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5 Ways to Write for Online Publications

Along with the press coverage you receive from journalists and members of the media covering your story and your brand’s latest news, you can also grow your online presence and strategically target new audiences by investing time into creating content for online publications, blogs and other brand’s sites and social media.

With more and more brands today tasked with becoming content creators and more and more content creators surfacing to speak to increasingly fragmented and niche audiences, it’s easy to see that there are numerous opportunities out there for FEST founders to become guest bloggers, regular contributors or expert sources for publications read, watched and listened to by your ideal audiences.

But the sheer number of options out there can be overwhelming and parsing the different kinds of writing opportunities takes time – there are, not surprisingly, nuances to the process depending on the publication you’re targeting and the kind of content you’d like to create and share.

Still, it’s one of the avenues to earned media coverage that I constantly recommend to PressDope members and clients because it not only gets your story and brand personality out into the world just as you’d like it told (because you have much more control of the content than you do when you’re being covered by someone else), but it also has the added benefit of growing brand awareness and reaching new audiences even when you don’t have major product news to share.

To streamline your efforts, PressDope members will find a growing list of publications accepting guest contributions in the DIY PR Resource Library.

Read on for five common ways to get published online:

Write for Medium

Anyone can create an account on Medium and write a story, essay, thought piece or blog post on, well, basically anything at all. While this site has a low barrier to entry, it is also a widely read domain used by high-profile influencers who’ve built impressive followings on the platform. Not surprisingly, the content you’ll find ranges from earth-shatteringly amazing to completely unintelligible and the pieces that achieve widespread distribution are often those written by high-profile contributors or those with large numbers of followers. If you’re new to using Medium, expect to have to promote your work to your existing fans and friends on social media rather than receiving a landslide of organic traffic right off the bat. There are always exceptions – and those who read content from Medium received curated selections based on what they’ve previously read and who they follow, which means your reach ultimately has a ton to do with who’s connected to you on the site. Still, even if you’re not reaching a massive audience, creating a piece of writing here is a great way to get started, hone your writing process and test what your social media audiences are naturally interested in.

  • The best part: It’s easy to use, accessible to everyone and contains a social component that can work in your favor to reach new audiences.
  • Be warned: There’s no guarantee your work will reach large numbers of new people. You’ll have to work to build a following and share your content with your existing audience.
  • Barrier-to-entry: Low

Become a guest contributor

Land upon a post with great business advice, a must-save life hacking tip or motivational content today on major business news sites such as Forbes, Huffington Post or Entrepreneur – as well as countless numbers of niche lifestyle publications and blogs – and it’s likely it was written and published by a guest contributor rather than a paid staffer.

What does that mean, and why is it important to you? While the bylines on posts, stories and interviews in the media used to signal a working relationship between the content creator and the publication, these days, countless guest contributors write for free in exchange for exposure and the positive social proof that comes with having your words appear on web site respected or enjoyed by your target audience.

Every site handles guest contributors a little differently, with major news sites often requiring a series of steps before you’re brought on as a regular writer. Smaller blogs and digital magazines can be easier to break into – and may also be more effective at putting you in front of your ideal customer simply because they are so ultra targeted.

Keep in mind that becoming a guest contributor does not mean writing what is essentially a glorified sales pitch for your brand and submitting it. Great guest contributors don’t sell directly. Instead, they focus on creating content that will truly be interesting and valuable to the publication’s readers first and foremost. When done well, your guest contributions will position you as a thought expert and someone with a memorable opinion and stance – one that will ultimately draw readers to learn more about who you are and what you do, your products and services.

  • The best part: It’s a great way to raise your authority and position yourself as a thought expert while reaching new audiences and potential customers without directly selling.
  • Be warned: Just as with contributing to a site like Medium, there’s no guarantee your work will reach large numbers of new people. In most cases, you’ll have to work to promote and share your content with your existing audience on social media and through your own marketing efforts before the site will put a lot of effort into pushing readers what you’ve written.
  • Barrier-to-entry: Mixed. And introduction to the editor who handles contributors can help immensely when reaching out to major business news sites.

