Pitching and placing contributed articles is a staple of a good PR program. Editors are bombarded with ideas every day. Some make the cut, some don’t. Want to up your chances? Think and write like a journalist.
I’ve received a few pitches lately that I found quite incredible. I imagine the PR reps thought the pitches were logical – I certainly would have before I had journalism experience myself – but sitting in the chair of a journalist, I could see how faulty their strategy was.
The idea was, “How about if my client contributes an article that highlights the features of its product?” My response was, “Sounds like a sponsored editorial product.” Why? Because the proposed content was essentially an ad.
My audiences – business executives and technologists – don’t have much of an appetite for blatantly self-promotional prose. Moreover, promotional content does little to establish your client as “a thought leader.” It positions them more like a salesperson. The same can be said for other media including video and webinars.
The best contributed pieces really show off an expert’s chops. That person knows more about leadership or emotional analytics or programming in Python than most of his or her peers do, and that person is willing to share their expertise, free of blatant product or service tie-backs. A good pitch reflects that.
I bring this up because I hate to see people waste time and their clients’ budgets. There are better and worse ways to do things. It is entirely possible to advance your client’s agenda without attaching flashing lights to it.
Having said all of this, I see contributed articles published that are self-promotional, especially in the tech pubs have had their budgets slashed dramatically. I don’t think those articles do the community or the contributor much good, so I’m sticking to my guns.
If you want to improve your chances of making it into the little pile, think and write like a journalist.