How to Get Published Online: Guest Articles

Having a guest article published on an industry-specific or national news site can be a great way to build on your thought leadership and promote your brand. However, it’s not always an easy feat, as editors receive hundreds of submissions every day from others clamoring for the same opportunity. It’s easy to understand, then, why publications must be stringent in their submission and review process–they must ensure that only the most high-quality and valuable content makes it through. For this reason, it’s critical to have a well-executed strategy in place before you begin writing or submitting an article for consideration. So what can you do to successfully get published online? Having had dozens of articles published on behalf of clients and my team, I’ve listed some top tips that you should consider when trying to obtain a guest article placement.

Leverage a Relevant Time or News Peg

An article is much more powerful and engaging if there is a relevant news peg tied to it. This means leveraging a trend or story currently taking place in the news (whether it be mainstream or industry-specific) and tying it into the focus of your article. An editor will be much more likely to publish your story if it ties into a larger theme and conversation that is of interest to their target audience. For example, if you are a marketing and branding expert with a focus on social media, it would be wise to use the latest Facebook algorithm change to discuss how this shift in users’ newsfeed could impact brands and organic reach. Time pegs are another very effective way to add relevancy and a sense of urgency to your story. For example, MLK Day or Engineers Week are both examples of time pegs that could be leveraged for an article.  

Provide a Unique Angle

While it’s incredibly important to tie your article into a larger narrative or trending story happening in the news, you must also be sure to provide a unique angle to that story. You never want to simply regurgitate what has already been said. One method to help ensure that you’re not writing something that has already been covered is to do a quick search of related topics on a publication’s site to determine whether they’ve already written about the story you’re pitching/writing. This will help you to fine-tune your idea and shift the angle if needed.

Understand the Publication’s Audience

It might seem obvious, but even the most well-written, interesting article will go ignored if the topic and angle doesn’t appeal to a publication’s audience. It’s important to understand what an audience (and editor) will be drawn to. For example, if you write a guide on the best educational teaching tools out there, but the audience of the publication is primarily students, it won’t be of any use or interest to them, despite the fact that they both pertain to the same industry. You must tailor your content and angle to something that the audience will find beneficial and worthwhile in order to be seriously considered.

Make Sure to Follow any Submission Guidelines

Few things will disqualify you more quickly in the eyes of an editor than completely disregarding clear directions for writing and submitting an article for consideration. This can turn you and your article into more of a nuisance than anything else and cause an editor to overlook the hard work you’ve put into the actual content. With this in mind, take note of their submission requirements and follow them as closely as possible.

Also, unless they explicitly say otherwise, it’s usually a good idea to send the editor a short pitch outlining your article idea before you begin writing it. If it’s not in line with what they’re looking for, this tactic will allow you to either pivot your angle or focus your time and effort on other publications instead.

Have Sources to Back Up Your Claims

Although contributed articles tend to be opinion pieces, it’s still important to include credible sources that help to support and back up your claims and position. Adding in these sources will only strengthen your stance and illustrate that you’ve put in the time and effort to provide a piece of content that has merit and which goes beyond your own personal ramblings. Citing stats or studies but failing to hyperlink to the sources can also prolong the publication process, so it’s important to properly reference and link to any sources used from the get-go. Keep in mind that news sites (almost always) prefer hyperlinks to sources over more traditional APA citations and footnotes.

To learn more about our digital PR services, read here: Digital PR.

Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team, and she has worked with partners such as HP, Cisco, and Adobe. Graduating with honors in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of our clients.

How to generate quality Higher Education leads using quizzes

Note: This article was contributed by Josh Haynam, co-founder of Interact.

In marketing there is a constant disconnect between the content we produce and the actual qualified leads that come in. It’s incredibly difficult to reconcile the two and still create a stream of really awesome material.

As a partial solution to this dilemma, I introduce the humble quiz, lauded by NewsWhip as the most shared type of content, which is constantly plastered on your Facebook wall by friends describing the kind of cat they are, and now… a tool for generating leads.

How in the world does a quiz normally associated with cats turn into a lead generation machine for higher education? I’ll do my best to show you how below. There are five steps to the perfect quiz for lead generation. Each is a precise science specifically tailored to Higher Ed. Here we go.

The formula for a perfect lead generation quiz.

  1. Solve a problem with the quiz. When thinking about lead generation, there is always a give-and-take. You are “taking” the person’s contact information and “giving” them a valuable insight about themselves. In order to give something of value, you must solve a real problem for potential students. Based on looking at what’s worked, here are three quiz ideas that can be adapted to fit virtually any education institution:

“Which career should I have?” Every student has thought about their career choices (or at least been asked about them by their mom) many times. There is good reason to ask this complicated question (the subject of what to do with the rest of your life after college is a big one) because the problem of discovering what occupation to pursue is a perfect fit for quizzes.

“Which school should I go to?” Whether you’re talking about different schools within your system or just schools in general, the decision of where to go to school is almost as important as what to do with your career.

“What major should I have?” Along the same lines as what career you should have is the decision of what to major in. Many students struggle for years to figure this one out, and a well constructed quiz on the subject can truly strike a nerve (in a good way).

The pattern in the above questions is that a good quiz can help marketers discover problems people have in their decisions when pursuing higher education. Give people help with a question and they’ll be happy to respond by giving you their contact info.

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  1. Build trust by asking questions. The principle reason quizzes work as a lead generation tool is because there’s a certain level of trust built within a quiz, which warms the prospect up to handing over their information. There are a few methods for building this trust that can be the difference between an effective lead tool and an ineffective one. Here’s what to do:

Speak like a human. Quiz questions should mimic conversations that a counselor might have with a student about life and school. Take a personal approach to writing them and don’t worry about sounding to “smart.”

Be thorough. One big difference between the silly celebrity quizzes you see on Facebook and a proper higher education quiz is the accuracy of the results. If you’re recommending careers or majors, then quiz takers will take it seriously and you should, too.

Stay on topic. You can have fun with your questions but keep them relevant. Don’t ask for their favorite colors.

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  1. Be honest on your lead generation ask. The stage has been set. You have created a quiz that captures attention by promising to answer a pressing question, and then you built a relationship with the quiz taker in a short amount of time and successfully established trust. Now it’s time for the quiz taker to reciprocate and give you permission to follow up. This is a touchy moment. Here is how to successfully navigate it:

Only ask for what you need. If you don’t ever call your customers, then don’t ask for a phone number. If you don’t need to know their location, then don’t ask for a zip code. You get the idea.

Explain what you’ll do with the information. It’s better to say, “We’ll call you to see if our product is a good fit,” and it’s best to avoid saying, “Sign up for great advice!” Remember, if this person does become a good customer, then you’ll want them to trust you long-term, so don’t start off on the wrong foot.

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  1. Deliver on your promise in the quiz results.

Remember at the beginning of this post when we talked about quizzes solving a problem for people? The quiz results are where that problem solving comes to fruition.

Play to the emotions. The best and most-shared quizzes have an emotional aspect. For education, the best route is to stay positive. Even if you recommend a less highly valued major or a lower-level school, focus on the positive aspects rather than the negatives. For example, you could say, “You prefer to pursue activities outside of school and maintain a well-rounded life” instead of “You don’t like school that much.”

Keep it real. The temptation with the emotional response is to just tell people nice things and not worry about the outcome, but the problem is your quiz takers will see right through phony wording. The easiest way to stay positive and also nice is to just focus on the facts. If you are recommending a lower-ranked school, then the student will have more time to focus on extracurricular activities. Make that the focal point of your result.

Over-deliver. Go above and beyond for your quiz takers. The example below from EiCollege is excellent; they provide a detailed description of the major they recommend, as well as contact information and easy ways to follow up.

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  1. Follow-up after capturing a lead. Now that someone has given you their contact information, it’s time to begin the journey down the funnel to create a happy student who will rave about your school to their friends. Here’s what to do (and not do) with those new contacts.

Use what you know. If you are recommending a major or school, then the prospect is going to be curious. If you call the prospect, talk about that major; if you email them, lead with the recommendation.

Continue the conversation. Never, ever, just add your new quiz prospects to a general list. You should continue the conversation that you started within the quiz with your follow up. That means setting up a drip campaign for quiz takers, or calling them and talking about the quiz. Do not abruptly change the subject and just start sending your newsletter: a sure-fire way to ruin the relationship.

That’s it: five simple steps to create the perfect lead generation quiz for higher education. It’s not overly complicated, but it can be extremely effective.

So how’d I do? Can you see how the humble quiz can generate meaningful leads? I’d love to hear your thoughts either way in the comments below.

 

1eb47d5Josh Haynam is the co-founder of Interact, a place for creating beautiful and engaging quizzes that generate email leads. He writes about new ways to connect with customers and build trust with them.

Linkedin: Josh Haynam

Twitter: @jhaynam