Pitching

How to use guest content to grow your audience

Creating guest content in the form of blog posts or podcast interviews can be a great way to promote your business or brand.

But how do you find out which blogs and podcasts are looking for content? What’s the best way to pitch to bloggers and podcasters? And how is guest content different from mainstream media coverage?

Read on and find out…

What is guest content?
What is guest content?

The term ‘guest content’ generally refers to anything (e.g. blog posts, podcast interviews, videos) you create that is published on someone else’s website or platform.

If you don’t have much experience of promoting yourself in this way, you may be wondering how creating content for someone else’s site can help your business or brand.

But creating guest content not only gets you in front of new audiences (including bigger and more established ones than your own), it can also help you build relationships with influencers and drive traffic to your website.

Need more convincing? Here’s a few figures for you:

Mind Body Green gets around 60m unique visitors a month

Huffington Post gets around 218m unique visitors a month

Entrepreneur gets around 100m unique visitors a month

how-guest....
How is guest content different from mainstream media coverage

The massive growth in online content in recent years means this question is increasingly difficult to answer, but I find it helpful to break it down into these four ‘categories.’  

1.Single-author blogs/podcasts. These are typically run by an individual who produces most of the content, but may feature guest contributors. For example, Sarah Von Bargen commissions a guest blog every month for her Small Business Blog. I wrote this post for her on how to get featured in the media. The interviews I do for my podcast can also be classed as guest content. While some single-author blogs/podcasts feature an information page (or even a dedicated contact form) for prospective contributors, many others don’t - so you may need to bite the bullet and contact the site owner with a pitch or article.

2.Multi-author blogs. May be run by an individual or a small team, but the content is produced by multiple authors. The Good Men Project is a good example of this (I wrote this piece for the site)  as is Mind Body Green.  Multi-author blogs generally featured an information page or dedicated contact form for prospective contributors, along with an email address to send content to (usually the completed article rather than a pitch - but do check first).

3.Large media sites. These are run more along the lines of the traditional media (i.e. newspapers and magazines) and have a core editorial team of journalists who create content and commission guest content from multiple authors. The Huffington Post is a good example of this (here’s one of my Huff Post articles), as is Entrepreneur magazine. I wrote this piece for Entrepreneur on 5 excuses entrepreneurs make not to do PR.  Large sites like this often have media partnerships that allow them to share content. So write a popular article for Entrepreneur and you might find it also appears on a site like Business Insider or Fox News... without you having to do a thing.  

While large media sites often have  an information page or dedicated contact form for prospective contributors, along with a generic email address to send content to (usually the completed article rather than a pitch - but do check first), building relationships with specific editors can be a better way in.

4.Traditional or mainstream media e.g. Guardian, BBC Online, New York Times

While most people assume 3 and 4 can have the biggest impact on your business and brand, this isn’t always the case. While you do hear of the odd piece of mainstream media coverage that goes viral, most people need a steady stream of newspaper and magazine articles, and radio & TV appearances, over a number of months (or even years) to build brand awareness in the mainstream media.

While guest posting on blogs/podcasts doesn’t always carry the same kudos, it can deliver a quicker return on investment and measurable results (an increase in web traffic, social media followers and/or even sales, for example).

Guest posting is a numbers game; you’ll almost certainly get knockbacks and/or be ignored by many of the people you approach, so the more people you pitch the better your chances of success.

Which sites are looking for guest content ?
Which sites are looking for guest content ?

Most sites or shows that welcome guest content will have a page on their site which explains how to get in touch with an idea, whether they just want a pitch (a summary of your idea) in the first instance or whether they want you to create the content upfront. Have a look at this example from Mind Body Green. Type topics that relate to your area of expertise and “write for us” or “be a guest on this podcast” (or similar) and you should find lots of opportunities.

Start with a list of 50-100 target sites and/or podcasts that are popular with the kind of people you want to reach. While that might sound daunting, remember you don’t have to do it all at once; you can work your way through the list over a number of months or years.  Create a spreadsheet where you can add contact information and other useful information as you go.

