Do you want to raise your profile and increase SEO backlinks through guest blogging? Here are 4 factors that may be leading your efforts to fail miserably.
If you want to build your reputation as a thought leader in your industry, guest blogging can be an essential strategy for strengthening your personal brand. It’s an ideal way to demonstrate expertise, and share your vision with new audiences. Done well, it can lead you to speaking opportunities, book deals, and many other opportunities.
At Eucalypt, we’ve helped quite a few of our clients develop thought leadership strategies that involve guest blogging on some of the world’s top sites, and I blog on sites including Inc.com myself. While we’ve had success in this realm, we’ve also encountered prospects who have trouble understanding the process—and that lack of knowledge is setting them up for failure.
Good PR and content marketing teams can prove their value here by conducting careful research and sending the right pitches to the right people. These are the people you want to work with, the curators and deep thinkers who have a strong journalistic grasp of a story and a great sense of timing.
Here are a few of the misconceptions that may be killing your chances of a successful guest blogging strategy:
Myth #1: A guest blog provides the perfect opportunity to showcase your company’s success.
If you’re writing a guest blog for another publication, it’s a great idea to write about your company in terms of your experience as an entrepreneur. Write about a hiring mistake you made, or a partnership gone wrong—the more honest and authentic, the better. But publications don’t want to hear about how awesome your company is, how many awards you’ve won, or your next product launch. Guest blogging is not the same as marketing—in most cases, you shouldn’t let your marketing director anywhere near the guest blogs. Focus on the wisdom that you have to share as an industry leader and entrepreneur or executive, and stop talking sales. Otherwise, the editors of the sites you’re soliciting will call you out rightly for sending an advertorial—and ask you to pay up if you want to play.
Myth #2: As long as your PR company has the right connections, you’re a shoo-in.
I’ve worked both sides of the table, as both a journalist and now a principal at an agency that focuses on content marketing with a bit of PR and guest blogging in the mix. A lot of companies have this impression that PR companies have magical “ins” with certain journalists or publications. The truth is a lot more complicated.
In my journalism days, I heard from many of the same PR reps, over and over and over again. More often than not, their messages got deleted sight unseen. When would I talk to one of their sources or cover their products? If it was something genuinely interesting and relevant to my coverage areas. Of course, there were a few PRs who were different from the rest. They were the absolute masters at the form, who only seemed to work with the most innovative companies out there. They had an uncanny grasp of the kind of sections I edited and exactly what would fit. I heard from these people much more rarely, but when I did hear from them, I would stop and listen. Because I knew it would be interesting. I wouldn’t necessarily be able to write about their story, but I would give them my time.
Now that I’m working on the marketing side, I still have plenty of contacts in the journalism field—former peers or editors I’ve worked with, who I know will open my emails. So would I mention a client to a contact, or send them a guest blog pitch? Sure, if it’s something that dovetails strongly with their coverage area and I truly think they’ll care about it. But if it’s outside of their focus area, I know well enough to leave them alone and avoid burning those bridges.
Any reputable publication won’t publish a piece just because it was sent their way by a certain PR rep. They’ll evaluate the article on its own merits, and make their own decisions. Good PR and content marketing teams can prove their value here by conducting careful research and sending the right pitches to the right people. These are the people you want to work with, the curators and deep thinkers who have a strong journalistic grasp of a story and a great sense of timing. But that’s where the magic ends—your rep’s Rolodex does not have the power of Harry Potter’s wand.
Myth #3: Your blog post is the perfect fit for VentureBeat—even though you've never read an article on VentureBeat.
Your friend just did a guest blog for VentureBeat that got a lot of attention, so you want to send your article there too. Problem is, your friend runs a successful AI company and wrote about fascinating trends in the self-driving car industry—and you run a personal finance site, and wrote about why Vanguard funds are awesome (which, I'll admit, they are). There are plenty of outlets for an article on index funds, but the tech blog VentureBeat isn't one of them.
Before sending a pitch or completed article, it's crucial to spend time reading the publication and make sure that what you're sending them meshes with their needs and desires. Many sites (VentureBeat included) list contributor guidelines for guest blogs on their sites. Take the time to read them closely, study plenty of content on the site, and then craft an article with that publication's target audience in mind. If you blindly send your story out to blogs without thinking about why they'd want it, you'll only get yourself on an editor's shit list.
Myth #4: You need instant gratification.
Many executives think that they can write an article, pass it along to a PR team, and get it placed within a day or two. You may be able to do this by paying for a sponsored advertorial, but in general, you’ll need to wait in line with everyone else.
If you’re contributing to a new outlet that you haven’t published with previously, you’ll need to wait for the publication’s editorial review period, however long that is—and if you’re offering them an exclusive piece, you shouldn’t send it anywhere else at the same time or risk the wrath of competing editors. Often, the review period can be several weeks; in some cases, it may be months. Very rarely will you receive anything close to real-time approval.
When you have a time-sensitive article to publish, you’re better off using established self-publishing channels at your disposal: your company’s blog, LinkedIn’s publishing platform, or Medium, to name a few. After you’ve begun contributing to a publication, you may then be approved to automatically publish there in the future—but don’t count on an instant response when first connecting. The most your PR team can do is contact the right people and the right outlets, follow up at reasonable intervals, and keep you posted on progress. It’s a process that can often take months, rather than days or weeks, so manage your expectations accordingly.
Want to increase your odds of success with guest blogging? Then start with building out a successful strategy. Work with your agency or internal team to outline roles, messaging goals, and align on expectations. Give them the insights they need to help wordsmith your articles into shape for your ideal publications, and don’t push on the sales angle. Keep tabs on progress, but don’t pressure your team—if they know what they’re doing, they’ll be able to elevate your brand and help you gain a reputation as someone worth paying close attention to.
Kathryn Hawkins is principal and chief content strategist of Eucalypt Media. She has worked as a freelance journalist for media publications and managed inbound marketing and content strategy for corporate and nonprofit clients for more than a decade.
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