Becoming a thought leader is incredibly difficult. In almost every industry, there’s an established community of “creators” and “consumers”. One of the most effective ways to transition from being a consumer to being a creator is by publishing exceptional content for your industry’s largest publishers.
To do this, you need the following resources:
Every thought leader starts from the same point. At one point, they were in your exact situation and decided to start creating content. I myself am in the infancy of this process and that’s okay. The key is consistency.
Let’s dive into my process for publishing on Moz, Wordstream, Marin, Raven, Acquisio, Wordtracker, Convince & Convert, Kissmetrics, and more. These tips will get you started or help you improve what you are already doing.
Identifying an Opportunity
The first step to guest posting and building your thought leadership is to get that first break. It’s incredibly difficult, maybe even impossible, to get published on a top blog if you haven’t been published somewhere else.
Thus, the key is getting that first chance. The way I got my break was a little lucky. Here’s my story:
I wanted to become a MozLocal Recommended Company. I figured what better way than to call the people already on the list and see how they did it. I called a couple, but couldn’t get to the right person or really have a conversation until I called Solas Web Design which is run by Miriam Ellis.
After a terrific conversation, I learned that the key to getting recommended was creating terrific content, delivering awesome results, and building relationships with others in the community. I also learned that she was in-charge of MozLocal’s Newsletter. (sidenote: We’re now a MozLocal Recommended Agency)
The moment I heard that I thought: “This is my opportunity”. I had recently created a cool piece of content on how local business can automate social media and let her know. She read it, loved it, and then featured it in the newsletter.
Opportunities like mine exist every day. You have to be willing to build the relationships, though. We did not get on that list or start publishing on top blogs because of some crazy outbound tactic. It was about being resilient and then giving back to the community with great content.
Scaling Your Opportunity & Crafting Your Pitch
After I was featured in MozLocal’s newsletter I knew that I could leverage that to prove I was the real deal. I immediately crafted an email pitch and started to reach out to the editors of my favorite blogs. The key is that once you have your opportunity you tell others about it and build up your foundation of places you’ve published.
One of the hardest parts is crafting a pitch to an editor that doesn’t come across as spammy, but also cuts through the noise. To help you in this process, I will breakdown my exact pitch below:
- Image Proof
- Social Proof
- Actual Proof
Let’s dive into it!
The Subject Line
In order to get the editors attention, it’s critical that your subject line POPS. Editors get countless crumby pitches every day. Your first words need to differentiate you. In my subject line, I start with name dropping:
“Featured in ___, Would Like to Create For ___”
The key to this approach is that you leverage a name that is more authoritative than the one you are reaching out too. If you published for some little site, don’t brag to the biggest one in your industry about it. Aim for the top and the rest will come naturally.
How you introduce yourself is often how you will be remembered. The introduction you go with should be a mix of personalization and authority. Here’s what one of mine looks like:
My name is Garrett Mehrguth and I would love to have the opportunity to create a piece of content for ____. I have had the blessing of being published in Moz, Ahrefs, Wordstream, Local Search Ranking Factors, Raven, Convince & Convert, Wordtracker, and others.
I believe that the quality of your content, stylistic tone and your audience’s expectation of high-quality information is a perfect fit for myself. Furthermore, I work hard to get the content I create for you featured in other places! I got a post for Wordstream in Moz’s newsletter…(see below)
The purpose of this statement is to establish credibility and experience. The last thing an editor wants to do is waste their time. Even more so, I also talk about how I will work to get it promoted. One of the hardest things for an editor is not finding authors or editing, but having the content meet their business objectives. If you can help spread awareness and build traction with what you created then it’s a huge plus.
But what if you don’t yet have the track record of publishing? Simple, leverage your one piece of publication + what you are currently doing.
My name is Garrett Mehrguth and I would love to have the opportunity to create content for WordStream. I was just featured in Moz Local’s newsletter for their local platform and am in the process of publishing pieces of content for both Unbounce and Wordtracker. I believe that the quality of your content and the stylistic tone and overall quality that your audience expects is a perfect fit with my own.
The key is to exude trust and experience. If they feel that confidence you will be more successful in your outreach.
Prove Yourself with Images
It’s one thing to say you’ve been published in all these places and that you’ll work to promote the post. It’s a whole other thing to show them. A picture speaks a thousand words (or something like that right?).
When I create a piece of content I like to share it with those in my network with a personal email. If any of my friends decide to share it or feature it somewhere I take a screenshot. Easy as that. Once I have that screenshot, I let the editor I wrote for know about it and pitch on future projects.
Next, I add it to my pitch to new editors so that I can prove my pitch. Here’s what it looks like!
I work hard to get the content I create for you featured in other places! I got a post for Wordstream in Moz’s newsletter…(see below)
If you are successfully promoting their content, let them know about it! Who wouldn’t want that, right?
The Social Proof
You’ve had a killer subject line, rockstar intro, and bragged a little about your promotion. Next, it’s time to show off how your content performs on social media.
Did one of your posts get a lot of retweets or shares? Let the editor know about it. Who doesn’t love it when their content gets traction? Here’s how I demonstrate social proof:
I have been publishing content on my site lately that have been shared by Cyrus Shepard, Darren Shaw, David Mihm, Mike Blumenthal, Max Minzer, Casey Meraz, and other thought leaders in the Local SEO space.
Here is a sample of performance on Twitter:
By proving that historically my content has been shared by thought leaders, the editor will see you as an authority and that you provide value beyond simply the creation of the content.
The Actual Proof
Now, it’s time to show those editors some of your actual work. I have already proved myself with imagery and social proof. Next, I simply provide a list of the pieces of content I have recently published.
Here are some of my latest posts:
Convince and Convert: http://www.convinceandconvert.com/digital-marketing/local-search-engine-optimization/
I try to keep it simple and to the point. I would bet that most don’t even read the posts. They have jobs to do, but they do like to know that I have published in these places. Credibility, credibility, credibility. Remember, you are fighting against the fact that 10 other people gave them a bad pitch the very same day.
The last thing you want to do is give the editor more work. Make sure you have read some of their latest content and then give them 5+ different subjects all laid out in a list for them to choose from. Provide variety so that no matter what they will like one of them. The goal is that when they reply it sounds like this:
Here is how to structure your topics!
It would be an honor to be able to write for your blog and I am totally willing to work with you and your editorial staff/calendar to create a piece of content that impacts your audience. I believe I could add terrific insight into the local space in areas ranging from SEO, PPC, and content.
After reviewing your recent posts, please find potential ideas for content below that could be of value to your audience:
- Hey Local Business, Stop Writing About What You Do
- Click to Call Ads: The Secret Sauce You Haven’t Tasted
- How to Use Google Search Console for your PPC
- Why it Pays to Be Local
- The Topic Every Local Business is Forgetting to Write About
- Your Keyword Research Needs a Diet
- A Guide on Time Management for Content Creators
Flirt a little, show that you’ve done your research, and then come up with some killer titles!
A simple signoff is easy and a great way to leave a final impression. I love to go with something cheeky and clean:
Yours in Marketing,
And while this is probably the least impactful section of the entire pitch, it’s quite helpful for making a final impact. I also like to have a clean last sentence right above the signature:
Love to hear your thoughts and as always, I am just as happy to go off of your current calendar and help fill in as necessary.
Yours in Marketing,
In closing, you have the potential to be a thought leader and a great way to start building this reputation is by creating content for sites that have already earned the respect of your industry. By aligning yourself with these blogs, you can barnacle on their brand and establish your own.
Remember, every one of these editors gets 10+ pitches a day.
What makes yours different?