Part of creating effective content is knowing where you want it to end up. Choosing publications that will best fit your target audience is key. By outlining your goals and knowing whom you want to reach with your content, you can decide which publication is the best bet for your company and write your content with that in mind.
First off, it's important to understand the difference between the two types of publicationsyou can pitch content to, and what sort of content makes sense for each.
Once upon a time, a young woman named Goldilocks found her calling in furniture repair. When she was young, she had an unfortunate run-in with a neighbor's chair. She felt so bad for breaking it that she taught herself how to fix furniture of all kinds. She’d recently developed several online courses on furniture repair and wanted to expand her brand reach through content marketing.
When looking at which publications to target, though, she was overwhelmed. Should she focus on the larger, well-known online publications; the small, very targeted online publications; or something in the middle?
When entrepreneurs and business leaders are first introduced to content marketing, many are eager to focus on the big, marquee publications. These are fantastic publications with great brands that people trust. But these publications don’t always meet the individual's goals, and they can involve a lot of work in the editing and revision process because of the publication guidelines.
Often, the niche outlets can help clients get started in contributed content and reach a targeted audience. A lot of business leaders get starstruck by the well-known names of the marquee publications but don't realize that the niche publications allow them to reach their specific business goals much easier.
Marquee publications are those that have 1 million or more monthly page views. Because of their size, their audience tends to be broad, although they may have sections that focus on a narrower topic. (For example, a technology publication may have a section on fintech or security.) These are the publications you know by name: Fast Company, Entrepreneur, VentureBeat, AdAge, Harvard Business Review.
The great thing about these publications is they have a large audience and can help an author expand his or her thought leadership. But with that large audience comes a lot of guidelines. And a lot of competition. Harvard Business Review, for example, gets hundreds of submissions each week, and it only accepts the top 10 percent. And even those top 10 percent require additional edits by the HBR editor.
These publications typically are not good for someone who is focused on lead generation for his or her company. Marquee publications rarely want you to talk about your company. They want you to focus on a personal experience you've had that is truly novel. Getting up earlier in order to be more productive is not novel (but we're proud of you).
If you are interested in targeting a marquee publication, you first have to have an interesting story to tell. Ask yourself these questions to help you determine whether a marquee is a good fit for you:
Why am I the best person to write this? What makes this story mine and only mine? Is it a personal experience only you had? Is it research that you did or a lesson you learned the hard way?
What do I do as part of my process that is unusual? What can readers learn from you that they can’t learn from any other how-to book on the shelf?
What topic do I have a strong opinion about that doesn’t mirror the current conversation? Marquee publications want ideas that further the conversation, not rehash what is already in the marketplace.
In some cases — minuscule bowls of delicious porridge when you’re starving, chairs that break under a teenager's weight — small can be disappointing. But when it comes to publications, great things can come with lower monthly page views.
Smaller publications are usually open to more SEO- and lead generation-friendly follow links and company mentions. And just because they may be small doesn’t mean the standards are lower. Niche publications still have high standards for good storytelling and well-written articles. Examples include Total Retail, Recruiter.com, and Builder Magazine.
Niche publications have often built an engaged audience around a specific topic, meaning the exact people you are trying to reach are the ones who read that publication. This provides an opportunity to build your expertise among a targeted audience as well as get used to writing about your experience and telling your story in a clear and interesting way. As you look at niche publications to target, ask yourself:
What about my process/experience could someone new to the industry learn from? Because these publications are specific to a narrow industry, you have a lot of people looking to learn from others. What can you teach them?
What new trend am I seeing that hasn’t been broadly acknowledged? How can you take a trend or an idea and apply it to your industry? You don’t necessarily have to be the only person talking about this idea, but if you present it in an interesting way, it can be valuable to the publication’s audience.
Goldilocks found that targeting a few small DIY sites (including one that focused on furniture especially for bears — who knew?), she was able to get some leads back to her online courses. Now that she’s comfortable writing about her own experience, she occasionally targets larger publications to highlight her unusual origin story and tout the benefits of solidly reinforced seating choices.
Like a good game of Tetris, I love connecting people and ideas. Exploring new places, new technologies, and well-crafted stories make me a better person. I am on a crusade to bring back the handwritten thank-you note.