An often overlooked means of getting yourself great publicity is contributing articles to publications. Not only does your published byline boost your visibility, it provides an excellent credential.
While many of the big, national publications do not accept unsolicited articles, some do. The Huffington Post, for instance, has published many articles and blog posts written by our clients. A couple of pieces even got picked up and displayed prominently on the AOL.com home page, which resulted in hundreds of shares by users!
But don’t discount the value of smaller publications, including community newspapers and magazines, trade magazines and those that target other niche audiences. Your best bet is to offer your articles free of charge; let publicity be your reward and you’ll get more takers! These publications often have small staffs, so they’re happy to get well-written articles that they don’t have to pay for. In return, they tend to be generous about publishing some promotional information about you, such as your website and email.
To help get you started, I asked our Print Campaign Manager, Ginny Grimsley, to share some do’s and don’ts:
- Look for submission guidelines on the publication’s website – and follow them! Some publications post their rules for submitting unsolicited articles. They may instruct you to send a full article or a synopsis of what you plan to write. They may outline the topics they’re interested in, minimum and/or maximum word counts, and the style. If you find guidelines, stick to them! “The No. 1 mistake people make is going over the maximum word count,” Ginny says. “That will very likely get your article rejected. And, since most editors don’t tell you why they’re rejecting the article, the writer keeps repeating the mistake.”\
- If you don’t see guidelines, find the appropriate editor and send him or her an email. Some publications don’t make it clear on their websites whether or not they accept unsolicited articles. If you can’t find information, look for the name and email address of the editor, or the editor in charge of the type of content you hope to provide. Send him or her a short email offering to provide an article and a one-paragraph synopsis of what you’ll write. Add a brief bio highlighting your relevant credentials. As Ginny says, “The worst they can do is say ‘No!’ “
- Be prepared to offer exclusivity. Many publications state up front that they will accept only articles that have not been previously published. They may also require the writer to promise that the article won’t be submitted to other publications. Be sure to check the fine print! The promise of exclusivity may be only for a specified number of days. Or, the editor may tell you it’s OK to publish in magazines that it doesn’t directly compete with.
- Ask about how you can receive copies of the published article and whether it will also publish online. Don’t assume that the editor will remind you when the article has actually published, much less provide you copies. Ask up front about how you will be notified when it publishes and how you can get copies, particularly if it’s not local. If it also publishes online, be sure to get links to share on your website and in social media.
Bylined articles help you establish your reputation as an expert, build your brand and gain visibility. They may lead to an invitation to be a regular contributor, as has happened with a number of our clients, and they can generate even more publicity from editors who see your work and want their own interview or story.