Few seem to understand the term editorial content. Basically, this involves most of what appears in publications beyond paid advertisements. It’s not limited to the editorial page, as some conclude. Nor is it only content you pen. Sometimes the best business leads come when you’re quoted by a respected reporter in an article. Here are some areas to employ smart marketing concepts to garner media coverage:
- Calendar listings
- Feature article submissions (best done with a query letter first)
- Letters to the editor
- Building reporter and freelance contributor relationships
- Sending out media releases
- Serving as a paid freelance contributor
- Special section highlights
With the proliferation of online content and the let it all be free mindset, lines are getting blurred as to what constitutes appropriate editorial. It’s hard to go wrong, though, with old-school strategies for presenting to the media. This means offering something readers will find valuable and publishers or editors will embrace. People don’t want to be sold to. If you make the message about you, it’s not likely to resonate with an audience.
Consider these eleven easy, common-sense ideas to shine (this applies to social media too) with your pitch, message or inquiry:
- Read the publication before you pitch content. It’s amazing how many don’t do this. Most print publications have a website so it’s easy to get a feel for the style, content and needs of a particular newspaper or magazine. Of course, it’s better to subscribe.
- Review the policy guidelines. If a query letter is requested, don’t send a 2000 word missive. When the trade pub indicates a 4 month lead time, don’t pitch a spring story in March. Determine what is permitted and what’s not before you initiate contact.
- Find the right contact for the material you are sending. Picking up the phone is the best way to do this as positions change frequently and are not always updated online. Spell names correctly (yes, you do need to check this as the gatekeepers get testy about such blatant carelessness and won’t usually read on). Address your material to a person, not a title.
- Note the word count in particular features. If you’re story fits best in a snippets section, it’s not wise to pitch a 1500 word article.
- Propose placement for your story. Again, this requires actual reading. By doing this you can also note in your letter how what you have ties into a particular portion of the publication and refer back to past issue examples.
- Don’t suggest a piece that’s identical to something that’s already run. Complaining your side of the story wasn’t covered won’t likely get you a green light for a rebuttal (unless you’re writing a letter to the editor) and is likely to annoy decision makers.
- Editorial isn’t the place for selling. Even announcements and calendar listings are best done with the reader in mind. Shameless brags or thinly veiled pitches rarely excite the reader.
- Avoid opinion content to a publication that has a journalistic style. Paid contributors are generally expected to do a lot of research to present balanced articles.
- Start local. Small publications often draw on the community for their content. You’re also likely to meet people willing to coach you through the process (provided you show initiative by doing some research first). It’s also generally easier to get coverage in smaller circulation periodicals. Plus, people are more forgiving about mistakes.
- If the proposed method is a query letter, show you understand the style, content focus and culture of the journal you are pitching. There’s rarely a need to take more than a page in crafting a query letter. Make your words count.
- Start small. Yes, you can send your media release to hundreds or thousands or millions of people through online services. But, this won’t do you much good if no one’s reading, the content is crappy or it’s the wrong message to the wrong audience. Better to invest one of those hours you waste on Facebook to research a few ideal publications thoroughly.
You might be surprised at how putting a little research and thought into being more personable will drive sales to your business. The skills you learn as you set out to craft good marketing concepts for the media will last a lifetime – and carry over to many other communications tools and places you discover as you set your mind toward business growth.
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