How I Got Featured on “Business Insider” Without Pitching Them
A syndication story five years in the making
It had been a pretty good week. Things were looking up and an event I attended allowed me to thank one of my biggest idols in person, which nearly brought me to tears.
A message waiting for me in my inbox. It was from Business Insider.
Since I started writing five years ago, I had always wanted to publish something on their website. It wasn’t about something as shallow as followers but had everything to do with people who perhaps may not normally bump into the back of my touring bus circus show.
For years, I’d tried pitching Business Insider and never got as much as an automated response. The truth was, looking back, that I hadn’t earned it.
What Gets the Attention of a Major Publication?
You are probably going to dislike me for this list:
- Something that is valuable.
- A brilliantly well-told story.
- A piece of writing that has been validated by a big enough audience size.
How do you achieve each of these points?
You show up every damn day even when you feel like crap and have a hangover from too much wine because you went on a date trying to court a new lover.
You find your voice, what you value, and a perspective on the world that is uniquely yours and that you will stand by and be able to explain when asked. You write those words on your keyboard without having any goal of ever being published in a major publication.
You put the writing ahead of being published in a major publication. You sacrifice right now for the future.
Finding an Article to Publish
Major spoiler alert: Business Insider looked on the Medium Popular list and saw an article I wrote sitting there for a few days.
They emailed me, asked if they could publish it, I said yes, and then they published it two days later. It took one email to make all of this happen. Not once did I pitch, sell myself, or paint a dream that wasn’t real to them.
It wasn’t required because the last five years of work has already paid the admittance fee. They invited me into their space for content on the internet, which is seen by millions of people every month.
The Typical Approach
Sending unsolicited pitches to major publications like Business Insider is the stock-standard advice given to anyone who has a goal to reach a wider audience.
It sounds nice. I’ve done it and it’s bloody exhausting. You send emails to editors pretending to be an influencer (even though in my case I hate the word) and wait to hear back. It takes up to a month to get a response and most of the time, there is the icy, cold, hard silence that you get.
If you do manage to get a single reply, the next one is normally where you get ghosted. It’s nothing personal, though.
Put yourself in the seat of the editor of a major publication. Every day they just want to get home to a warm dinner of meat and three veg but can’t until they clear their inbox.
An editors inbox looks like this:
- Emails from PR firms trying to get featured so they can get paid by their client.
- Emails from Instagram influencers that have egos bigger than a V12 engine in a Ferrari.
- Emails from writers who have never written a single article.
- Emails from bloggers who been doing it for three months and want to be called an expert.
- Emails from strangers who ask them to join a new sex app.
- Emails from Bitcoin scams promising $1M to every reader of their site.
I could go on for hours. Editors of major publications have a tough job and the war they wage with their delete button rages on with no end in sight.
Now you know why pitching editors is tough.
I know people love simple advice, so I’m going to make it really easy:
- Don’t set up a website/blog and just publish on Medium.
- Publish one to two articles per week on Medium of 800 words or more, with proper images, decent grammar, and nice spacing between paragraphs.
- Publish on Medium for as long as you possibly can without the temptation to pitch major publications.
- Read as much work by other Medium writers as you can.
- Engage with other writers and support their work or leave a heartfelt comment
And finally: write articles that teach, inspire, or change the way a reader thinks.
Once You Have the Attention of a Major Publication
This is the cool part. Once you have the attention of a major publication, the next step is to build a relationship with the editor.
This is done by removing your ego and finding out what is helpful to them.
Would the editor want more articles from you that have been validated by a decent-sized audience?
Would the editor want to be introduced to other writers you know?
Does the editor also write their own articles? Having an editor that is also a writer is a way for you to talk to them on the same level. Perhaps they have similar problems as a writer which you have faced and conquered.
Once you have the attention of a major publication, don’t waste it. Use the attention to be useful.
Everyone Can Be Published in a Major Publication
I genuinely believe this to be true. Reaching people you don’t normally speak to through your writing is the biggest advantage of a major publication.
There is nothing I did that was special to have my work published in Business Insider — or my previous work that was published on CNBC, Entreprenur.com, and Huffington Post.
Each day I logged into Medium like so many other writers and punched the keys on my keyboard. I didn’t look at the keys, stare, or ponder — I punched the keys as hard as I could so I could wake up my neighbors.
Nothing beats pounding those keys. Someone get me a new keyboard because this one is almost worn out.
Keep writing. If you get good enough, the major publication will come to you.