Excuses are like pet peeves: Everyone has one.
When we first speak to prospective clients, we hear the same excuses for why people aren’t writing thought leadership content over and over again, and honestly, I’m tired of hearing them. If you know you should do something, then just do it.
Here are the most common excuses we hear, along with my responses to each.
Is a hundred-year-old company that sells bedsprings cool? Well, they’d like to think so, but the truth is, you wouldn’t think this type of company creates compelling content.
When we started working with Mark Quinn, segment vice president of marketing for Leggett & Platt, we encountered that exact dilemma. But Mark didn’t rely on his excuses. We challenged him to think strategically about potential article topics his target audience would find engaging, and he rose to the occasion.
The key is to stop thinking about your product and start thinking about your audience. Tweet this
Your audience isn’t isolated to present and future customers, though. Many of our clients use content to educate and engage any or all of the following:
Each of these audience segments likely has different expectations about your content. Potential customers want you to answer their objections, while potential employees want to learn about your company values and what it’s like to work with you. By analyzing who you want to reach with your content and what they want to know, your topics will become a lot less boring.
This objection is irrelevant to our clients because our account strategists develop article topics for them based on their knowledge and expertise. But for those who are not (yet) working with us, I get it. The rule I go by is this: If you can’t come up with a topic, stop brainstorming and start reading. Tweet this
I’ve written about my love for reading in articles relating to becoming a leader, optimizing your reading skills, and the books I want my niece to grow up reading, so I won’t reiterate everything. The point is that if you’re going to be an effective leader in your industry, you have to know what’s going on in the industry. Otherwise, how can you be an effective leader?
Once you begin reading, start taking notes on the content.
After you’ve reflected on the answers to these questions, article topics should flow freely. If that doesn’t happen, then you can use these tools for more ideas.
It’s okay — neither am I. I’m just fortunate enough to work with a team of about 50 writers and editors who make my thoughts sound as good on paper as I think they do in my head. For those of you who don’t work with an editor, here are some things to consider:
I won’t encourage you to publish content when you know it’s not a skill set you’ve nailed down. If you want people to respect your knowledge and expertise, you don’t want a bunch of errors to seep through your content and tarnish your credibility. I will, however, encourage you to start drafting some ideas for yourself and looking for solutions to help you become a better writer — whether that means hiring a freelance editor or someone to interview you and write an article based on your answers.
Again, our clients don’t have to worry about this because our publication directors work with more than 1,000 editors and know which types of articles will perform best in which publications.
For those of you doing this yourself, here’s our top-secret advice: Don’t send the same article to 20 different editors to simply try to get someone to bite. Tweet this This will be fruitless and, quite frankly, annoying to editors.
Here are a few other things to keep in mind when pitching to publications.
Research the publications you read on a daily basis that you know are the big hitters in your industry. Ask yourself:
Once you’ve done your research, begin writing the content. You can try one of these approaches:
This can work, but a lot of editors will be frustrated if they have to respond to the initial pitch email, then read the final article. Even if they love your concept, they may hate the execution. Be considerate of editors’ time in everything you do, and try to make their lives easier.
Make sure your article is publication-ready (meaning it has absolutely no errors) and that it fits exactly with the publication’s guidelines for length, formatting, editing, style, etc. If you’re confident the piece is perfect for the publication, send it as an attachment and include a quick one- or two-sentence summary so the editor can tell whether it’s worth reading before opening the attachment. Include your headshot and bio just in case she needs it. Don’t make her email you back for more info.
If you can’t find the contributor guidelines on the publication’s site, you’ll have to ask an editor. Here’s a template you could use:
Hi [editor’s name],
I’m an avid reader of [publication]. I specifically loved [Talk about some of your favorite articles. Don’t pitch a publication if you haven’t done extensive research on it to know whether your content is a great fit].
I would love to contribute a guest post to your site in the future. I was thinking of writing on [enter topic ideas] but would love to know if you have any contributor guidelines I could read through to make sure my content is valuable to your publication.
Any guidance you have would be greatly appreciated.
Now that we’ve given away the secret sauce, you can’t make the excuse that you don’t know how to form relationships. Yes, it takes time. Yes, you’ll get turned down a lot. And yes, the back-and-forth with editors will draw out the process. But if you’re committed to contributing thought leadership content and handling all of it yourself instead of hiring a company such as Influence & Co., you have to put in the work to reap the benefits.
The Holy Grail of all excuses is that people don’t have time. Tweet this I understand you’re an entrepreneur or executive at a large company. You have a hundred things to do each day, and crafting the perfect article just keeps getting pushed to the bottom of the list.
If you’re telling yourself you don’t have time, think about these truths:
If you truly believe that thought leadership content will provide long-term ROI for your company, then saying you don’t have time to do something you believe is vital to your company’s success would be similar to saying you’re too busy to hire employees, build a website, or sign people’s paychecks. If that’s the case, I’m not sure this article will help you much.
If you truly don’t have time to focus on content creation, it could be because you’re still handling a lot of day-to-day tasks that should be delegated to other amazing people on your team.
This could mean hiring an entire content team — which could cost you big bucks — or it may be more cost-effective to work with a company that specializes in content marketing like us. Whatever the solution, find some way to delegate the workload to make writing thought leadership pieces an enjoyable experience.
Did I miss an excuse? What other reasons do you have for not starting your thought leadership journey?