After working with one of the top editors at Inc. magazine and studying the processes of columnists, I was able to see what it takes to rise to the top, become a top columnist and write for a major publication. A top columnist today isn’t what it used to be in the past when t was about having the full back page of a magazine. These days it is about having a regular column ONLINE like Inc., Huffington Post or Entrepreneur. I myself was lucky enough to become a Huffington Post writer.
So how can you get become a columnist? Here are some steps involved.
The First step involved having your own content: This means you could have your personal website or website that shows your personal work. With Kevin, he had been a best selling author and written other books, and entrepreneur. He had a website that showed a lot of his accolades and this gave him credibility, so when and big companies like Huffington Post and Inc. like to be able to know that they can trust you will deliver good content consistently.
Do Your Research: In order to be a columnist, you have to have an area of expertise so research the people in your industry and find out who the top five to ten thought leaders are and see where they write. This will give you an idea of where you should get your content in front of and also will give you an idea of what to write about in your industry.
Guest Blog or Syndicate your content: Now that you’ve done your research start reaching out to blogs and websites where the people you researched have guest posted. The key to doing this is to keep it short and to the point. Say something like
I hope this message finds you well. I have been following your work for a while and I’m a big fan. I write about xxx on my personal blog and I have done xxx. I wanted to know if you could take a look at these posts and see if it will be a good fit for your audience. If so I would love to guest post.
Looking forward to hearing from you soon!
In addition to guest posting, you could syndicate. Syndication is repurposing your content on other sites. The key to this is also keeping it short so it will be very similar to the above message with a little tweaks. You could try a variation of this.
I hope this message finds you well. I have been following your work for a while and I’m a big fan. I write about xxx on my personal blog and I have done xxx. I recently wrote a blog post on (xxx) and I would love it to share it with your audience as I touched on (xxx). Could you take a look and tell me if you agree?
Looking forward to hearing from you soon!
You communicated value by telling them the points you touched on and you acknowledged their work. That’s all you need to do so hit send now.
Guest posting and syndicating does several things for you. It gets you in the habit of consistently writing and it gets you in front of a wider audience. You are more aware that that your work is being seen by audiences not really familiar with your work so you know you have to be on you’re a game and that keeps you focused on producing great work.
Another thing that it does is that it builds you up as an authority and a thought leader. All of a sudden your work is being considered enough to be featured on sites that you don’t control. That speaks volumes. It essentially builds up your brand.
The third thing is that it drives traffic from multiple places to your work. With guest posting/syndication you have a bio section where you can talk about your work and more importantly send people to your site on which you may have products or services.
You have to prove that you can write for others and big publications want to see your body of work. Guest posting does this for you.
Most people approach syndication and guest blogging with an either/or mentality but in my opinion it is best to combine both. Guest posting gets you in the habit of writing for audiences not familiar with you AND it makes the people you approach more receptive to your work because they see that you want to give them something of value. If they like your work, then you can begin to start syndicating. The biggest advantage of syndication is that it saves you time and it gives you a chance to feature your best work.
Start Reaching Out to Publications: Now that you’ve been guest posting for a while it’s time to start pitch editors in the publications you want to become a columnist in.
First thing you should do is sample out the three best pieces of content (a mix of your syndicated and guest posts) that you are most proud of and then begin to craft an email to all the publications you want to be featured in simultaneously. You probably won’t get responses from all of them but there’s a stronger possibility that you will get from someone if you reach out to five publications than if you reach out to just one.
Emails can usually be found in the contact page of the sites. Don’t be afraid to reach out to twitter respectfully and say “I love your work, I would love your opinion on “such and such” Can I send it to you?” It’s a hit or miss but it’s worth a shot. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take right?
The first paragraph should be a little bit about who you are and where some of your work can be found.
The second paragraph to say places you have written in and the reach it has had. You could do this by aggregating the total view counts, Facebook Shares, retweets, etc.
NOTE: An added value of syndication is that you can say confidently that that piece of content has been shared in x number of sites and amassed x amount of views. This positions you as an authority that can command a lot of views and shareabilty. Editors like this.
Close with the ask. Tell the editor which section of your of their site you would like to contribute towards and go from there.
They usually come back with either suggestions or a decision. Either way you are on their radar and that’s what matters. If you need to tweak a few things take their suggestions and come back.
There you have it. You systematically built your brand first and a home base for all your work then you positioned yourself as an authority by guest posting and proved your shareability by syndicating your content. Now it’s time to hit the big leagues and communicate your value to editors. Good luck!