Articles and Blogs Help Position Nonprofit Leaders as Experts
By Henry Stimpson
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 youve targeted a publication, write a brief summary of the article youd 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 shes interested in the topic and may offer suggestions on writing the story. The summary will also serve as quick outlinea big help in getting started.
Get the facts. Now that youve got an assignment, gather up all the key factsfrom whatever sources you can findthat 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 dont 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 wont 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 youre 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 its organized logically. Let an unbiased person read it and give you an opinion whether it flowed well and made sense.
Edit and proofread. Its a good idea to run the article by someone who can copy-edit to make sure youre making the strongest case you can and proofread the final.
Submit and follow up. Editors are notoriously pressed for time; some wont 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 youve got the story published. Youre 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 havent 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 its online, add the link to your organizations web site. Post it on LinkedIn and Twitter. You can buy formal electronic and print rights, which is usually expensive. If you didnt formally sign a copyright agreement transferring right to the publication, you can make your own reprints in Word or PDF and wont run afoul of copyright laws as long as you dont copy the publications 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 HStimpson@StimpsonCommunications.com.