5 steps for cultivating relationships with editors

Sending an email with a cheery ‘Hi, Sam,’ at the beginning rarely works—especially if the target’s name is Phyllis. Do your homework, be genuine, and stay flexible.

How to build relationships with editors

To get your article published on a popular website, you have to do a little homework before hitting send.

Just submitting your article through a generic email address or in an online form almost guarantees your piece will get lost in the noise. It also means you’ll have a slim chance of its appearing on the site.

You must first develop a relationship with the editor at your targeted publication, especially for high-level sites—whether that means CNN and The Washington Post or Gourmet and Food & Wine magazines.

By developing these relationships, you may even become the go-to person that editors seek out for featured topics. Building these relationships won’t happen overnight, however, so consider these key steps you’ll have to take:

1. Understand the publication’s beat. Before reaching out to an editor, do some research. Look at recent articles to get a sense of its tone and style. Review the masthead to determine the right editor to contact with your article idea. Decide whether you’ll have to offer a relevant time peg for your piece. By showing the editor that you understand the publication’s style and needs, you’ll demonstrate that you’re reliable and thoughtful and that you care about the publication’s goals.

2. Carefully craft the first email. This is your introduction and first impression. You’ll be sending along your article idea or a draft of your article, but it’s good to be flexible and open to suggestions. Show that you are willing to brainstorm with the editor to come up with the perfect angle. This might require more time and effort on getting this first article right, but your willingness to work hard and be flexible will pay off in the long run. The editor will know that you’re dependable and open to feedback and suggestions. Include writing samples to show your clarity and style.

3. Use their feedback to improve your writing and pitching. The editor may or may not decide to publish your piece, but it’s vital to show that you’re open to feedback and willing to adjust your article as needed. By adapting, you’ll demonstrate just how easy you or your clients are to work with. Be friendly and personable to stand out. Of course, you are entitled to push to retain your viewpoint, but remember that editors know their audience best. They receive hundreds of submissions each week and winnow them judiciously.

4. Stay in contact. Even if you don’t have another article ready for the editor to look over, emphasize that you’re interested in writing for them again in the future. Don’t be overbearing or annoying by sending weekly reminders; just check in now and again.

5. Go the extra step to stand out. An editor’s job can be challenging, even overwhelming. You can stand out by being friendly, adding value to your submissions, and thinking ahead to what they might need from you. Always thank them for the opportunity to work with the publication. Follow them on social media, and engage with their posts. Yes, it’s more work than just emailing the news desk or submitting your ideas and articles through an online form. The results that come from building a relationship will be well worth it, though, when you become the editor’s most trusted contributor.

George Bradley is a communications specialist at Circa Interactive.

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