What Editors Want from Guest Contributors in 2021 [New Data]

Few industries escaped 2020 unchanged, and digital media was no different.

At Influence & Co., our proprietary content marketing software and our process of working with hundreds of contributors, editors, and journalists offered us courtside seats to watch the industry evolve — and we compiled our most relevant digital media research for marketers and content creators into our latest “State of Digital Media” report.

Wondering how to make guest posts stand out? Our third digital media survey combines the opinions of experts with our own exhaustive content analysis, and the result is a tool that can be used to hone your content in order to gain more success in 2021.

One of the biggest findings? Guest-contributed content isn’t going anywhere. In fact, 93% of editors see themselves publishing the same number of guest posts or even more this year.

An increase in guest-contributed content is good news for prospective contributors. But just because more guest post slots are becoming available doesn’t mean guest contributors can afford to send lackluster pitches.

Publication editors haven’t lowered their standards and aren’t likely to, so read on to find out what publications want so you can give your pitches the best shot at hitting the mark and achieving acceptance.

(Note: All of the following statistics are taken from our 2021 State of Digital Media report.)

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How to Make Guest Posts Stand Out

The publication editors we surveyed receive pitches day in and day out. Although they might sometimes wish for one, there’s no “unsubscribe” button they can hit to pare down this deluge of requests. That constant barrage on publication editors’ inboxes is why it’s critical to make sure your content is worth reading.

For a guest post to break through the noise, it needs to check these four boxes:

1. A pitch that is on-topic and non-promotional.

Editors receive lots of pitches that are little more than subtle ads — or, in some cases, not so subtle — for an author’s product or service.

Other pitches avoid promotion, which is great, but they also fail to fit the scope of the publication. Or the pitch might offer an opinion or perspective that readers could get from a host of other outlets.

Perhaps the best thing you can do to get an editor’s attention is to write a balanced pitch that’s on-topic, non-promotional, and fresh. And be mindful of how many other pitches editors work through each day. The path to an editor’s heart is short, so keep your pitch brief.

Im more likely to read a pitch on a strong topic that is pertinent to our audience and is not blatantly self-serving. — Paul Nolan, Editor at Sales & Marketing Management

Im more likely to read a pitch if its clear that the person knows what I cover, reads our publication, and has relevant and high-level executives who are willing to chat on record. — Allison Schiff, Senior Editor at AdExchanger

2. Multimedia content.

Given that 20% of editors are looking to publish podcasts in 2021, it could be worth pitching yourself as a potential podcast guest for publications that have podcasts. If you go this route, include any experience you might have that demonstrates your ability to hold up your end of a compelling and insightful conversation.

Another 20% of editors plan to publish infographics, so make sure you have that graphic designer on speed dial. And 33% will make space for videos, so start building a library of video assets that could help fulfill this need.

3. Expert opinions with fresh perspectives.

The articles you submit to publications need to push ahead of trends, and you should be able to speak with authority on cutting-edge insights in your industry. In terms of content, if a trend is already being covered by some media outlets, you’re probably too late to the party.

For your pitch about a much-discussed topic to have even a slim chance of acceptance, you’ll need to offer a unique opinion or insight that readers won’t find anywhere else.

Guest posts must be ahead of the trends. By the time we get article offers on a hot topic, we have already known about that topic and published articles on it. — Jim Davis, Editor at HR Daily Advisor

4. A “Goldilocks” word count.

We analyzed thousands of pieces of content published during the second half of 2020 and found that the most-shared content was an average of 986 words long. This represents an increase from previous years.

It’s always imperative to follow the guidelines of the specific publication you’re targeting, but if there’s any wiggle room in terms of word count, landing in the 900- to 1,000-word range can help you create shareable content — which is a result all editors and contributors want.

Guest posting is an incredible opportunity to gain exposure, boost your credibility, and speak directly to your ideal audience, but editors are understandably protective of their publications when they’re handing the mic to a stranger.

To improve the likelihood that your pitch is accepted, you need to know how the digital media industry is changing, and what publishers want. Hopefully, the four steps identified above will help get you started.

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