In part 1 of “How to write for trade magazines” we looked at the strategic and media issues.
Now for the practicalities and golden rules.
Editorial or bylined article? If this is editorial, you need to write in a factual, dispassionate way, like a journalist who has no vested interest in the story. If it’s a bylined article you may have a little more latitude in style, though should still observe any editorial guidelines provided – for example, you may need to avoid overt or extended product promotion.
Definition: A bylined article is one where the author is named. For example, Jane Smith, Product Development Manager at XYZ Ltd. Readers will know the article is from the company, and not written by the magazine’s own editorial team.
Print, web or both? If an article is going to be published on the web, write it in a web-friendly style – for example, using important keywords. This will help the article to be found by search engines which might lead to more people visiting your website. Also, make sentences and paragraphs shorter, and use more sub-headings than you would if writing for print alone.
Content of the article
Title. Sum up the story in one line – the one key message. Or a quirky, engaging headline, which may be an idiom.
Byline/introductory paragraph. Set up the story, and make people read on by hinting at the solution but not revealing it fully. Add a human element/benefit if possible. Include the name of the person the article is by. This paragraph is sometimes printed in bold text underneath the main heading.
Example: Shoppers in the Westcountry can now relax on their bus journey to town, thanks to an intriguing seating innovation, recently launched by XZY Ltd. Jane Smith, Product Development Manager at XZY explains.
Problem. Set up the problem. Explain how the problem came to light. Explain the human cost. The financial cost. Add some statistics.
Involvement. Explain how your company became involved. If the story is about how you helped a client, why did they choose you?
Process. Did you undertake market research? Materials research? Prototyping? Design? Test installations? Certification at a test station? How long did it all take? Were there any obstacles along the way? What was new or ground-breaking about what you did? How did your actions reflect your company values?
Solution. What’s changed since for the client? A decrease in costs? Happier consumers? Fewer accidents? What are the measurables; the proof?
Testimonial. Include a quote from someone. Preferably a testimonial from the end client. Alternatively from one of the development partners if applicable. Or a couple of the company’s own managers if need be. (Quotes from people are a good way to bring personalisation and emotion into the story, as it allows you to write in the first-person for a while.)
Next step. Include a short ‘find out more’ paragraph at the end, which will probably just be a mention of the website.
Ensure your article includes all the ‘six honest serving men’ – Who, What, Why, When, Where, How – as near to the start as possible.
- Observe any editorial guidelines provided, in terms of style and focus.
- Respect the word count (on longer articles 50 words each way is usually fine).
- Respect the copy deadline, or politely ask the editor for a short extension if you really must. Remember that editorial copy deadlines usually come sooner than advert copy deadlines for the same publication.
- Spell and grammar check it thoroughly. Ask someone else to proof read it.
- Keep your writing crisp, upbeat and to the point. Avoid long sentences (25 words maximum). Keep paragraphs to around eight lines maximum (typed A4).
- Seek consent from other parties you mention in your article, particularly if the story hangs on their good brand name. (It’s polite – if you publish without asking they may not object; but you take the risk of appearing cheeky, damaging relations and losing future business if they do.)
- Use magic words. Unique. Clever. Intriguing. Scientific.
- Avoid hyperbolic words in business writing – eg, superb, sensational.
- Submit as a Word document, not a PDF. Ensure you double line space the article.
- Include footnotes and contact details for more information.
- Include images of 300dpi – any less won’t print well.
- Make sure any people in images are named, with job title, and that they are happy to be shown.
- Ensure you have copyright on any images you submit.
- If showing photos of the inside of a building or installation, make sure the building owner is happy that the images can be used publicly.
Can I help?
Over 20 years I’ve written articles for all sorts of trade magazines in technical and niche industries. If I can help you get the coverage you’d like in the trade press and business journals, do get in touch.
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