Ever wonder how some writers seem to be everywhere?
It’s no coincidence that you see the same bylines across major sites like Mashable, TechCrunch, and Forbes.
These content creators have unlocked the formula for establishing connections, getting published, and getting their content seen by hundreds of thousands of readers.
I recently heard Josh Steimle, a writer who’s published over 200 articles in leading media outlets, dish on exactly how to get it done, and I am stoked to share his tips with our readers.
The bad news? You can’t do any of this without first having really, really strong content to share.
The good news? Good writing is pretty much the only prerequisite.
Here’s how you can crack the code and get your content out in front of an exponentially larger audience.
Learning by Necessity: Josh’s Story
Several years ago, his company was in trouble.
As Josh looked around to see what his competitors were doing that his team hadn’t yet tried, he noticed that quite a few had neat little badges on their websites:
When someone is “As seen on Forbes,” it gives them an additional air of authority. Josh could understand how potential clients were picking these guys without even giving him a shot.
So, he decided he needed to get these badges too. Armed with his writing chops and a, “What have I got to lose?” attitude, he started his campaign.
It’s worked out pretty well for him so far, and now he replicates it for his clients. Some of his successes:
So, how do you mimic Josh’s success? Let’s start with the easy stuff.
Minimum Viable PR: LinkedIn Pulse and BuzzFeed
It’s important to remember that sites like Forbes and Mashable, while very, very cool, may not be the right fit for your content. They might not reach your audience, and they might not actually bring you the business results you’re after.
But that doesn’t mean PR isn’t for you.
Anybody can publish on both LinkedIn Pulse and BuzzFeed Community, and these sites could potentially bring you even more traffic than traditional news sites.
A LinkedIn Pulse Case Study
For example, Josh published an article on Forbes titled, “How Getting Fit Saved My Life and My Business.” It has a respectable 2,765 views to date:
But then Josh copied and pasted that exact article and published it on LinkedIn Pulse. It exploded, clocking an amazing number of views and interactions:
The great thing about this type of publishing, aside from the fantastic traffic of course, is that we have total control over the content. Assuming it’s not plagiarized or anything, LinkedIn won’t take it down or edit it, while sites like Forbes will definitely make changes to your content.
You can also add calls to action (CTAs) to content you publish on Pulse, so you can drive your choice of conversions. If you publish on someone else’s site, they’re going to push their own conversion goals.
Publishing on BuzzFeed Community
Similarly, BuzzFeed offers community members the opportunity to publish their own content.
If your work tends to be more humorous or off beat, this site is probably a better fit than Pulse. That site rewards more professional topics. BuzzFeed is also highly visual, so consider spending a little bit of your budget to create some visually appealing content to publish on its Community.
Josh tells the story of Beardbrand, a client of his that makes products for men who rock major facial hair. For just a couple hundred dollars, Josh sent a freelance graphic artist photos of presidential candidates and asked him to add luxurious beards.
He then shared it on BuzzFeed Community:
For bonus points, he spent another $250 to boost the post on Facebook to his target demographic. It worked out pretty well:
Step by Step for Appearing in Forbes and More
But what about the big players? If you could really get value from appearing in Forbes and the like, how do you make it happen? Josh recommends these steps.
Step 1: It’s Not About You
Before you pitch anything, make sure the content you’re producing is about why people need your service or product in general, not why they need you specifically.
The post that has driven the most business for Josh is about what he does (SEO), but it’s not about him:
Step 2: Find the Right Writer
This is the step that stumps most PR novices, but it’s just a matter of knowing where to search.
For example, if you’re aiming for an article on TechCrunch, Josh recommends going onto Twitter and searching for “techcrunch.com” to see who has their work email listed on their Twitter account.
Now you’ve got their email, and you can quickly contact them if they cover topics relevant to what you’re working on.
Step 3: Contact the Right Writer the Right Way
Note that last “if” carefully. If these writers don’t cover your niche, don’t pitch to them. The whole point of your pitch should be to help them out by providing awesome content and/or a useful contact.
If they cover Asian politics and you’re pitching a tech post, you are not helping.
You also want to avoid these common mistakes when pitching journalists:
- The Shotgun Pitch: Don’t pitch the same article to 20 writers. Nobody wants to publish something that a competitor might also be publishing. It will also be obvious in your email that you haven’t personalized it to the recipient.
- The “Special” Pitch: These are along the lines of, “My company is sooooo special, please write about us!” They are awkward, and unsuccessful.
- The “I’m Awesome” Pitch: Like the “Special” pitch, these argue for preferential treatment because you’re so great. Again, not a good approach.
- The “Revolutionary” or “Disruptive” Pitch: According to Josh, we should never, ever use the word “revolutionary” in our pitches. “Disruptive” falls into the same category. Everybody says these things, and they are practically meaningless from a reporter’s point of view.
- The “Innovative” or “Uber of…” Pitch: While we’re at it, Josh hopes you’ll throw out both of these words too. Just don’t do it. You’ll sound trite and unoriginal.
Now we know what not to do, how do we contact reporters in a way that will actually give us a chance of getting response?
The best way is what Josh calls, “The Friend Pitch.” These involve finding a friend or connection who works at the publication you’re targeting and reaching out to them in a friendly way.
You can also
stalk examine your LinkedIn connections and go for the “Friend of a Friend” pitch, finding connections of your connections who you can then reach out to.
4 Tips for Cold Pitches
If these two efforts aren’t fruitful, you’ll have to try a cold pitch. These are what most people end up doing, and they are very easy to get wrong. Josh suggest making sure you make the whole email short, and focus on what you can offer the reporter.
His four pro tips:
1. Know the Writer: You need to investigate their publishing history so you can find out what they want, what their outlet wants, and what their editor wants. Simply asking them what they’re working on and whether you might be able to help is a great way to break the ice in a cold pitch.
2. Personalize Your Contact: It sounds dumb, but make sure you get the writer’s name right. Mention the outlet they write for, and that you follow their work. It’s not rocket science, but most people get this wrong. If you get it right, you’ll stand out.
3. Offer Something: This could be a fully written article that the reporter just needs to put his/her spin on. Other options include sources, data, and infographics. Best case scenario: offer it all, like Josh is doing here:
4. Keep it Brief: Don’t write a massively long email. People will look at it, assume it’s going to take a long time to read, and put it aside for later. And we all know how often we go back to read emails we’ve flagged to read later. A few sentences should be enough to convey your meaning and let the reporter decide if they’re going to work with you.
Bonus Tip: Keep Trying
Most of the time you’ll hear back from a successful connection within 24 hours, but Josh recommends waiting up to six days before moving on to the next contact who might be interested.
Follow up once, maybe twice, ideally in a different channel, but don’t harass the reporter. This can be as simple as following up on Twitter a few days after your email.
The tip also applies to this type of PR in general. Josh says you can expect a pretty good success rate, but not every pitch will be a home run. Get your process down and keep at it.
After all, you only need a few big wins to get major payoffs in the form of traffic, leads, and PR coverage.
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