Build Your Personal Brand: Get Published in a Reputable Publication

Man writing on laptop in cafe

To make it to the C-Suite, you’ll need hard skills, soft skills and a strong personal brand.

Publishing articles, blog posts, white papers and other content helps you improve your professional standing by positioning you as an industry thought leader.

To get published in credible publications, whether online or in print, you’ll not only need to provide value for the publication’s readers, you’ll also need to consider the big-picture goals of the publication itself.

How to Get Published

1. Determine Who Will Write the Article

You don’t have to be a great (or even very good) writer to get published in a top-tier magazine or news site. Find a friend or family member who will ghost write or polish your article. You’re the subject matter expert and that’s your value; let someone else put your thoughts down on paper. If you don’t know a good writer, send out an email to your peers or use a site like Upwork to find a professional writer. Make sure you choose a qualified writer with a solid portfolio. This writing will be representing your personal and professional capabilities, so now is not the time to skimp.

2. Familiarize Yourself With Target Publications

Before you, or your writer, put pen to paper you’ll want to ensure that what you create will suit the type of publication that you’re aiming for. Reading a few articles online is a good start, but push yourself to go deeper. If you can’t get hard copies of a magazine, visit the website to read back issues. If the online version is password protected, look at the other content available on the website to get an idea of what they are publishing. If it’s a print publication, connect to your colleagues to see if they subscribe and can lend you copies of previous issues.

You can also contact an editor at the publication and ask for copies and an editorial calendar, which lays out the topics each issue will cover during the year.

Look for recurring departments (topics covered in each issue). That’s a clue that this type of information is important. Try to get a feel for the audience of the magazine and look to see if the magazine is written in second-person voice (“you”) or third-person (“they”). Second-person voice is more conversational in tone while third is more authoritative. Look at the average word count for departments and features to get an idea of how much of your topic you can cover in your article. 

While researching your preferred choices, you should get to know their competitive landscape too. You don’t want to pitch an article idea that’s just been featured the cover of a competitor’s magazine. On the other hand, you might find some great ideas for articles from competitors. You won’t pitch the same articles, but you might come up with some great spins on a competitor’s content.

3. Identify Your Specific Audience

Publications often have a broad target audience which includes several distinct subsets, and you should identify and target your content to one of these audience subsets. For example, a human resources magazine might be read by senior-level executives and lower-level managers. The magazine’s readers will include HR professionals who work on benefits, some who specialize in compliance and some who focus on candidate searches and hiring. It’s perfectly fine to write an article for only one segment of a reader’s magazine, especially if you have a specific and relevant expertise to offer or a unique spin on a prominent issue. Broadly or narrowly, identifying your reader will help you to create highly relevant and engaging content for them.

4. Decide on your Topic

Now that you’ve developed a feel for the publication’s content, tone, audience and competition, it’s time to decide what you will pitch. Avoid personal advice and instead provide facts, figures and valuable information readers can use in their work. Think about your headline – can you create an arresting headline that will stop people who are flipping through the magazine?

Even print magazines now lay out their content similar to web content. That means shorter paragraphs and articles broken into bite-size sections with multiple sub-heads. Try to pick a topic you can divide into five or more sections with subheads for each. This will not only make your article more readable, it will also help you organize your writing better.

Ask your peers who are likely readers of the magazine or newsletter what they think of your topic and the different types of information you’re going to cover. They can provide valuable feedback, such as, “This topic is old news/been done to death,” or “This one section is really interesting, so lead with that.”

5. Create an Outline

This is a critical step, even if you are working with a ghost writer. An outline will help you to clarify the content and progression of your piece and help you make sure you or your writer don’t leave anything out. Put your most important information first and your supporting content toward the end. Start with a strong lead that shows the reader they have a potential problem or an opportunity along with the promise of your particular insights. They will then want to keep reading to get your information. Don’t start with a background or history to show your expertise – start with the sizzle and deliver the steak later.

6. Make your Pitch

Avoid the decades-old, trite pitch opening, “I think your readers would enjoy…” Editors get insulted by people who don’t work at the magazine “educating” them as to what their readers would like.

Open your letter with a problem or an opportunity for the publication’s readers, such as a provocative statement or question.

“Did you know that 65% of IT directors quit for the same reason?”

“According to the National XXX Association, there will be a shortage of qualified XXX professionals beginning in 2023.”

Once you’ve done that, provide a one- or two-sentence overview of the solution. Next, give your qualifications for being an expert who can provide this information.

You should include two or three pieces of information you’re going to cover, as well as one or more credible sources you’ll use to craft your content. This will help you avoid looking like you want to write an article of your personal ideas or opinions because you’re really smart.

Finally, outline the benefits of your article in a way that respects the editor’s knowledge as well as shows your understanding of their pain points. If you’ve researched the publication and created your content idea, you now know the benefits of this article to the publication, not just the readers. For example, will your article help readers reduce their costs or increase employee retention? You can even research the advertisers you see on the site or on print and explain how your article will help sell ad space.

7. Respectfully Follow Up

Depending on the publication, editors might be swamped with pitches each week. Consider sending your pitch on paper, snail mail, then following up with an email, and then calling the editor within a week if you haven’t heard back. It’s true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. However, make sure you follow the publication’s guidelines. If they do not accept printed submissions – only email, then do not mail them anything. If they make it impossible to find their phone numbers, don’t circumvent the effort to keep callers away by somehow getting the number and crossing the editor’s boundaries. Most places will say how long their response time is, so be sure to find this out in case the rights revert back to you after that time and you can shop your article around elsewhere.

Sharpen your writing skills with these executive writing tips.


About the Author

Steve Milano's first job out of grad school required him to sit in front of piles of C-suite resumes, sifting through candidates applying for key positions with large corporations. Since that time, Steve has hired, trained, and managed employees and contractors in a variety of industries and professions. He has written hundreds of career articles for websites across the internet. Steve has been an executive director, VP of marketing, chief operating officer, publisher, division director, small-business consultant, and board member for corporate and nonprofit businesses.