I have been blessed with working on both sides of the table. I had a successful PR firm and now own several online publications that are respected in various niches. Being on both sides as and PR professional and editor over the years I have gained great perspective on what to do and what not to do when working with editors, especially when doing content marketing, contributing articles.
Working with over 400 contributors there are some bad patterns I can point out. Content marketing is becoming more popular as people strive to become influencers in specific niches. Let me nicely explain; it is easier to rise to stardom as an influencer and get your contributed content published if when reaching out to editors and sending them contributed articles you follow some guidelines.
- Basic, but forgotten concept: Roll Out the Red Carpet, make the editor’s work easier.
I preached this when I owned the PR firm. I always said roll out the red carpet for the editors. If they say need XYZ, jump and get it to them. Editors have a lot on their plate, wear many hats, and are masters of multitasking. If a contributor pitch becomes a pain you/they get blacklisted. Editors are known to use email filters as they get 100s to 1000s of emails daily and shine through the litany of emails be easy to work with by avoiding everything that follows
- Avoid sending and answering professional emails from a cellphone
Once in awhile, I will get unprofessional emails from PR / Marketing folks trying to establish a working relationship to promote their client’s content. Often this mistake is made by fresh out of college, probably low-paid interns who are not business savvy seasoned professional. Often I ask for X and they send you back Y because they are distractedly scrolling on their cell phones and answering emails. You can imagine they are probably on public transportation distracted watching for their stop and or out with friends. You can see they are more focused on their next Instagram post selfie outfit or latte then they do when replying to requests. Give editors the dignity and focus to read and reply to emails in a professional matter.
- When sending a contributed article make sure the article has a title.
You do not know how many press releases and contributed articles end up in my inbox without a title. I am honestly baffled this gets overlooked so often. I can’t understand how someone sees it as a finished piece without a title. Please don’t forget them.
- Don’t make fancy artsy titles and cute interludes
Think of your SEO; it will benefit your article getting traction. Does the title and the first paragraph have the keyword / key phrases in it? Does it reflect the overall topic of the article? Artsy titles and cute interludes went away when SEO became important, the style of writing is passe and doesn’t benefit you.
- Make sure you have the rights to use your images
Don’t look unprofessional by grabbing images from the internet search. Any images sent should have the legal documentation to show it can be used without violating copyright laws. For instance my own publications I only use images we have on file in our own stock photography data bank because I am 100% confident that I have the legal right to use them. I see too many contributed articles being sent around with photos that are copyright violation. By using photos that don’t belong to you, you risk getting yourself and the publication into legal trouble.
- Check if multiple authors is okay before sending a contributed article
If you co-author articles with someone else, beware: some online publications run on content management systems that are not equipped for multiple authors. Before doing so, reach out to the editors or the prospective publication and see if it is okay, or if they prefer a single author. Don’t just presume send an article with multiple authors.
- If a colored headshot is requested send over a colored headshot
I ask all my article contributors to send over a headshot and a bio and most get it right, but about every second month someone sends over some sort of headshot that makes no sense. I specifically request a color headshot they send me a black and white artistic one with some sort of glare / sparkle filters that looks like it belongs in a kids cupcake or a preteen bedroom wall who is fascinated with unicorns. Also make sure the headshot is not small dimension, low-resolution photo so it doesn’t looks grainy when published, this often happens when a PR/marketing firm is lazy and grabs the headshot from LinkedIn and or some other online place versus sending a high-resolution photo.
- Don’t send PDF bios
Don’t add extra work to the editors plate to have to cut paste, fix the formatting from the cutting and pasting of PDF documents.
- Don’t waste the editors time with mistakes you made. If you forgot to add a hyperlink, don’t ask for it after the fact.
If you have sent a contributed article and it gets published as is, don’t send over email after email of changes you didn’t send in the first place. If you realize after the fact you forgot to hyperlink or rearrange a quote move on and don’t be a pest to the editor. They did you a favor for taking the time to publish it and are already on to the next article, don’t make them stop their flow and revisit something that they chalked off as complete. Instead, be thorough in your own editing process to ensure that you are sending them a final and complete draft.
Contributing to external websites and publications is a great way to gain exposure to your brand and build a reputation in the industry. However, you will see far more success if you build strong relationships with editors by pitching properly and respecting their time.