I recently took a trip down to San Francisco to cover a story that was of interest to me at the Global Mobile Internet Conference. While I was there, I had a chance to sit down with branding expert Clayton Wood. Since we basically have the same background, we were able to talk endlessly about writing and publishing.
During our conversation, he told me about how he worked closely with companies to help them get published.
These are his 7 best secrets for getting a story in any publication:
Clayton Wood (Photo by Larry Wong)
1. Find where your hidden audience hangs out.
Clayton understands habits. People hang out in certain communities online. Your audience of publishers hang out somewhere on the Web. The problem is that if you don't know who they are, then you don't know where they hang out. The first step to finding out is profiling them. Once you've done that, you'll know what sites they're on.
Those sites are your targets for getting published. Some of these publications are very difficult to get in, so it may take months to develop a relationship with an author or editor.
2. Learn the secrets about how publications work.
There are typically two types of writers at any major publication. The first type is the staff writer. They typically run stories that are newsworthy, of special interest, or related to current events. These are normally handled with a "cut or keep" meeting style. It is very difficult to get in this cycle.
However, the second type of writer freelances and contributes to multiple publications. These writers need to produce a set number of stories with the publication each month. Sometimes publications are open to new ideas. If you approach them the right way, you may have a shot of getting published.
Clayton says the biggest thing to remember here is that you can't pitch the writer. First, develop a relationship with the person, and then develop the story together afterward.
3. Cut Corners to Meet Writers.
If you've got an inside scoop on a story that a writer would want to run, give the person a heads-up on it. In fact, if you follow writers in magazines that you want to get published in, it'll be easier to develop a relationship with them.
Social media and networking in person can be very powerful. Meet all of the writers in your area. Go to events or join Facebook groups where writers congregate, and then find out what they look for. You'll get an idea of guest posts you can do depending on the stories they run.
4. Don't pitch anyone. Do this instead.
Clayton suggests you find 10 writers you want to be featured by. On their most recent story, email them and thank them for writing the piece and tell them specifically what you learned from it. On their next piece, do the same thing, but add that there are a few other points that you learned.
On their next piece, write them and tell them how amazing the story was, and outline a few other key factors that would really resonate with their readers. Then offer to write the piece for them if they don't have time.
5. People can't say no to these three things.
When you've got a story, or an angle, that has these three elements in it, you are in luck:
Ask great questions. Once you do, you will be able to learn how to develop content based on stories that are exclusive.
Peter Shankman talks about how to do this. He advises that you "do your homework so you can ask really great questions." Apply this when you talk to writers and they'll start asking for your advice, story, or input.
6. Learn this four-week pipeline hack.
Week 1: Develop a list of 20 writers you want to work with. Get Google Alerts on what they write, and then connect with them by commenting on each piece.
Week 2: Connect on social media with the writers that responded to your comments. In this step, it's important that you post content relevant to their industry.
Week 3: Suggest pieces and topic ideas, and then enter into discussions with the writers about specific topics. This will start to build the relationship to a point of trust, which is the key for publishing.
Week 4: Suggest co-writing a piece. Provide a quote or a ghost-written piece for the writers that you've developed a good relationship with. Come up with topics that are in line with their angle and benefit their end game. In most cases, this will be a good article.
7. Here's how to not get burned.
Clayton says not to search for writers who have never heard of you and then send them a pitch. Not only will they not answer you, you'll never have the opportunity to get published with them again.
The publishing industry--newspapers, magazines, and other media--is a tightly knit group. What works on some media outlets won't work on others. The biggest thing to remember is to learn to tell a great story.
Corporate branding is a gold rush in San Francisco, as lots of startups learn to create their identities. These principles and the ones Clayton teaches in some of his personal branding pieces are critical for seeing growth on the Web.
Have you been able to get featured in a publication by implementing any of these steps? I'd love to hear about it! Share your story below!