EVERYONE is a beginner at some point and doing it is the only way to improve your skills, and gain the polish and expertise you need.
But I have to say… it’s completely impossible to resist the delicious irony when a guest post arrived in my inbox this morning touting a “concise, thorough overview of PR best practices” that was anything but.
Especially when the submittal came from a public relations service provider. #trainwreck
While I would never insult the person sending it or their good intentions, it is a fantastic opportunity to showcase where this particular submission slipped up. Who doesn’t want to learn from other people’s mistakes?
What he did right:
- He offered an exclusive.
- At first blush, the topic seemed to fit in with the theme of my blog and my target audience.
- The topic was timely, demonstrating a little thought might have gone into it.
What he did wrong:
1. It addressed me by my last name, Morgan. Who calls someone by just their last name? We aren’t bros. We’ve never even met. It’s disrespectful and it tells me that you may be familiar with my Twitter handle (@morgancarrie), but you didn’t take time to mouse over my Twitter bio or blog. If you had, you would know my name.
This happens quite a bit on Twitter, but it gets me every time. If I tweet back calling you by your last name, it isn’t a mistake. It’s my way of poking gentle fun at your mistake so you realize it. I check bios before I ever include a personal greeting to make sure I know your name, not just your handle.
2. It didn’t take the type of blog into account. Don’t invest time in writing a blog post before you are familiar with the blogger, the blog and their social media presence – even if you only invest ten minutes in glancing it over. Those few minutes are nothing compared to the time we invest in writing a post and should be part of the due diligence process. A quick glance at my blog would have shown that all posts are written by a single author. It is not an e-zine format, there are no guest post submittal guidelines and nary a single guest post contribution to be seen. Noting this could have shifted the author’s outreach from a post submission to a personalized pitch.
Better yet, since there isn’t a single guest post on my blog, emailing me an introduction and asking if I even accept them would have been a fine way to start the conversation.
3. I don’t know you. Unless there is a post submission page on a blog, treat it as a pitch and build a relationship. NEVER submit something fully written unless it is clearly requested. There was no outreach on social media, no comments on my blog and no connection of any kind. Even a minor overture at building a relationship would have improved the odds of success.
For a personal blog of this type, it is a complete waste of time to send a post submission out of the blue when we’ve never met. Like my Facebook page, post a comment or two on my blog posts and follow me on Google Plus and/or Twitter before you send me a fully written post that you expect me to publish.
Be a follower and part of the community before you try to provide your own fresh content.
4. It didn’t allow me enough time to work it into the calendar. The topic revolves around a very specific timeline – New Year’s resolutions – but it was given to me the day before New Year’s Eve. More notice would have allowed me to fit it in the pipeline with better timing, or to work with the author on the topic if a post on the same topic were already in the pipeline.
It would also have allowed the author time to resubmit the post to another blog if declined.
5. It was poorly written. Writing for a top blog? Send your best writing. Don’t send crap. Top blogs don’t rise to the top by mistake and the quality of your post submission should match the quality of what is being published. If the blog doesn’t typically run guest posts, assume your submission should be spectacular. Irresistible.
The article I was expected to publish was poorly written from a content perspective, and completely lacked any clear, unique expertise. Frankly, it would take FAR more than that to tempt any top blogger. Respect what it took them to gain that status and write accordingly.
6. The content didn’t match the author. If the author is identified as a top executive, make sure it has their opinion, thought leadership and voice. If this particular submission was the voice of the leader who supposedly wrote it, I’m definitely not impressed.
In fact, I might just assume their business reflects the same lack of expertise and make sure that I never do business with them. Rather than supporting the reputation this content marketing was intended to build, it actually worked against it to damage their credibility.
It is critical to have content reflect the actual writer. Ghost writing for leadership? Pick up their opinions from an interview or past content. Don’t just make it up yourself and submit it under their name! Submit that kind of content as branded content not tied to a specific author. If a post is written and submitted by a junior executive, put THEIR byline on it. It will still represent your company, product or service, but with authenticity.
7. It didn’t provide value. If you are targeting a public relations blog, make sure the post IS ABOUT PUBLIC RELATIONS. Take a stand and provide something of value. Don’t take a generic post, then wrap the industry name into the title, then plug it once or twice in the content. This particular guest post didn’t showcase a single best practice that applied to public relations. It was a tepid article about keeping New Year’s resolutions that were completely generic and could be applied to any business. It didn’t apply to me, my readers or my clients, so why would I run it?
Top blogs run content that specifically fits their niche and makes it worth the reader’s time to read. They know the difference between a lackluster backlink content written for a quick link back to the author’s site versus content of value for their readers. Don’t insult them by assuming otherwise.
I don’t share this to slam the submission or humiliate the sender, but to use it as a great example to learn from. We all come into public relations from different backgrounds, experience levels and lessons learned. Regardless, every guest blog post represents the company or brand associated with the author. Make it count. Do a great job. Small blog or major content publisher, give it your best effort every single time.
What lessons have you learned, when it comes to guest blogging and bylines?
My biggest challenge usually is related to bylines – fitting the voice I write with to the voice of the publication. I’ve lost the journalist style that I used to write with in favor of a more casual style, and struggle with going back to it when occasion demands. I like to write as if the reader is sitting in the chair next to me, whether it fits the publication or not. It’s my biggest weakness. <grin>