Are your competitors enjoying more press coverage? Do you keep seeing articles about their products spouting the same old misleading propaganda? Realize that those stories did not just happen. They were caused.

Certainly, editors originate stories about technologies and companies. But consider this for a moment: an editor is a busy person. Do you think that an editor would prefer to dream up a whole collection of new articles each month, or to receive ideas and even articles from vendors and PR contacts? A good portion of just about any trade magazine comes from the latter source. That’s why the products of your rivals gain far more coverage. They are actively engaged with the editor in providing content.

Part of the problem is that the larger companies typically have established PR departments, big advertising budgets and hold plenty of sway within the magazine community. They know the game and know how to work it.

Some smaller firms try to balance things up by writing a story and presenting it to editors. That’s when the headaches often begin. The project either languishes unwritten for months or hangs like a millstone around the neck of the boss. It’s one thing to consider authoring an article and quite another to put one together. In many cases, the article never gets completed.

But even for those that manage to finish a story, that doesn’t mean it will ever see the light of day. Time after time, people pour their heart and soul into a story only for it to gather dust in some editor’s file. If it does appear, it took so much work that nobody dares mention the possibility of doing another one. The reason for these various failures is that the process of writing and publishing an article is poorly understood.

The biggest error at this stage is assuming an editor will print whatever they provide. That gives rise to an incorrect sequence: Someone in the company decides what they want to write and then presents the completed story to an editor. Working that way, you can expect a rejection ratio of 75 percent or more.

A better way to go about it is to initially work out some story pitches that might be of interest to the editor. Choose a variety of subjects. Examples include a technical article highlighting the intricacies of a particular technology, a major challenge being faced in a specific field or a case study about your product. Show these topics to the editor, listen to his/her feedback about the type of stories he or she does and does not want. Solicit writing guidelines for that magazine, THEN write the story he or she tells you to write. Time spent working things out with the publication in advance will result in a 98 percent acceptance rate –if you deliver what he/she asked for.

I have to add something here about delivering what is wanted: very few seem able to achieve this. As an editor myself, I repeat the same thing to every prospective author: Do not send me a marketing story, avoid sales language and please, please, please:

  • Do not knock the competition
  • Do not list out endless benefits
  • Do not go into arguments about the financial return on investment

Almost nobody listens. The stories violate the above points and add to my editorial time. I avoid throwing the half-baked story back to the author unless it is clearly an abomination. Instead I attempt to edit it to the way I want and add instructions on what else they need to add to make it publishable. Other editors may not be so understanding. But let’s get back to how pitching editors before writing a story.

Pitching stories in advance is also a smart way to operate if you are using outside services for writing. Who wants to pay a writer to pen a story that will never see the light of day? Smarter to line up the story ahead of time and pass on exact instructions as to what is needed and wanted by the magazine.

Drew Robb