitch by creating a shortlist of publications and then running each through the following checklist:
• Is this a site that will actually be worth being featured on? Will my target audience actually read this piece or will it be wasted here?
• If this is my kind of website, do they accept guest posting? Will they accept my pitch without passing on to a sales team, or will someone try to drain me for cash the moment I pitch? And if they do accept pitches, are there any extra criteria that my pitch has to meet to get through?
• If there is an opportunity for guest posting, who is in charge of it? Do I know them? And do I know what they’d be interested in?
If you’re vetting a potential target site and hit yeses for all three of the points above, then you should pitch to that site; it’s a no-brainer. Alternatively, if you get a couple of noes then there isn’t too much point in sending an email.
But if you get a couple of yeses and a no against a publication (e.g. you don’t know whether a site accepts guest posting), then make sure to keep it in a separate segment for future records.
Although it might be wrong to pitch them in the short term, sending these publications research emails asking for answers to questions could lead to opportunities in the future.
4) Craft the pitch
Now it’s finally time to think about crafting your pitch. Truthfully, there’s no single right way to do this. Every company, industry, publication and person is different, meaning that what works for one guest post pitch can easily not work for another.
Still, with that hefty caveat out of the way, there are some things that do apply to all good pitches. The best tend to be smartly structured, detailed and pithy. But they also have a touch of humanity that brings the editor on side, making it more likely that they’ll see the pitch in a better light.
Fitting all of those things into a single pitch isn’t easy. For anyone wondering how to give it a shot though, our main tips are as follows:
• Make sure that you introduce yourself, what you do and who you work for at the start of the pitch. Even if you’ve met before, a humble and courteous opening shows that you’re a decent person. You want to be a decent person, right?
• Get to the point as quickly as possible. This isn’t a university essay; it’s a pitch. So find a way to bring up the subject matter as naturally and as quickly as you can, explain your hook as clearly as possible and argue why you believe this is of interest to the pitchee. A quick explanation of the above helps the editor to make a quick yes/no decision, which they’ll be grateful for irrespective of whether they choose to publish.
• Talk particulars after you’ve argued your case. Although editors will have their own schedules to consider, giving them a rough timeline for when to expect the piece – including a projected finish date – will help them to fit your pitch into their working lives.
• Finish off on a positive note. If you’re pitching cold, it’s particularly important to be open to rejection, criticism or for suggestions for amendment – so make sure your outro communicates friendliness, openness and approachability.
Finally, take time to personalise your pitches. Unlike a press release – where you’re hitting a huge audience – pitching a guest post is a close negotiation closely between two people working in different companies.
It therefore makes more sense to craft pitches for a small number of publications, rather than copy and pasting to dozens. That will increase the likelihood that someone will take a liking to your proposal.
5) Assess the responses
Not every pitch succeeds. As with anything in life, you’ll never have a one hundred percent success rate with your pitches and you will have ideas turned down.
If you do, it’s important to reflect on why it has happened. Sometimes a big mistake (like a wrongly addressed message) might cause a failure; sometimes a smaller thing might count against you (e.g. “we just had a piece about that topic”; sometimes you might just get unlucky and it’s a bad time. Whatever it is, it’s useful to identify where things have gone wrong to provide a fix in the future.
Crucially, whatever the reason behind a failure, it is best to remain philosophical. Content marketing and creation is a long game, which means that single pieces will rarely make or break anything. So don’t take rejection to heart too much and move on.
Alternatively, if you do succeed with a pitch, don’t be complacent. Once ithas been accepted, it’s down to you to master the post and make sure it is delivered on time to the standard required. A successful pitch is the end of the beginning, not an end in itself, so make sure that you see it through to succeed.
Conclusion – carry on pitching
Once you’ve reached the end of a pitching cycle – and whether it ends in success or failure – the most important thing to do is make sure that you keep on going afterwards.
It’s possible to have one good idea, get it pitched and have the post appear online in a top quality publication. But to really make the most of the brand boosting effects of guest posting, it is essential that you maintain regularity to keep your business front and centre on the sites that matter to you.
So keep on pitching whatever the circumstances. By setting aiming to appear in high profile publications regularly, you’ll find the motivation pitch guest blogs over an extended period of time. And that’ll provide a better platform for content success in the long haul.
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