Preparing your pitch
Preparing your pitch

First off, don’t even think about pitching guest content unless you’ve read the site (or listened to the podcast) you want to contribute to. Getting a pitch from someone who clearly hasn’t done their research is a big turn off for most bloggers, editors and podcast hosts.

When I talk about research, I don’t mean a quick scan of a website or a quick look at the shownotes of a podcast episode. I mean studying your target sites/shows like you were swotting up for an exam: setting aside time, with no other distractions, to do the following.

  • Make lists of the articles/items that relate to your area(s) of expertise so you can get a sense of the kind of content they typically run. Not only will this help you spot any gaps (e.g. topics they haven’t covered yet or you could offer a fresh take on), it will also help you get a feel for the style i.e. whether they favour listicle style posts, questions or calls-to-action, for example.
  • Make lists of any regular ‘slots’ e.g.  Q & A, spotlights on specific niches, interviews. For example, on her excellent Wellpreneur podcast my friend Amanda Cook has a ‘real health coaches’ series. Pitching for a regular ‘slot’ not only shows the editor/host you’ve taken the time to research their publication or show if you fit the bill, it could also increase your chances of getting a ‘yes’.
  • Note down the names (and contact details) of the person you need to approach about guest content. This might be the blog owner, podcast host or – on a multi-author/large site – a commissioning editor. Sadly, apart from trading contacts with friends/colleagues, when it comes to finding contacts, there are few shortcuts. However,  a quick search on Google, LinkedIn or Twitter should throw up the information you need.
  • Make Twitter lists of key bloggers/podcast hosts and commissioning editors in your niche. Reading what they’re sharing and talking about will help you get a better sense of what kind of content might be a good fit for them. 

Once you’ve got your shortlist of target sites/shows, you need to find out their lead times i.e. the time between getting a ‘yes’ and your content being published. These are often a LOT longer than you think. Some blog editors and podcast hosts create content months in advance. Multi-author sites like Tiny Buddha have themed content, so it could be months before your topic comes up. Big news sites like Entrepreneur sometimes hold articles in their content management system for months before they’re picked up and published.

While this might sound like a lot of work upfront, these are the activities that will make a difference to your success and skipping this part is a bit like trying to run a marathon without doing any training.

As the saying goes: poor preparation makes for poor performance.

Writing your pitch
Writing your pitch

The biggest mistake I see people making in guest post pitches is making it all about them, saying things like ‘I’m looking for more exposure for MY business’ or ‘I was hoping you could help me out by letting me write a blog post for your site.’ This can be a BIG turn off for the person you’re pitching to - not least because it makes you sound a bit desperate (I mean who wants a guest contributor who’s scratching around for more business and/or exposure?)

If you want to increase your chances of getting a ‘yes’ you need to be totally focused on how you can help the person you’re pitching to. There are two main ways you can do this.

  1. Offering content that is a perfect fit for their audience (if you’ve done your research, you should have no problem with this)
  2. Showing how you can get them in front of new audiences (this can be more challenging - particularly if you’re new to the game - but is not impossible)

Single blog authors and podcast hosts are generally keen to grow their email list, so numbers are everything. Sharing the size of your email list (if you have one) and how many social media followers you have (if it’s a decent  number) can help a lot.

But don’t let not having a big email list or social media following put you off;  personally I’d rather get in front of 500 people who are exactly the kind of people I love to work than 50,000 people who ‘sort of’ fit. So if you target the right kind of content at the right kind of people, you can usually make a strong case - as long as you’re focused on how you can help others rather than help yourself.

If you’re just starting out and your email list is small (or non-existent), focus on the value of the content you can offer.

