Articles and Blogs Help Position Nonprofit Leaders as Experts
By Henry Stimpson

Henry Stimpson
Henry Stimpson
Writing articles and blogs for magazines, newspapers, and websites is one of the best ways nonprofit leaders can position themselves as experts and promote their organizations.

Here are guidelines that will help.

Know what the editor is looking for. Scan a few recent issues of the publication you want to get in. You may find that the articles are all staff-written. If so, look elsewhere.

If outsiders write some articles, check the format. Is a certain column reserved for contributors, or are bylined articles interspersed throughout? Does the publication or site use 500-word op-ed pieces, lengthy articles, blogs or all of these? Some publications post guidelines for contributors on their Web site.

Some magazines also publish an editorial calendar. These calendars let you pinpoint when editors are looking to cover certain subjects.

Need a subject? Go on a scavenger hunt. You may already have the raw material for an article but not realize it. A text of a speech, a slide presentation, a detailed memorandum, a brochure or a report can often be transformed into an article by rewriting the material. Be sure to remove anything self-promotional.

Write a summary. Once you’ve targeted a publication, write a brief summary of the article you’d like to submit. Most editors prefer a query first; some only want to review finished copy. Go with whatever the editor wants to do.

The summary tells the editor in a few sentences what you want to write about and how you plan to approach it. Now the editor can tell you whether he or she’s interested in the topic and may offer suggestions on writing the story. The summary will also serve as quick outline—a big help in getting started.

Get the facts. Now that you’ve got an assignment, gather up all the key facts—from whatever sources you can find—that make your case. The more meat you can put in your story, the better. A little research pays off.

Take a stand. Most publications want contributors to have a definite viewpoint. You don’t need to provoke a raging controversy, but some basic stance or theme should form the framework for your story. The reader should come away with a few strong key points that serve your cause.

Use examples and stories. Your article will come alive for readers when you can use real-life examples to bolster your points.

No commercials. Editors won’t let you mention your own product or service. Readers are looking for expert advice, not an advertisement.

Keep the “buzz” down. Know your audience. In an industry trade publication, some industry jargon is okay. But if you’re trying to get published in a general publication, skip the buzzwords. If in doubt, always choose plain English. Simple words usually say a lot more than big ones.

Check your organization. Check through your article to ensure it’s organized logically. Let an unbiased person read it and give you an opinion whether it flowed well and made sense.

Edit and proofread. It’s a good idea to run the article by someone who can copy-edit to make sure you’re making the strongest case you can and proofread the final.

Submit and follow up. Editors are notoriously pressed for time; some won’t get back to you with an acceptance or rejection. If, after a reasonable amount of time has passed, follow up by email and ask the editor if he or she has decided whether to accept your article. If the answer is no, find out if it can be rewritten to satisfy the editor. If not, send it to another publication immediately.

Recycle for more bang for the buck. Now you’ve got the story published. You’re basking in glory, sending copies to clients and colleagues. Now take the next step. Try to get the article published elsewhere, as long as you haven’t given away your copyright.

Reprint it. To get the most value from a published article, get permission from the publication it appeared in and reprint it. If it’s online, add the link to your organization’s web site. Post it on LinkedIn and Twitter. You can buy formal electronic and print rights, which is usually expensive. If you didn’t formally sign a copyright agreement transferring right to the publication, you can make your own reprints in Word or PDF and won’t run afoul of copyright laws as long as you don’t copy the publication’s logo or layout without permission.

Henry Stimpson, APR, president of Stimpson Communications, which provides relations, marketing communications and writing service, has written hundreds of articles, under his name and for others, and placed them in numerous publications. Email him at
February 2013