This week we are featuring guest blogger, Ted Wills. He is a contributing editor at Legal As She Is Spoke.
I recently attended the blandly titled “Writing and Publishing for Business and Professional Development” presentation at the New York City Bar. It could have more accurately been called: The Ultimate Networking Secret Especially If You Hate Networking. The panelists offered the best networking advice that I have heard since I have started paying attention to networking advice.
How writing gets you into places that don’t normally let you in
Possibly the best advice of the evening came from Ari Kaplan, a lawyer-turned-author and career consultant. When Mr. Kaplan wants to meet and build a relationship with someone, he simply asks, “What do I have to write in order to meet him?” Writing gives you an opportunity to speak with people you normally would not have the opportunity to meet. Asking a dream contact if you can interview them for an article is a great way to get into the contact’s office.
How writing offers partnership opportunities
Another panelist, Joshua Stein, added that sometimes you can take the relationship with that dream contact to the next level by offering to co-author an article with them. This can be a win-win because they can get something published that they might not otherwise have the time to write, and you get to work closely with them and develop a relationship.
So, what do you write about?
The panel agreed that in today’s world, it is hard to be a generalist. Instead, writers should develop a niche. A writer should consider her interests and then try to become a topic authority by writing a lot about a particular topic. Also, Mr. Stein cautioned not to agonize trying to think of a completely unique topic. In our media saturated world, unique topics don’t exist. No matter the topic, someone somewhere has likely already written about it.
Determining where to publish
Getting an article published involves learning which publications to target. As a general strategy, Mr. Stein stressed that it is wise to target publications that are under constant pressure to fill space in the next edition. There are publications in all industries that are not staffed by full-time reporters, and instead rely on submissions from volunteers in order to produce each issue. You’re probably reading some of them right now. Do a bit of research on which ones publish a lot of new content. Another way to do this is to find your “mirror”. A mirror is someone who has your same writing interests and has already gotten traction. Go on the Internet and find your mirror’s bio and see where she has already been published. Now you have a list of media outlets that are willing to accept articles in your niche.
How to approach an editor
After you decide what you want to write about and determine which publications to target, the next step is to approach the editor. The panelists agreed that before writing an entire piece, you should always send a query letter. A query letter is a letter to a publication’s editor where you lay out what you propose to write and explain why your topic is relevant to that publication. Using query letters is a good practice because it avoids spinning your wheels if you can’t find a publication willing to publish your article. Also, it is a good sales method. It is often easier to get an editor to bite if they have just a taste of what your idea is.
How writing and publishing can boost your career
The process of writing articles will increase your personal knowledge, and getting those articles published will let the world know about your expertise. But the devil is in the details.
The panelists all agreed that getting published leads to increased business opportunities, but not in totally obvious ways. Of course, there is the occasional client that will read your work and decide to contact you directly. But there are two more circuitous routes to clients that occur more frequently:
- getting published will lead to speaking engagements and those speaking engagements will lead to clients and job opportunities.
- publishing exposure can give you more credibility.
Mr. Schulman (another panelist) noted that his publishing exposure gave him more credibility inside of his firm, too. After he began publishing articles about e-discovery and law technology, he became his firm’s “go-to guy” in these areas. This go-to guy status garnered him respect from his partners and eventually led to promotions.
Mr. Kaplan finished our conversation with one final message of encouragement. “Just write! There are many unanticipated benefits if you just get something published.”
- Spend 15 minutes researching publications in your industry that use volunteer contributors and are constantly updating their content.
- Block out 20 minutes and write on a topic that comes easily to mind. Block out 10 minutes on another day to go back and re-visit your writing, edit mercilessly, and add links to make it useful to a reader.
- If your topic might interest other job seekers or professionals in mid-career transition, read our guest blogger guidelines, and if there’s a potential fit, go ahead and pitch it to us. If your topic better matches that of another blog, go and pitch it to them. Whatever the current quality of your writing, think in terms of committing to actually publishing it somewhere, if only on your own blog.
Photo courtesy http://www.pmportmanteau.com/
Tell us what unexpected opportunities have come your way by writing.
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