Wednesday, 15 June 2016 14:08

How to get free PR in the Guardian, Huffington Post and Washington Post - and sometimes get paid for it

You can make a name for yourself in well-known papers such as the Guardian, Huffington Post and Washington Post, and promote your business at the same time. People do it all the time. There’s one condition. You can't advertise yourself. Readers don’t want to be marketed to. They want to be helped. To win editorial acceptance, you need to use your expertise to write on a topic that helps that paper’s readers. Your post should be useful, timely, original and relevant. Your byline directs people to your business, and if readers were sufficiently wowed by your article, they will come to your website, or call your number to find out more about you.

Here are some tips that can help you get your article accepted.

1. Choose a controversial topic  

Monica Leftwich mentions how she got into the Huffington Post and Washington Post. She signed up for both blogs, became familiar with their style, and shot off a controversial pitch.  Her article for Huffington Post, called “Why I Simply Don’t Give a Damn About My $100k+ in Student Loans”, attracted instant approval. Her essay for the Washington Post, “He wouldn’t kiss me until I got tested for STDs” went viral. Ryan Holiday in “Trust me, I'm lying” insists that the media wants one thing: controversy - in order to attract readers. Give them this and you’ve got a winner…

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To win attention for American Apparel, Ryan torched billboards then blogged : “American Apparel is on fire”. You don’t need to go that route, but you can dig up some controversial subject in your field and write your professional opinion. A case in point: Restrooms for transgender people is in the news. If you home-decorate, you could pitch the editor on how bathrooms can be (or should be) decorated to attract a transgender individual. Your byline blithely mentions that you specialize in toilet renovations. Watch the readers email you for more information.

2. Make it topical

Notice how Leftwich latched onto timely news and interested editors that way. Editors provide what readers want, which is why Trump gets buckets of free publicity. They keep their pulse on the news and create titles and posts that pincer readers. You can help editors by connecting your specialty to a timely topic. A case in point? Robert Wood’s article on Forbes about Trump’s tax returns. Wood uses a current topic to show his knowledge about taxes. He precedes the article with his bio that he’s a tax lawyer, directs readers to his site, and manages to pack in a few promotional sentences:

I handle tax matters everywhere. I enjoy untangling a tax mess from the past, disputing taxes with the government or planning taxes for the future. One of my specialties is advising about lawsuit payments...

This is how Wood not only got paid but also landed free advertisement on one of the leading websites.

You can use these three sources to find trending news:

3. Create a catchy title

Your pitch can be magnificent. It needs that catchy title to grab the editor’s attention. There’s an art to a title. Essentially, it has to arouse curiosity, promise to teach you something new. Copywriters spend months and money learning the skill. You can take the short route and analyze examples of titles on the Buzzfeed website. Better still, find a Buzzfeed post that may be, even remotely, similar to yours, and adapt its title to your post.

4. Will this subject interest enough readers?

Here’s another cheater tip that comes from renowned best-seller self-help guru, Samm Sinclair Baker, who was dubbed “the King of Self-Help” by the New York Times. Baker advises writers to avoid rejection by copying the kind of articles that their targeted magazine publishes month after month. The editor focuses on these subjects because they attract readers. Compete best by writing something creative, fresh, or informative on such a subject because it’s the kind of article that the editor’s looking for.

Hunt down that editor!

Forget about approaching the editor the usual way. It’s invariably the backdoor route that plunks you before the editor’s eye. Rather than send your pitch via the website’s simple submission form, Writer's Market advises to track down the editor that covers your niche, write him a pretty email and attach the piece. This is what Leftwich did. Arianna wasn’t there, but Huffington’s assistant gave her the go-ahead. You can find editors’ email addresses on Linked In, on the publication’s advertising or media relations page, by calling the magazine’s editorial department, or by researching online resources like MediaBistro.com and FreelanceSuccess.com.

In short

Few outside writers get paid by the Huffington Post, although its exposure is worth hundreds of dollars in advertising currency. The Washington Post is more discriminating.  If you have writing samples, approach them through the Talent Network, a new platform which connects freelancers with newsroom editors, or email the editor directly. The Guardian is a different story. It looks at your ideas rather than your writing. If it likes your pitch, it’ll help you develop your article.

Do you want more outlets?

The website Who Pays Writers? Lists various publications that pay you for for your writings.

Bottom line: It is not about you. It is about them. Remember that, and you're halfway there to free promotion on the world’s most recognized papers.

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Jaime Nacach

Marketing Strategist

I love helping small businesses with their digital marketing and business strategy. I'm a young man with a passion in entrepreneurship and international experience in business development, marketing, sales, and web/graphic design. 

Find me on: Team Page | LinkedIn | Google+Personal Website

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