Finding a platform for your thought leadership articles can feel like a never-ending journey, but vetted strategic templates can help you land in external publications.

Striking out into the world of editorial media on your own is a daunting task. Suddenly, you’re thrust into sending cold emails begging (read: politely asking) editors to listen to you, give you feedback, and eventually publish you on their platform.

Intimidating, to be sure — but don’t abandon hope! Though getting published requires sincere effort and interest, adhering to the following pitching guidelines will soon have you on your way. Want to establish an authoritative industry voice in print or digital media? Here’s how to see the payoff for your hustle:

1. National Publications

When dealing with national publications, you’re reaching out to busy, well-established brands with a wide audience. Editors have high-traffic inboxes and mile-long to-do lists. Given their limited bandwidth for newcomers, the most important pointers to keep in mind when pitching your professional material are to do your research, streamline your communication, and present a compelling synopsis for your proposed piece.

Most national publications won’t accept full-length articles outside of sponsored series, but many accept op-ed pieces or news pitches. Don’t try to submit material that is clearly promotional; make sure you’re supplying true thought leadership, which speaks to the expertise of your organization by its nature, rather than selling a blatant advertisement for your company.

As a first step, find out which editors oversee reputable sources and might be open to the projects you’re heading up. Online reporter databases like Muck Rack are incredibly useful for consolidating contact information in this assessment stage.

Next, shoot editors a well-crafted email. Reference the editor or publication by name, include a succinct introduction, be warm and personable, and then segué to the work you’d like them to publish. Be specific: although the title might be changed or rejected down the line, a pithy headline grabs attention and announces your subject. Follow this with a short paragraph describing the article’s essential argument, your methodology (if applicable), and your material’s alignment with their specific platform.

Lastly, include links to your best relevant work so the editor can identify your style and the quality of your writing.

2. Regional or Trade Publications

Regional publications differ in that they receive fewer content contributions and are generally more amenable to full article pitches. Make sure your pieces are tailored to the regional demographics or trades that particular publication covers. Like national publications, regional and trade pubs appreciate stories over full pitches, as they can then give feedback on the idea, link it to previous pieces, and add new angles that you may not have thought of.

If you’re looking for a place to start, think about the trade or regional papers/magazines you read most frequently in your industry. Many (especially the trade publications) release their issue themes ahead of time, so you can steer your content in the right direction before you begin writing and you’ll have a better chance of piquing their interest.

3. Digital Outlets

Digital publications offer a number of advantages for would-be writers. Namely, they require less lead time to publish and generally have fewer publication restrictions like word count. However, that doesn’t mean you can send them any old article – you’re still best served by reading through the website and getting a sense of the kinds of content they publish before pitching.

When you’re ready to send over a pitch or a piece, find the editor who’s responsible for the section you want to appear in. Then, send a brief email with your name, any clips of published articles, and a few ideas. If you don’t hear back in a week or so, you can gently follow up, especially if your topic is timely.

Overarching Best Practices

Regardless of the pitch you’re preparing, always remember these guidelines:

  • Proofread – especially the names of the editor and the publication. This also applies to your article; full articles are much more likely to be published if they are clean and well-written.
  • Editors are more likely to open emails from and respond to writers who show they’re actual people with genuine interest in the publication. It’s really clear when people are firing off stock inquiries.
  • Define the terms of publication. Don’t get swept up in the excitement of an accepted pitch — clarify the deadline and the means by which the platform will attribute this piece to you or your organization.
  • Never send one pitch to multiple outlets at one time unless you have informed them that you’re doing this. There’s nothing worse than having your dream publication accept an article – only to learn that your second choice claimed it first.

Above all, a successful pitch is succinct, smart, and sensitive to the needs of the publication and its editor. If you stick to these guidelines, you’re bound to be published in no time.