Collaborate in FEST

You’re already niched down, so why not sink your content creation efforts into similarly targeted sites? One of the best ways to do that is seeking out other likeminded founders and companies to explore content collaboration opportunities.

Find a brand with a similar target customer and audience that is not a direct competitor and reach out to see if you may be able to write a blog post for the company’s web site, do an Instagram takeover for a day or swap content shared through each others’ newsletters. There are many different approaches you can take, but be sure to approach brands that are clearly putting time and effort into generating new content for their audiences – and be willing to reciprocate if that’s of interest.

More and more FEST brands today include interviews, maker profiles and opinion pieces as regular parts of their marketing efforts – and they are often more than happy to have help generating this kind of content from contributors their audiences will respect and trust.

Looking for collaborators? You can find them in the Spirit of 608 Facebook group (see the sidebar to request the invite to join), and PressDope members can ask for help finding and making connections with other FEST brands for partnerships and collaborations.

  • The best part: You’ll get connected to highly-specific audiences who truly get your ethos.
  • Be warned: It’s a good idea to make sure you’re clear on expectations on both sides before collaborating on a content partnership like this – or really any kind of partnership. What are you responsible for creating? Who will share it and how many times?
  • Barrier-to-entry: Medium. You’ll need industry ties that you can demonstrate, and you’ll also have to find a brand that’s a great match for yours. If you’re an active force in your niche and network online and in person, you shouldn’t have trouble finding these kinds of opportunities – especially when you reach out and ask.

Have an opinion

Numerous publications and media outlets today seek opinion pieces, essays and personal stories for online, print and broadcast media. This approach to creating guest content differs from becoming a guest contributor because it’s typically a one-time opportunity that requires you to have a well-formed idea (and in some cases, a completed piece) before you submit.

You’ll see opinion pieces appearing in newspapers, on public radio as first person perspectives and in national print magazines that feature real-life stories. You’ll also find these kinds of opportunities waiting in industry-specific publications such as the Business of Fashion, which allows opinion contributions through its Voices section.

  • The best part: Taking a strong stance or revealing your person story is one of the best ways to attract new people to your message.
  • Be warned: At the same time, it’s also possible to alienate new audiences who may not agree or connect with you after hearing your perspective or opinion. But even if that’s the case, those people were unlikely to be your most loyal brand fans over the long-term, and you’re more likely to find your diehard customers when you’re willing to put your personality out into the world.
  • Barrier-to-entry: Moderate to difficult. Because many media outlets and publications receive large numbers of submissions for personal essays and opinion pieces, competition can be fierce. You can put yourself at an advantage by paying close attention to what’s been published before and submitting a polished essay that takes a clear stance and is relevant to current news, trends or times of year.

Reach out and pitch

In many scenarios, your best bet in getting your writing or content published on another web site or platform is simply to reach out to the best contact available, suggest or pitch your idea and wait for a response.

Many media outlets will want to help you shape the idea before you write or produce the content so that it fits their audience well. Others will have other requirements, such as the availability of high-quality images to go along with your contribution.

It’s best to reach out first with a brief, thoughtful and genuine email to the best contact available. Explain your idea, why you’d like to write it for the publication and why you’re the best person to tell the story you’d like to tell. You don’t need to overtly explain, I’m the best person to do this because…. Instead, you’ll want your pitch to imply that automatically. You can do this by quickly mentioning your experience, industries ties or personal connection to the idea itself.

  • The best part: Taking a strong stance or revealing your person story is one of the best ways to attract new people to your message.
  • Be warned: At the same time, it’s also possible to alienate new audiences who may not agree or connect with you after hearing your perspective or opinion. But even if that’s the case, those people were unlikely to be your most loyal brand fans over the long-term, and you’re more likely to find your diehard customers when you’re willing to put your personality out into the world.
  • Barrier-to-entry: Moderate to difficult. Whether you get a response will depend on a number of factors, including publication size, the influence of your brand and of course the quality of your pitch. You will almost never get through with a pitch that’s trying to push a product or service or one that’s obviously generic. Do your homework and really understand the publication you’re pitching before sending a single email.

 

Ready to create content? PressDope members will find a growing list of publications accepting guest contributions in the DIY PR Resource Library.

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