In many business-to-business markets the trade magazine or business journal is alive and well. But in the digital marketing era there’s more to them than just the printed copy on the office coffee table. There’s also the added benefit of having your article published on the journal’s website and shared on social media and in emailed newsletters. You can repurpose the content for your own blog, too.
In this two-part post I’ll go through how to write for trade magazines. I’ll cover the strategic issues in this post, and the practicalities and ‘golden rules’ in part 2.
Strategic preparatory questions
Who is going to read it? Always think about the audience first. Who are they? What are their interests? What is their existing level of knowledge? What do they care about – don’t assume it’s the same things you do.
What’s the story? In one line, what has happened that that means you need to write this article?
- What’s newsworthy? Is it a new product or service? If so, what are the benefits to the audience? Why should they care about your message?
- What’s the hook – the ‘sizzle’ which tempts people to read the article? If the main hook is your association with a big brand name, don’t assume you have consent to use their name – ask the question. Consider, is the story still good if you can’t use the big brand name…?
- What aspects of our brand or service do we want to emphasise? What does the story show about us?
- What’s the main point? If you had to sum up this article in one sentence, what would it be? You need to know this to make sure your writing stays focused.
What do you hope to get out of it? What’s the expected outcome for this? It may be phone calls. It may be that you want the sales team to show it to customers. You may want to order extra copies of the magazine to mail to key people. You may want a PDF you can post on the website, so you can include it in email marketing and social media… Think beyond just writing an article and know how it fits into a bigger plan, and that you leverage your media coverage to the full.
What’s the publication? Who is its audience – does it reach the right people? Does it seem to be a quality publication, one which matches the image of your organisation? Each title should provide a media pack, which includes information about the numbers and profile of its readership. Some titles are ABC audited, which means the Audit Bureau of Circulations has independently verified the circulation size. If the magazine is unfamiliar, always ask for back issues (hard copies), so you can flick through and get a feel for the content and quality. This will help you ensure your brand only appears in the right place, and you can also tailor your article to suit the magazine.
Is there a features list? Magazines tend to plan features on different topics a year in advance, and issue a features list. You may find it in the media pack, or listed separately on the magazine’s website. If you can match your article to a feature, you’ll help the editor to fill the content for the feature, and people who are interested in the topic are more likely to see it and read it. Plan this in advance, and ask the editor two or three months ahead if you can submit something (called ‘selling in’). Get on the magazine’s mailing list for “copy call” emails.
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