Pitch Perfect: 5 Ways to Score a Byline Article

Christel Henke

STIR | Vice President, Earned Media
Jul 16

When it comes to thought leadership, bylined content is one of the best ways for executives to position themselves as industry experts and boost SEO for their companies. With more than 500 million blogs and thousands of trade publications covering just about every topic under the sun – from food safety to hospital design – the opportunities are endless.

For the best results, bylined articles should be part of a content calendar within an ongoing visibility campaign. Placing them takes a strategic approach. Here are five tips for hitting the right notes with your article pitch and building long-term relationships with editors.

1. Be realistic

What expert doesn’t want to be featured in a national publication like Forbes, Entrepreneur or Harvard Business Review? While these outlets do accept contributions, pitching them usually requires a seasoned expert with a portfolio of previously published articles. If you are just dipping your toe in the content waters, it’s better to start with blogs or trade outlets within your industry. Generate some early wins before approaching the media major leagues.

2. Do Your Homework

Who is the audience you most want to reach? Once you determine this, conduct online research to find top industry outlets or blogs and study their content. What topics are they regularly spotlighting and what are the headlines that are typically posted? Some outlets are more focused on ‘how-to’ listicle-style pieces such as ‘How to improve your safety procedures in 10 steps’ while others prefer in-depth opinion pieces. The more your pitch lines up with the outlet’s format, the better your chances of success. Most outlets that accept content include editorial guidelines on their site which outline word count, formatting and graphic requirements.

3. Expand Your Topic Horizon

The obvious approach when exploring media outlets and topics is to pitch outlets that directly align with an expert’s industry, e.g. pitching a financial expert to a financial publication. While that’s a starting point, think out of the box by leveraging all the areas of your expert’s skills set. For a CEO in the commercial collection business, we went beyond collection-industry publications to emphasize his years of management experience in customer service, sales and training publications.

4. Focus on Personal Insights

It’s nearly impossible to find a topic that hasn’t been written about, but your personal style and insights can provide a fresh and valuable take that editors or looking for. Study the outlet for previous articles on the topic and make sure you are taking it in a different direction. Determine why your article would be relevant to their readers. Then, target the appropriate editor who reviews article queries – often this person is noted specifically as a contact on the website.

Here’s what your email pitch should include: 

  • A short, attention-grabbing subject line. Include ‘Bylined Article Query’ so editor immediately knows what you are asking for.
  • A brief paragraph indicating your interest in contributing an original article; explain why the piece would be timely along with 3-4 short bullets on points the article will cover.
  • List the expert’s title and a professional bio. Include a link or a short paragraph that highlights the expert’s past writing experience. If author’s title is sales or marketing-oriented, in some cases, it may be better to revise it to something more general, e.g. Manager, V.P. so that it doesn’t feel overtly promotional.
  • Consider offering an exclusive. This means that you are committing to provide original content that will not appear anywhere else. Depending on the outlet, there may be flexibility in offering similar content to a different industry publication or it may be a very rigid requirement. You’ll have to determine this on a case-by-case basis.

5. Be Persistent, Not Annoying

Editors are busy people and, while you may get a quick response, chances are you will send a pitch and hear nothing back. Be sure to send a follow-up email – usually a couple of follow-ups with a week or two in between is sufficient. If you haven’t heard back after two or three emails, it’s time to try another publication or review your pitch to see how you might tweak it. While social channels are a great way to connect with reporters and see what they cover, pitching via email is still the better way to get a response from editors.

Remember to be responsive. An editor may email you with a question or might be intrigued with where you are heading with a pitch, but also might want to take it in a slightly different direction. Being flexible can help you build a long-term relationship that could ultimately land you multiple article opportunities down the road.

And like that, you’re off to the contributed content races! If you’d like more advice on how to generate editorial content that drives leads, please reach out at christelh@stirstuff.com.

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