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?
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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....
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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 ?
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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
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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
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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
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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 

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