I’ve been a guest on podcasts with bigger audiences than mine, including Chris Ducker’s Youpreneur.FM and Natalie Sisson’s Suitcase Entrepreneur

In my pitches (as an example, you can see my pitch to Natalie in the free download that goes with this blog), I focused on the unique experience I had to offer (as a journalist teaching small business owners about PR) and how I could use that to give their audience value).

Multi-author sites will probably be more interested in your content than the size of your email list, but if you have a decent social media following it’s definitely worth a mention in your pitch.

If you pitch a guest content idea and don't hear anything back, don't be afraid to follow up with a polite 'just wondering if you'd had a chance to look at my idea/article?' after a few days. If you've chased a few times and not heard anything back, you can probably safely assume they're not interested. By all means try that idea or article elsewhere, but remember a tailored pitch for each and every piece of guest content will increase your chances of success. 

Copyright
Copyright

If your content is published on someone else’s website they generally own it - unless they specifically stipulate, in writing, that contributors retain copyright.

However, many single-author blogs, multi-author sites and large websites will let you reproduce the content elsewhere (usually after publication) as long as you attribute it back to the original source i.e. where it first appeared.

Often there are conditions though e.g. you have to wait a certain number of days after publication, so check the rules for each and every site or show before you reproduce any content. E.g. Huff Post & Entrepreneur.

And, however tempting it might be, don’t take any chances - not even posting the content on your own website - without checking first, as it could cost you a lot of time and money.

This article was first published on www.janetmurray.co.uk 

How to write emails journalists will actually read

Most journalists get hundreds of press releases and email pitches every day - many of which get deleted unopened. Here’s how to write an email pitch to a journalist they'll actually read.

1.Use the subject header to ‘sell’ your story

A concise subject header that summarises your story (ideally in ten words or less) is far more likely to get a journalist’s attention. Resist the temptation to use puns or clever wordplay though; an obscure headline that doesn’t mean anything to a journalist may get ignored.

Let's say you’ve launched the world's first disposable wetsuit. While you might be  tempted to write something like ‘UK business surfing the wave of fashion' ...this doesn't tell a busy journalist what your story is about.

Much better to say something like ‘UK company launches first disposable wetsuit'.

2.Skip the introductions

When you’re pitching to a new publication or programme it’s tempting to give a long introduction that explains the background of your business or brand. Although this might sound harsh, journalists aren’t interested in you or your business - they’re interested in great content. So get straight to the point - you can fill in the background later in your pitch.

3.Get your ‘top line’ in the first line of your pitch

Summarise your story idea in the first line of your pitch (ideally in ten words or less - you can even repeat your subject header) and you’ll have a much better chance of getting journalists’ attention.

4.Use an informal, conversational style with strong, visual imagery and examples

Imagine you're telling a friend about the idea and you should have it about right.

5.Don’t include attachments

Post press releases in the body of an email instead. Like most of us, journalists generally aren’t keen on opening attachments from people they don’t know (nor do they have the time). If they want more information, they’ll ask for it.

How to write an email pitch for a journalist from Janet Murray

6.Offer images if you have them 

They don't have to be professional, but they should be good quality.

And here's what your entire pitch might look like. It's an approach you can use (and adapt if necessary) for any kind of pitch including guest blogs, podcast interviews, speaking opportunities and other guest content.

7. Add your bio at the end

Unless your biography is integral story e.g. you're an anti-smoking campaigner who's just launched a brand of cigarettes, leave your bio until the end.

Here is the whole pitch:


Did you find this useful? Get my FREE five-part email pitch template.

Are you making these excuses not to do PR?

Most people love the idea of PR. But when it comes down to the nitty gritty - the doing what it takes to get featured in magazines, newspapers, and on radio & TV - enthusiasm can often wane. 

The thing is, PR doesn’t have to be difficult at all. In fact, if you’re doing it right, it can be as easy as writing an email or making a quick phone call. But it's easy to make it bigger, scarier and much harder work than it needs to be. Then the excuses start. And they just keep on coming.

