After helping recently a few of my colleagues and some of our startups, I realized that it’s really 4 steps. Writing is not even half the battle!
Writing:Pick your topic wisely.
Writing even a typical 800 words piece can take you several hours.
What if nobody wants to publish it? Increase your chances by having one or more of:
- Original insights
- Timely commentary
- Inclusion of famous brands or people
A few examples:
- HAX had unparalleled knowledge about hardware startups, crowdfunding and more. We wrote over a dozen guest posts for TechCrunch on the topic of hardware.
- Kate @ HAX noticed big box retailers had just announced strong results. She used that to share her views about the reality of the alleged ‘recovery’. It became ‘The Retail Apocalypse Isn’t Over Yet’ on VentureBeat.
- I saw Mike Moritz from Sequoia had penned a controversial op-ed in the Financial Times about the ‘superior work ethic of Chinese startups’. It seemed too shallow compared to what I had seen in China over the years. It became ‘What Mike Moritz Doesn’t Understand About Startups In China’ on VentureBeat. To confirm my initial assessment and add credibility, I asked several China experts to weigh in. Funny enough, the BBC published a few months later a piece saying that young Chinese were sick of working long hours. So much for work ethics!
- I was doing research on the variety of VC business models, and realized it could make for an interesting slideshow and article, also quoting several major brands and people. It became ‘70 Years of VC Innovation’ on Techcrunch. Of course mentioning SOSV and HAX!
- I was looking back at my angel investing experience, and started to think about what I had learned. I decided to share it to help other angels avoid my mistakes. I pitched it to Hackernoon under the name ‘The hacker’s guide to angel investing’.
- While not involved in the crypto space directly, I met a series of companies and people, and truly felt it was a wild west — with both the good and bad, and the colorful characters. I wrote about the ‘31 people you meet in crypto’ as a humor piece (grounded in reality) and published it on Hackernoon.
Editing Makes It (much) Better
John Cleese, from the Monty Pythons, advocated for ‘bold, brave, brutal editing’. He had an epiphany the day he lost a script he had written and had to rewrite it from memory. The second version was much better (he compared them after he located the first).
I like to say I ‘edit with a hammer’ — like Nietszche was ‘philosophizing with a hammer’ (to see if ideas had substance or sounded hollow).
Ask colleagues (or read this guide), as most editors won’t have much time to fix your writing if it’s too far from their requirements.
Pitching: Aim, Shoot, Repeat
Write it and they will come! Yeah, right…
Without a good platform, it’s much, much harder to get noticed.
And every media has its idiosyncrasies.
Some are more tech focused, some more business, some have a geographic focus. Some take a long time to publish anything, some are very reaction.
So once your piece is ready (ideally already tailored for a particular media style — they often have guidelines on their site for guest posts), starts the pitching journey (which I already detailed in the ‘PR for Startups’ article).
Since it is risky to pitch two media in parallel, you have to allow for some turnaround time for answers (you can give a go/no-go deadline of 2–3 days when you pitch, not including weekends).
Your article has been accepted! Congrats — the most difficult part is done (the pitching part). Now once the article is out, you have another job to do: share to increase its reach.
- Copy the article to LinkedIn referencing the media source (since you own the content — unless the media bought it from you)
- Find relevant groups to post it to,
- Write a series of tweets quoting the key ideas of the piece, augmented with catchy images.
To sum up
An article idea is a diamond in the rough — at best!
Make sure it’s timely and relevant, and think ahead of the requirements of the channels you want to use. To make it shine, you need to chisel it, polish it and light it up on a nice pedestal.