Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Want to Write a Magazine Article?

Every academic and scientist has heard the phrase "publish or perish." When part of your job is to be brilliant, people expect to see your byline in major journals; lack of a bibliography quickly begins to reflect on your professional reputation.

While the pressure is less in other fields, the concept holds universally true: the businessperson who gets noticed by a major periodical is the businessperson whose presumed expertise gets respect. The press release, covered in an earlier post, is one way of getting an article into a newspaper or trade journal. To go beyond "the latest scoop on my business," try an article in one of the following categories:

The op-ed (as in "opposite the editorial page" or "opinion-editorial") is a good beginning choice; these social-commentary articles are short (rarely more than 750 words) and can be written directly from personal knowledge. Don't, however, slip into the "everyone with any sense knows this" approach; the opinion advanced still has to be supported with clear facts and logical conclusions. Pick a topic you feel strongly about and have considerable experience with; give "see-their-point" consideration to those who disagree; and cite at least one respected source that isn't on your payroll.

The filler--the brief piece of advice, anecdote, or trivia item--can also be a good first-article choice, especially if you work in a human-interest-related field. There's rarely room for lengthy author bios; just note your business name and/or Web address, plus your field if it's not obvious from the name.

The profile, interview, or news feature is an expanded version of the press release: instead of one specific milestone or accomplishment, this article focuses on multiple aspects of a person or business and (in the case of the news feature) how they relate to some major event or trend. It's ideal if a periodical interviews you; but, unfortunately, this isn't something you have much control over (though it helps to get involved in prominent causes and build good person-to-person relationships with the community and media). If you do want to write one of these articles yourself, be careful; it's hard to keep self-profiles from sounding like blatant self-promotion. You might hire an outside freelance service to edit your article for general interest, or to ghostwrite a news feature; or you might offer yourself to a freelance writer as a profile or interview subject, contributing a sidebar under your own name. (Don't, however, pay a writer for doing an interview article with you as the subject; it could invite uncomfortable ethical questions.)

The full-length feature article, whether news, social trends, or how-to, should be attempted only by the most experienced writers. However, there's nothing wrong with hiring a ghostwriter or "as told to" writer in this case. Do write the author bio yourself; it should be one short paragraph noting your business name/specialty, the best means of contacting you, and an interesting fact about you or your business that relates to the article's focus.

The full-page advertorial deserves a quick mention, though technically it's a paid advertisement rather than an article. The most effective ones read like press releases and include the human element, especially case histories and photographs.

A couple of final points:

1. For prestige, reader interest, and chances of being published, the trade journals for your industry are the best places to submit articles.

2. If you can't yet claim a published article, there's nothing unethical about posting your best work online with the note "as submitted to x magazine" (provided it's the truth, of course, and provided there's no risk of the magazine's later requesting first publishing rights). At least you'll get credit for trying!

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