Here’s some of the most common excuses I hear people making for not doing PR (and why you really shouldn’t be making them).

‘I don’t have time.’

The idea of writing press releases or putting together a media kit can feel overwhelming.

But guess what? You don’t have to.

If you’ve got an idea that’s a good fit for the publication or programme you’d like to be featured in, you don’t need a media kit or a press release. A couple of paragraphs on an email with a compelling subject header should be enough to grab a journalist’s attention. They can always follow up with more questions if they need to.

If you’re going to invest time on anything, spend it on researching the publications and programmes you’re pitching to. The more you understand the kind of content they generally run - and their audience - the greater your chances of success.

‘I don’t have the budget’

I speak to so many people who are putting off PR until they have the budget to hire a specialist. But you don’t need a PR firm to get media coverage. Anyone with a good idea and a bit of common sense can pitch a story idea into the media.

In fact, it’s worth bearing in mind that some journalists don’t like dealing with PR companies. They can’t always answer all their questions, have to liaise with clients to arrange interview times and act as a ‘barrier’ to the people they really want to speak to. This can slow things down, which is frustrating to busy journalists, who are generally working to tight deadlines... so a DIY approach can actually work to your advantage. 

‘I don’t want to be criticised’ I hear some people say they don’t want to do PR because they’re afraid of being criticised. They’re worried that if they’re featured in a magazine or newspaper article - or on radio or TV - people will write negative things about them online, which will be harmful to their business or brand. While being featured in the media can, potentially, expose you to criticism, it also can also attract new clients, partnerships and business opportunities. Do you really want to miss out on all that on the basis that somebody might criticise you? ‘I don’t have any news’ I speak to so many people who are putting off PR until their next product launch, event or book (often the one they haven’t written yet) even though they have stories, experiences and opinions they could be sharing in the media right now. In fact, quiet periods in your business are the perfect time to be pitching ideas and building relationships with journalists, as this will give you a much better chance of getting coverage when you do have something new to say. ‘I don’t see the point of PR’ Some people tell me they don’t need PR because business is booming. I can see their point; a one-off feature in a newspaper or radio interview probably isn’t going to make you millions. But a steady stream of newspaper and magazine articles, and radio & TV appearances will help you build credibility, influence and brand awareness  over time - which will improve the long-term health of your brand. Being able to tell people you’ve been featured in well-respected titles and TV programmes can help you build the kind of profile that can lead to lucrative speaking gigs book deals and other career-boosting opportunities. Can you really put a price on that?

Tired of making excuses? Get my FREE download: four things you can do to get media coverage right now

How to land a regular column in a newspaper or magazine

If you want to grow your influence, credibility - and your client list - getting a regular column on a magazine or newspaper can help a lot. But how exactly do you make it happen?

Here’s some tips to get you started.

1.Leave your ego at the door

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know I’m a pretty positive sort. I believe anyone with a great idea and a bit of common sense can get national media coverage….now here comes the BUT…

Editors don’t generally hand out regular columns to people they haven’t heard of or worked with before. Why would they? Most have regular contributors - professionals who write for a living - or experts they’ve worked with for years...so why take a chance on someone new?

That’s not to say it’s impossible - of course it isn’t - but if you’re expecting to land a column off the back of a speculative email or two, you could be sorely disappointed.

While you do hear the odd story of people (usually those who’ve already attracted media attention) who’ve been invited to write a column, most people get there through hard work and perseverance. 

2.Do your research

If you want to become a columnist for a specific newspaper or magazine there's one simple thing you need to do: read it. I don’t mean a quick flick through; I mean study it in detail, over a number of issues, so you can get a feel for its audience and the kind of content the editor typically runs.

Pay particular attention to the regular columnists. What kind of expertise do they have? How often are they writing for the publication? What kind of topics are they writing about? Are there any gaps i.e. topics that might interest the audience, but aren’t currently being covered?

