It’s one thing to create content for your own site and social media accounts.
Obviously, you want to your content to appeal to people and turn them into consistent customers. That’s why we’ve taken a lot of time in the past to talk about the various aspects of coming up with, developing, and refining website, blog, and social media content. But ultimately, it’s you who gets to make the decision as to whether the content is going to appear online or not. You’re the one pushing the big red button.
It’s a whole other thing entirely to create content for outside sites and publications.
There are no guarantees when it comes to submitting a blog post to a high-visibility site that has a guest blog series, offering your expertise to someone writing an online or printed article, or cold-calling someone with a pitch for an original piece of content. As a consequence, this aspect of marketing and outreach tends to get ignored or overlooked, simply because it’s so difficult and frustrating.
First, you have to find worthwhile venues who will be interested in your specific niche of expertise (e.g. you’re an exterminator, and you stumble across a writer for a national magazine who’s writing a piece on the development of pesticide resistance in insects). That first step is a huge hurdle. Then you have to sit there and rack your brains for something smart and interesting to say. And then you actually have to write it up and double-check your grammar and send it in to the writer or website editor or publisher or whomever.
And after all that work, you may just get a terse response a week later that says, “We appreciate your submission, but it just won’t work for us/our article/our website/etc.” And that’s if you’re lucky. More often than not, you never hear anything back. Your work of genius has just disappeared into someone’s disorganized email inbox, never to be seen again. But stay with me…
But the payoff can be huge.
If you succeed, you get to borrow somebody else’s audience for a few minutes–an audience that’s probably way larger than your own, and which is completely fresh and new. You get all of that, with the added bonus of having that audience see that, because their favorite site has chosen to feature you on it, then clearly, you MUST be the purveyor of something worth throwing lots of money at.
When somebody talks about high-risk, high-reward strategies, the above is a great example of what they mean. There are no guarantees, and it can take a lot of work, but when the strategy succeeds, your business can benefit at multiple levels. You get that social exposure and validation, plus the technological benefit of getting a valuable backlink on the guest site (assuming they link to your site). Hopefully by now you understand that this is an indispensable part of Internet marketing and organic SEO. If I’ve got you hooked on the idea, now the question is, how do you accomplish all of this successfully? And that’s what the second half of this blog post is about. Here are a few suggestions for improving your odds of getting your guest content noticed and liked, so that content managers and writers for popular websites will want to place your content (or cite you in their articles) on their site.
1. Maintain a moderate tone; don’t bring the hatchet down on anyone.
Readers tend to love reading articles in which someone talks about how someone else is wrong. People love drama. However, it’s possible to develop a counterargument to a specific point of view, without getting aggressive or using language that might irritate people who disagree with you. Remember, if this is a post or article that you’re shopping around to outside websites, it’s not only a matter of offending potential readers: the person who runs the website may actually disagree with your point of view. It’s much more likely that they’ll use your content if you send them a well-written, persuasive argument that doesn’t attack those who disagree with you. Focus on the ideas that you’re disagreeing with, not the people espousing those ideas.
2. Carefully research the website to which you’re submitting your guest post or article.
Look at the type of content that they share on their website. What types and forms of content do they post? Do they tend to post writing that is funny and casual, or do they usually have a very formal, no-nonsense tone of voice?
Do they only post long, elaborate written articles (and thus will likely ignore brief, 500 word submissions)? Do they seem to prefer short and to-the-point guest posts,? Or maybe they don’t post guest blogs at all, but instead prefer to write their own blogs, citing knowledgeable outside sources–if that’s the case, email them about a recent article of theirs that talked about your area of expertise. Bring up an insight that was missed in the article, and ask if they plan to write a future article on the topic, to which you would be oh so happy to contribute a quote, if needed.
3. Be as voluminous or as concise as necessary. Don’t write for yourself: it’s for everyone but you.
If you’re responding to a writer who has put out a request for contributions from experts on a topic that you’re familiar with, keep your impulses in check and don’t lose sight of what they want. If they want a two sentence quote, don’t get fired up and write a 1000 word diatribe. Remember, you aren’t writing for yourself; you’re writing for them.
On the other hand, if their request seems to be a little more open-ended, with no strict limits, then elaborate. The majority of people who contribute quotes and insight to writers tend to try and knock something out quickly and get on with the rest of their day. You have a much better chance of standing out from the pack if it’s obvious that you really took your time. Think of different ways to present the same idea–offer both technical explanations and metaphors that are more comprehensible to a layman. Find different approaches. A writer (and an audience) may glom onto a certain phrasing or image or idea that is NOT the first way that you would have explained something. Sometimes it’s the afterthought that catches other peoples’ fancy.
4. Keep an eye on the news, and sell yourself to other websites as an expert.
Sometimes, understanding the importance of an important occurrence requires the assistance of an expert. When a city gets hit by a storm, the local news stations turn to a meteorologist to interpret what’s going on. If a building suddenly suffers unexpected structural damage–such as the balcony collapse in Berkeley a few months ago–sites go scrambling for contractors and architects to look at the pictures and tell them why it happened. If there’s a current event going on that you have a special understanding of due to your area of expertise, contact local journalists and editors, and see if you can help.
On the other hand, sometimes you can step in after the fact and look for websites that would likely cover that incident, but haven’t yet, and offer to help them put together a story on it. If your business specializes in mold-proofing homes and businesses (or dealing with the consequences of mold), and there’s a news story about a major government or commercial building in your area with a serious black mold infestation, hop online and look for prominent websites that tend to write about relevant issues. In this case a few might be: employee safety, allergies, interesting legal cases, disease outbreaks, and so on. Contact whoever runs the site(s) you found, and say something like:
“Hi, did you happen to hear about this news story? Here’s a link. I’m trying to bring more public attention to mold infestations. Most people don’t realize how serious they are, what to look for, or how to prevent them. I own/work at [insert your reputable business here], and have 15 years of experience in dealing with this kind of thing. Would you be interested in writing an article about this news story, and what could have been done to prevent the issue?”
You have a decent shot of contacting a site editor or content writer who’s been racking their brain for something new to write about. There are very few writers who, if they found themselves in that situation, only to have a topic idea AND an expert source just appear out of nowhere, would be able to resist your offer.
5. If it’s good and it doesn’t get used, recycle it!
If you’ve ever read a biography about a famous author, chances are that you know how authors start out: by getting rejected a billion times. There are countless world-famous stories and novels that were rejected dozens of times before somebody decided to give that soon-to-be-famous piece of work a shot. If you know that your idea or written piece is worth someone else’s time, then it’s worth a little more of your time: keep polishing it up and sending it out. Don’t give up too quickly.
Getting outside publicity for yourself and your business is difficult, but doable, even if your business–and your budget–is a small one. Just keep refining your pitching skills.