It’s no secret that traditional media is dying. Especially last year, it seemed like every morning we heard about another newspaper or magazine going out of business or laying off hundreds of people. With the “new normal” state of doing business (which translates to all of us doing more with less people), most mediums are now accepting contributed columns from industry experts who can write well.
What the heck is a contributed column, you ask? A contributed column is an article by someone who writes for a publication, blog, or Web site, but that person is not employed by the organization. (For example, the column you’re reading right now.)
So if you’re not employed by the organization, and you likely won’t be paid to write a contributed column, why should you do it? If you have writing ability and have an expertise you want to share, gaining thought leadership and credibility is much easier to achieve by writing for an already established media outlet. This is not to say it replaces your other marketing tactics (blogging, newsletters, social media, news releases, Webinars and the like), but it provides you exposure to new audiences.
Following are the steps to take to get yourself a contributed column:
1. Decide on one (just one!) publication you’d like to approach about submitting a contributed column. Likely it’s going to be a trade publication in your industry so you can build credibility among your peers, your clients, and your prospects.
Some ideas include AllBusiness.com, Franchise Times, Franchising World, and FranchiseUPDATE. You also should look at publications in your industry, such as restaurant, hotel, fitness, or whatever it may be.
2. Read the publication. Most publications are available online now. Go through their archives and read several months’ worth. You’ll figure out whether or not they cover your area of expertise well or at all. If there is a hole missing that you think you can fill, you’re in luck!
3. Go to the masthead and determine who the editor is and whether or not you know that person. If you don’t, read his or her editorial columns in each month’s publication (or on the site’s blog) so you can get a feel for the person, his or her writing style, and the best approach to use in contacting the person.
4. Pick up the phone and call the editor. Be sure you’re ready to tell him or her, in two or three sentences, what you think you can offer that might be missing. Begin the conversation by complimenting the editor on something he or she recently wrote. Then ask if he or she would like to discuss the possibility of a contributed column (or columns) on your particular topic. This is not a sales pitch so don’t act like a snake oil salesman. Have a conversation. Ask questions. Learn. Then ask how you can help.
5. In most cases, the editor will ask you to email them your thoughts. Editors are busy and many won’t have time to talk on the phone. Have your email ready before you call so all you have to do is include a personal note that describes something you discussed, and hit send. Just like you don’t like to read a three page email, an editor doesn’t either. Keep your email to a few sentences and include five to 10 bullet points explaining what you think you bring to the table.
6. Once you get the gig, work with the editor to create an editorial calendar (that is, a schedule of topics that you’ll write about for the next several months) and agree to a deadline. Never miss your deadlines!
7. Write your column each month, submit on time, and promote through your networks (via social media, email, newsletters, website, and blog) every time one of your columns is published in order to drive people back to the media site. The more traffic you drive for them, the more likely they are to ask you to write more, and the more exposure and credibility you’ll gain as an expert.
Editors are busy, just like the rest of us, and don’t always have time to track you down. If you call, leave a voicemail, and don’t hear back, try sending an email. If that doesn’t work, call again. If that doesn’t work, send one more email, but don’t stalk them. Most will call or email you when they’re interested; they just may not be interested right now. If that’s the case, go to your second priority outlet and begin the process again.
Not only is having a contributed column a great ego boost (imagine you’re at a franchise trade conference and multiple people tell you what a great article you had in last month’s issue!), it really enhances brand awareness, both for you and your company. Give it a try!
Gini Dietrich is the founder and chief executive officer of Arment Dietrich Inc., a firm that uses non-traditional marketing. The author of Spin Sucks, Gini has delivered numerous keynotes, panel discussions, coaching sessions, and workshops across North America on the subject of digital marketing tools. One of the top-rated communication professionals on the social networks, Gini was recently named the number-one PR person on the channels, according to Klout and TechCrunch, and number one on Twitter, according to TweetLevel.