Spend some time thinking about the audience. What type of people do you think read the publication (the clues are usually in the content)? Why do they read it (are they hoping to be entertained, informed, inspired...or something else entirely)? When do they read it (at the office, on their daily commute, over a lazy weekend breakfast?)

All of this will help you get a sense of the kind of content that might work for that publication.

3.Start small

While there’s no reason why you can’t ‘cold’ pitch yourself as a columnist, it’s generally much easier if you’ve already written a few pieces for the publication. Not only will the editor know - first-hand - that you can string a sentence together, they’ll also have an idea of what you’re like to work with (i.e. whether your file your copy on time, how you respond to their editing suggestions etc).

This is why I generally advise people to start by pitching a few one-off articles before suggesting a series or column. Here's how to write a pitch for an email journalist. 

Starting small may also mean getting some experience as a columnist on an industry or regional title before approaching the nationals (where there is generally more competition). Approaching a national title when you’re already established columnist (and have a string of cuttings to prove it) will also give you a lot more clout.

To increase your chances of getting a 'yes' it's important to find the name of the person who can make a decision about your pitch. Here's how to find journalists contact details. 

And finally...

The frustrating thing about securing a regular column is that it can be a case of dead man's shoes (i.e. you have to wait for an existing columnist to move on before an opportunity arises). But once you've built up a relationship with an editor, you can do one of two things (or both):

1. Tell them you're looking for a regular slot and ask if they'll bear you in mind if anything comes up

2. Pitch a specific idea for a column or series

Although the former worked for me (it just so happened a regular columnist was moving on when I asked), I'd always suggest the latter if possible. Editors want to work with people who are full of great ideas, so if you can show that this applies to you, when an opportunity arises, you'll be the first person they think of.

Want to learn more about getting media coverage for your business or brand? Join my 10-day PR challenge here 

The only thing you need to know about PR (if you want want to be awesome at it)...

If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably heard me to talk about Andy. If that applies to you, stick with me for a moment while I fill everyone in.

I met Andy at an event I was running last month called What Journalists Want - an annual workshop where I get journalists and PR pros together to talk about what makes a great media story.

Andy was working at the venue, and as we were setting up for the event, he mentioned he was holding his first photography exhibition.

“I used to be homeless, see,” he told me. “So I photographed every doorway I ever slept in.’

I wanted to hear his story and I knew others would, too. So I introduced him to colleagues from the national media and, a few days before his exhibition, I did a ring round to remind them. 

To date, he’s had coverage on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC London, the Evening Standard, Huffington Post & Buzzfeed.  

You can see his story here on BBC London (start watching at 20.59)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06r71qd/bbc-london-news-07122015

And here's me and Andy at his exhibition at the Swiss Church in Covent Garden. London

JM&ANDY,

The irony is, of course, is that there I was hosting a conference for people are paid to work in PR - who had paid hundreds of pounds to come to the event - and the best story of the day came from a casual conversation with a guy working at the venue.

No PR company. No press release. No pitch.

Just a good story. The kind of story you want to talk about with your friends.

The more I tell that story, the more I think it tells you everything you need to know about PR.

When Andy told me about his exhibition, I wanted to hear his story. I wanted to read it in a newspaper, see it on TV or listen to it on the radio.

I had exactly the same feeling when a client told me his parents had separated in their eighties (inspiring his relationship coaching business). When another client told me she wasn’t buying any Christmas presents this year. And when another - an expat living in Denmark - told me about the Danish concept of hygge.

The first story has been commissioned the by the Guardian, the second by the Daily Mail, the third by the Huffington Post.

Proof that they are stories people want to hear.

PR is really just about telling stories.

But where most people go wrong is this: they pitch stories they want to tell rather than stories people want to hear.

Which is why most press releases and pitches you send to journalists get deleted, unopened.

And here's another thing: the stories people want to hear are often the ones you least want to tell. Which can mean making yourself vulnerable: to other peoples' opinions and possibly even their criticism. But in vulnerability there is also an opportunity to connect (which is why this article on why we need to talk about miscarriage  got 10,000 social shares in a matter of days).

