Henry Stimpson

Article Summary:

Article writing tips that will help you get published.

Article Writing Tips

Writing articles for magazines, newspapers and Web sites is one of the best ways you can promote your service, practice or product. Trade, business, professional and online publications are always hungry for good articles from experts. They get free copy. In return, you get valuable exposure for your organization.

To get your article published, you need to know the ropes. Here are some tips, gleaned from many years of experience:

Know what the editor is looking for.
Scan a few recent issues of the publication you want to get in. Sometimes you'll find that the articles are all staff written. If so, look for happier hunting grounds elsewhere.

If outsiders write some articles, check the format.
Is a certain column reserved for contributors, or are bylined articles interspersed throughout? Does the publication use 500-word op-ed pieces, lengthy articles or both types? Get a copy of the publication's guidelines for contributors. You can often find them on the publication's Web.

Many trade and some business publications publish editorial calendars, and again, usually post them on their Web site. These calendars help you pinpoint when editors are looking to cover certain subjects.

Go on a scavenger hunt.
You may already have the raw material for an article but not realize it. A text of a speech, a slide presentation, a detailed memorandum, a brochure or a report can often be transformed into an article by rewriting the material.

Write a summary.
Once you've targeted a publication, it's usually best to write a brief summary of the story you'd like to submit. Many editors prefer a query first; some only want to review finished copy. Go with whatever the editor wants to do.

The summary tells in a few brief paragraphs what you want to write about and how you plan to approach it. Ask for permission to proceed. Now the editor can tell you whether he or she's interested in the topic and may offer suggestions on writing the story. The summary will also serve as quick outline - a big help in getting started.

Get the facts.
Once you've gotten the okay from the editor, you can start writing. Gather up all the key facts that make your case. The more meat you can put in your story, the better. A little research pays off.

Take a stand.
Most publications want contributors to have a definite viewpoint. You don't need to provoke a raging controversy, but some basic stance or theme should form the framework for your story. The reader should come away with a few strong key points that serve your cause.

Use examples and stories.
Your article will come alive for readers when you can use real-life examples to bolster your points.

Sorry, no commercials.
The best way to get your story killed is overt commercialism. Most publications won't let you directly mention your own product. But you can sometimes get your commercial message across indirectly. A sales pitch, if subtly disguised, may pass muster. And it will go over better with readers than overt commercialism.

Make benefits the benefits of your service or product generic and avoid "we" and "I."
For example, do not write: "We ghostwrite articles that effectively position clients as industry leaders." Instead, write: "A professional writer can ghostwrite articles that can help position a company or an executive as an industry leader."

Keep the "buzz" down.
Know your audience. In a trade publication, some industry jargon is okay. But if you're trying to get published in a more general publication, skip the buzzwords.

If in doubt, always choose plain English. Simple words usually say a lot more than big ones.

Check your organization.
Check through your article to ensure it's organized logically. Let an unbiased person read it and give you an opinion whether it flowed well and made sense.

Submit and follow up.
Editors are notoriously pressed for time; some won't get back to you with an acceptance or rejection. If, after a reasonable amount of time has passed, politely follow up and ask the editor if he or she has decided whether to accept your article. If the answer is no, find out if it can be rewritten to satisfy the editor. If not, send it to another publication immediately.

Recycle for more bang for the buck.
Now you've got the story published. You're basking in glory, sending copies to clients and colleagues. Now take the next step. Try to get the article published elsewhere.

For instance, let's say that your article is about the reducing the risks of getting hit with an employee lawsuit. It's pretty likely you can take the same article, or a slightly recast version, and get it published in a human resources magazine, a local business journal and trades serving various industries.

Reprint it.
To get the most value from a published article, get permission from the publication it appeared in and reprint it. Then you can add it to your sales kit or use it in direct mail or on your Web site. Executives can send copies to key contacts with a personal note. An article lends more credibility to your organization than any advertisement can.

Henry Stimpson, owner of Stimpson Communications, has 25 years of experience as a public relations professional and writer. He holds the Public Relations Society of America's APR designation, which is granted after passing rigorous written and oral examinations. Stimpson Communications provides public relations programs that build visibility and credibility in target markets. For more information, visit Stimpson Communications.com.

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