By John Hall published June 15, 2015 Est Read Time: 6 min

How to Win Over Editors and Make Them Crave Your Content


Managing editors are a content marketer’s best friend. As the gatekeepers of influential publications, they can help content marketers reach large, engaged audiences through their own written words.

Fortunately for marketers, editors also have a soft spot for quality contributed content. In fact, my company, Influence & Co., surveyed 153 editors to get their take on contributed content, and 92% said they prefer articles from industry experts as opposed to journalists or other sources. They want content from people who speak their audience’s language and can provide expert insights culled from years in the trenches.

Given that 86% of the editors plan to increase the amount of contributed content on their sites, marketers have more of a chance to interact with relevant audiences on third-party playing fields.

Experts offer real-world wisdom about how to break into or thrive in their fields. Editors are eager to publish that knowledge – as long as it provides real value to readers. Of the editors surveyed, 83% say promotion-free and personal-experience content performs best. Brands can see huge returns on content marketing by tapping into these editors’ audiences, but you have to know what editors want and how to successfully pitch that content.

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Find the right publication

Content marketing is designed to help brands distinguish themselves as thought leaders and get in front of the right people. Developing a content marketing strategy takes hours of research and refining, but all the hard work on third-party distribution is wasted if you don’t work with relevant publications.

Here are a few questions to ask before reaching out to editors to identify the right publication fit:

  • Who do you want to reach? Identify your target audience and find out which publications they read most. Where do they live online? Where do they go to find industry news? What is a highly regarded publication in that industry? Look at publication demographics, traffic data, awards, page rank, social media following, etc., to gauge its fit. You won’t earn quality engagement if you push content to an audience that doesn’t care about your topic.
  • What’s your goal? Refer to your content marketing strategy, and decide whether your priority for an article is to boost brand awareness, drive leads to your site, or build your subscriber base. The goal should help narrow the list of publications to which you want to pitch.
  • What type of content are you producing? Before choosing a publication, determine whether you want to publish a long analytical piece, an evergreen topic, a how-to article, or a hard-hitting and timely op-ed. Then, go after publications that specialize in that form.

Some writing styles also lend themselves to one publication over another, so pay close attention to your brand objectives and the publication’s tone. For example, Brazen Careerist publishes content with a spunky and sassy tone, so if you want to position your brand as serious and professional, this media outlet wouldn’t make sense. Always make sure your writing style and brand image align with the publication.

  • Is the media outlet valuable to my brand? Closely evaluate the publication’s audience, traffic data, page rank, and social media engagement to ensure you reach enough relevant readers and spark sufficient engagement to make the publication choice worthwhile.

Win over editors with 6 tips

Once you zero in on which publications are best suited to your brand, prepare your pitch and start writing the piece.

Editors often are drowning in pitches so they’re quick to dismiss a submission that won’t work well for their publication’s readership. To develop content that editors want to publish and strengthen ties with them in the process, start with these six tips:

1. Avoid promotion

Editors cited too much brand promotion as the No. 1 problem with contributed content, followed by a shortage of original, valuable insights. Editors want to educate their audiences, so build your content around solving common industry problems or offering a unique take on new trends. You can pull examples from your own experiences, but don’t insert these for the sake of mentioning your brand.

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Before we publish a piece of content, we ask whether company mentions serve a purpose in the article. If they help illustrate a point for readers, the references stay. If not, we cut them and refocus on the original insights. Promotional content drives away readers and weakens the publication’s credibility. Your team should fully understand the difference between promotional and educational content (and why promotional initiatives are leading to content blindness) before pitching to editors.

2. Find out pitch protocol

Ask the managing editors whether they prefer to see a pitch or a completed article (or check the media outlet’s submission guidelines). Many editors accept pitches before commissioning a piece, which gives you a chance to get feedback on your idea before putting time into developing it. However, if they want finished pieces, don’t submit pitches. Ignoring the publication’s protocol decreases your chances of getting published and makes editors wary of working with you.

3. Follow the publication guidelines

These parameters inform all content decisions, including topic ideas. These guidelines outline the publication’s style to create content consistency. Paying close attention to audiences, writing styles, and nitty-gritty details will up your chances of getting published and minimize the amount of work an editor will have to invest in it.

4. Edit your article thoroughly

Most editors receive many submissions. They don’t have time to clean up sloppy prose and poor grammar. Rigorously edit and fact-check your piece, and run it through an online plagiarism checker before submitting it. Clean, well-written content stands out to editors and lays the groundwork for an ongoing relationship.

5. Listen to editors’ feedback and take it seriously

Take Content Marketing Institute, for example. The first time I contributed to this site, Lisa Dougherty, the Director of Blog Community and Operations, took the time to offer quite a bit of feedback on the article. In the email, she mentioned liking the piece, but that wasn’t good enough. She wanted it to be in tip-top shape for the CMI audience.

Don’t let your ego get in the way of this valuable advice. Editors know their audience better than anybody else, and they can help you develop better content and become a better writer. The revised piece I turned in was substantially better after I made the changes based on Lisa’s feedback.

6. Share it like crazy

Once you’ve submitted your article and the piece goes live, share it widely with your networks. Post it in relevant LinkedIn Groups and encourage your team to share it. You and the publication editors want to get as many people to read and share the article as possible, so come up with a killer social media strategy for promoting your brand’s content, and you’ll drive traffic to both the publication and your article.

Publication editors are starving for raw, original content from real experts with real experiences. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to reach your audience on a more personal level and boost your credibility. But remember: Aim to educate the publication’s readers first, and in time, they’ll start coming to you for more helpful, high-quality information and see your company as a trusted partner and resource.

Need help identifying the content marketing tactics to further your business on the path to success? Check out CMI’s guide to Building the Perfect Content Marketing Mix: Execution Tactics.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: John Hall

John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a leading scheduling app that he’s convinced will change how we manage and invest our time. He authored the best-selling book “Top of Mind,” published by McGraw-Hill. John has been called a top “sales speaker”, “social media speaker” and “motivational speaker” that people should pay attention to. Follow him on Twitter @JohnHall.

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