So if you’re thinking of sending out a press release or pitch today - you have a choice.

You can keeping pitching the stories you want to tell: the new appointments, the product launches or ‘groundbreaking’ projects that no one wants to hear about.

Or you can take a step back and ask yourself: ‘how can I turn this into a story people want to hear?’

Maybe you can’t. In that case you need to ask yourself this: ‘what stories can I tell that  people do want to hear?’

 

Want to know more? Sign up for my FREE five day training course

Three ways you can rock at PR in 2016

Has PR been on your to-do list for a while? Have you been putting it off until you have more time, money or a better website (or something other excuse entirely)...?

Maybe you’ve had some media coverage already. But you want to go bigger and better: more national coverage, more prestigious titles or get yourself on TV or radio, finally.

Whatever your goal, if you want to rock at PR in 2016, here’s three things you should do TODAY to get prepared.

1.Create a media calendar (‘on diary’)

Great PR is all about timing.

When you approach a journalist with a story idea the first thing they will think is: ‘Why do people need to hear about this now?’

So if you want to give yourself the best possible chance to get PR - and lots of it - you need both anticipate and respond to what is going on in the world around you.

Creating a media calendar - which lists all the key dates and events in your area of expertise - means you can anticipate PR opportunities (an approach sometimes referred to as piggybacking).

What to include on your media calendar:

  • Obvious stuff like Christmas, New Year, Easter, summer, Halloween and so on...yes it sounds obvious, but when you’re busy with other things it’s easy to get sidetracked. And as I point out in this post on Christmassy ideas it’s not too late to pitch lead times are often longer than you think (some publications/programmes have their Christmas content sewn up by September, for example).
  • Political stuff like budget days, government spending reviews, elections, party conferences, parliamentary debates, select committee meetings and so on. As this post shows, whether we run a wedding planning business or think tank, we’re all affected by politics.
  • Awareness  days e.g. babyloss awareness day, World Peace Day etc (although as I explain in this post proceed with caution with awareness days).
  • Other key dates in your area of expertise like the publication of annual reports, surveys, conferences etc. As an education correspondent, for example, I diarise things like exam results days, dates school places are allocated and big annual surveys like the PISA  rankings.

You may have heard journalists talk about ‘on’ and ‘off diary’ and making a media calendar is, essentially, your ‘on diary’ stuff. And the more you can think like a journalist, the more likely you are to get coverage…

For more on awareness days, listen to this podcast episode. 

2.Set up news alerts (‘off diary’)

One of the simplest things you can do to be more responsive to media stories (if you haven’t already) is to set up a news alert using key words that relate to your area of expertise ( I use Google alerts).

In today’s 24/ news culture, things quickly become old news, so if you can get into the habit of checking your news alerts every morning (and throughout the day), you’ll increase your chances of media coverage.

If a story comes along you can respond to (either by pitching an opinion article or offering comment to a journalist) you’ll be able to respond quickly. I use Google alerts, but it’s also worth keeping an eye out on social media for breaking news (Twitter is great for this).

3.Get some training

Every day I speak to at least one person who says they want to do PR (or do better at it) but they:

  • Don't have time
  • Don't have the budget to hire a PR company
  •  Are not sure where to start
  • Are dealing with difficult colleagues who don't understand the media (and are pressurising them to pitch non-stories)

The list goes on and on...

The bottom line is this: If you want to get great PR you don't have to spend a lot of money. But you do need to invest time.

If you want to speed things up, the best (and most cost-effective) thing you can do is invest in yourself.  Take a course, go to an event ( my Soulful PR sessions are a snip at £15), invite a journalist in to speak to your colleagues about how the media really works, attend a webinar, plunder this blog for free advice, sign up for my free pitching course (see below)...whatever you can manage on your budget.

Want to learn more? Sign up for my FREE online course...