Now let’s go a step farther and talk about the logistics of getting your ideas noticed. But before we do, remember:
The audience won’t come to you. Forget “build it and they will come.” Follow a “find them so they will come” strategy. It’s a time-honored approach; most groundbreaking thinkers built their following by writing for and appearing on news sites, blogs, etc. other than their own.
Online is easiest. The following can be applied to a variety of media, but unless you already have a reasonable profile it makes sense to start online: greater access to decision-makers, a broad spectrum of outlets and opportunities to choose from, and most articles last forever and generate a SEO boost. (While a TV appearance could generate great exposure, once it has aired it’s gone. Afterwards the clip may be stored online but your mom is the only person who will ever watch it.)
So after you’ve created your wish list of blogs and websites:
Don’t write anything—yet. Any blogger who doesn’t want you to tailor your message to their audience doesn’t have an audience. Successful blogs (and news/information sites) have a specific theme and focus. A site that will accept the same post you would write for your own blog isn’t worth writing for… or is competing for the same audience and won’t want you. Actually writing the piece is the last thing you’ll do before contacting an editor or blogger.
Understand no one cares what you need. Your goal may be to spread your message, raise your profile, and build an audience… but bloggers and editors don’t care. Their goal is to build their audience. Whatever you provide must first help them. In order to do that…
Focus on their needs. The key is to really know the site, not just the front page and editor/blogger bio. Read a number of posts, sift through reader comments, and work through older posts to detect patterns, ongoing themes, and gradual shifts in perspective or direction. That will help you…
Understand how to tailor your message to the site audience. The site’s audience doesn’t care about what you want to say—they care about what they want to read. If they want “different” they can go elsewhere. Whatever you write must fit snugly with the overall theme of the site, so develop a mental image of the average site visitor. While you may know your audience, the goal is to know the site’s audience. Then you will…
Understand how to tailor your pitch to the blogger or editor. Here are the three questions bloggers and editors ask themselves when they read a pitch:
Is my current audience interested, and
Will this help grow my audience, and
Does the association with the contributor boost the image and profile of my site?
When you pitch, your job is to make sure the answers to all of those questions are “yes.”
Discard 80 percent of your message. I know you’ve worked really hard on your unique selling propositions and elevator speeches. You are one in-depth, on-point individual. That’s great—but not in this case. The looser the association with the audience the less of your message you can successfully shoehorn into both your pitch and the eventual content. You must look past your USP and find a slant and approach that resonates with the audience. That means at least 80 percent (and preferably more) of the content must be useful and offer how-to or actionable advice—specific to the audience. Where boosting your reputation, expertise, or credibility is concerned, think implicit, not explicit. Great actionable content implies expertise.
Pitch individually—and with content. Now that you know the needs of the site and the audience you’re ready to pitch. Every site is unique and every pitch must be unique. Don’t take the easy way out and just say, “I would love to guest post…” Write and attach the article. While it could seem like a waste of time to write an article that may never be published, most bloggers and editors will at least skim what you send—and that’s when all the homework you did pays off.
Still not sure you’re ready to get your ideas noticed? Next week I’ll tie the process together with a step-by-step example that turns theory into action.
JEFF HADEN learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden