When we speak about content marketing in Digital PR, we mean creating fresh, creative and informative content to publish on relevant sites on the web. These pieces of “content” can take on many different forms, from blog posts to press releases and from “how to” pieces to informational guides. But there’s always one little glitch in the road: getting it approved for publishing. If you’re in the biz, you’re familiar with the process: you find a great and relevant website, study the kinds of articles they publish, write a fantastic piece that fits their “style” and then send it to the editorial department where it is either published or disappears into the abyss for all eternity. So how do we get over that road block? Here are some pointers for getting your content published:

To pay or not to pay. That is the question. In our web marketing agency, we have the habit of not paying to publish articles. There are always some exceptions, of course, and it is something you can discuss with your client beforehand, and or judge on a case by case basis. The idea is to propose an article that is so fabulous and is such a great read, that the editorial department is jumping at the chance to publish it. Why would you need to pay? You’re giving them something indispensable, shouldn’t they be paying you?! But we know this is not the case. How many times have you contacted a site introducing yourself and your article idea, and you get an email saying they have put John Smith from advertising in CC? If I was interested in advertising I would have contacted advertising! So your first email should be general. Unless there is a section on the site welcoming submissions, I would tread lightly. Since I’m based in Italy, I may contact a travel site and say I know a lot about travelling in Italy, I’d like to propose an article about “Places to see off the beaten path.” No need to say “I’m a Digital PR officer for XYZ.” In my experience, they see this, they throw you to the advertising wolves. Learning how to contact sites and magazines takes practice. Doing a mass outreach works in certain circumstances and can save a lot of time, but I prefer to choose and study sites before I send them personal, individual emails. Deciding how to contact them is something you truly need to get a feel for. With some you may feel it better to take the general approach, and others you may feel it won’t be detrimental to state that you work in DPR. And in some cases, it just may take a little bit of sweet talking.

Digital PR sweet talking

Sometimes content marketing requires a little bit of sweet talking

Write wisely: In much the same way we don’t want to disclose everything in the contact email, we should pay attention to how we write this article for our client. Here is the big difference between advertising and content marketing: writing an article strictly about your client, their services and products, is often seen strictly as advertising. But (using the travel example again), you can propose an article about the top cities to see in Southern Italy, including the city where your client rents luxury villas and where you can slip in a link to their webpage. But do your homework. Don’t write a fabulous section on this one town and flake on the others. Imagine someone who sits down to read this will want solid, informative content, because why do we read anything on the internet? To get information! Something poorly written maybe won’t make the cut. When I first started doing this job, I felt almost sneaky trying to put in that link and slink under the radar, so I find it personally important to make sure that the article as a whole is well written and something people will actually want to read on their commute to work. In that way I feel like I’ve earned the link.

Be ready to face the music. No matter what you do, you just may not be able to get published on a certain site or in a certain magazine and that is that! I had the pleasure of recently meeting a journalist from a very important design and architecture site here in Italy. I had been trying to get in touch with someone there for about six months to publish things for my client. They publish the very latest news in cool design and architecture, and my client is in the field and had done (in my opinion) some really innovative projects. But nobody ever answered my emails. When I called, they said that it just “wasn’t a good fit for the site.” Could have fooled me, I thought it was great! But getting a bit inside the mind of this journalist, I realized that they too are in competition with other design sites to have the best stories, to be the first ones to break the latest news. They also follow trends to see what kinds of stories rank better than others, and which topics get more hits on the web and more likes and shares on Social Media. So whether the project I proposed didn’t “fit” the style of their site or they just didn’t feel it would benefit them in some way, I don’t know. But I can’t change the subject matter itself, so if they don’t want to publish, I have to accept that and move on. I can, however, keep them in my back pocket and continue to pitch them stories. I just might have something that’s the perfect fit one day.

Content marketing is something you need to get the hang of. It takes savvy writing skills, intuition and a smart approach to influence makers, something you will get a feel for over time. Don’t always rely on a mass outreach to make your life easier, take the time to investigate each site and make your outreach personal. It’s tedious and sometimes the results fruitless, but if it was easy everyone would do it!