|Marketing to Engineers
Marketing communications guru Robert
W. Bly provides insight on reaching the technical mind.
Anyone who markets on the Internet
needs to know the basics.
Effectively Promoting Your Web Site
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Site Will Make it a Successful Site? Think Again. Successful Sites Need to Be Promoted.
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To Write a Good Advertisement
Author of the best selling Copywriter's Handbook provides tips on writing ads
that get results.
Robert W. Bly's
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Must reading before sending out your
In Search of Ink
- Getting Your Company's Message Into Print
Marketing and the Law
Every marketer should read and know
these or be ready for an onslaught of legal problems.
Web Site Builders Need to Know About Trademark Law
"Copyright-free" clip art
web sites, a web site domain that is not protected by a national trademark, did your web
designer use a competitor's name in the meta tags when building your site? A simple
trademark oversight that cost computer giant Compaq to pay three million dollars to the
registrant of AltaVista.com to purchase their $35 a year rights.
If these issues don't yell
"danger," you should read this article to find out why they should.
In the information age, information
is the central nervous system of your business. Treat and guard it accordingly.
In Search of Ink
Getting a companys message into
print isnt as hard as
it seems--as long as you do your homework and
follow the publicity businesss recognized procedures.
by Amy Sprecher Bly and Robert W. Bly
Just one article in a trade journal can
bring a company hundreds of leads and thousands of dollars in sales. And with more than
6,000 magazines from which to choose, its a safe bet theres at least one that
could accommodate a story from your company.
Yet while nearly all business people know the value of placing trade
journal stories, they dont always know how to approach an editor. Whats the
best way to pitch an idea? Should you present more than one idea at a time? Is it wise to
present the same story to more than one editor? Should you call or write first?
Following are some tips that answer those questions, and more. They can
give you an edge in placing an article in the right journal for your company and reaping
the rewards of increased recognition.
Chances are that you already know which journals youd like to
approach. The magazines that cross your desk every week are strong candidates, because
theyre likely to deal with you and your competition. But if you have an idea for an
article that is outside your industry, or if youre just not sure which magazine
would be most appropriate, here are two excellent resource: Bacons Publicity
Checker, from Bacons Publishing Co., Chicago; and Writers
Market, from Writers Digest Books, Cincinnati.
Bacons is the bible of the public relations industry.
It lists thousands of magazines and newsletters according to business or industry
category, and also provides an alphabetical index. Besides giving the basics of magazine
titles, addresses, phone numbers and editors names, Bacons notes
circulation and the types of articles published by each journal.
Writers Market, by comparison, lists fewer
publications, but describes their editorial requirements in far greater detail. Since
Writers Market is published primarily to help free-lance writers find
suitable markets for their work, it is more helpful than Bacons when it comes
to finding a home for a full-length feature story.
If you are not familiar with a magazine that sounds as if it may be
appropriate for your article, be sure to read a few issues before contacting an editor
Many trade journals will send a sample issue and set of editorial
guidelines to prospective authors upon request. These can provide valuable clues as to
style, format, and appropriate topics. They often tell how to contact the magazine, give
hints on writing an article, describe the manuscript review process and discuss any
KNOW THE MAGAZINE
The quickest way to turn off an editor is to offer an idea that has
nothing to do with his or her magazine. My pet peeve with people calling or writing
to pitch an idea is that they often havent studied the magazine, says Rick
Dunn, editor of Plant Engineering. If they havent read several issues and
gotten a handle on who we are and who our audience is, they wont be able to pitch an
Theres no substitute for knowing the audience and the various
departments within a magazine, adds Jim Russo, editor of Packaging.
Im more impressed by someone who has an idea for a particular section than by
someone who obviously doesnt know anything about our format.
Every magazine is different in some way from its competitors and from
other magazine in general. Tone, style, content and the quality of a journals
writing and illustrations should all be studied to increase your chances
of making a sale.
Offer an editor the type of article that the magazine seems to prefer-
frequency and length are good indicators of preferred subjects-and the odds are more in
Companies can easily increase their chances for coverage by requesting
a magazines editorial calendar and scanning it for planned articles that might mesh
with their products or activities.
If people respond to our editorial calendar with ideas for
specific issues, great! says Mr. Dunn. Or if they can provide background for a
story we want to do, theyll have an edge in getting into the magazine.
You may even want to suggest feature story ideas for next years
calendar. The trick is to do that tactfully. Dont come across as pushy or
demanding, warns Mr. Dunn. Stay away from saying things like, This is
important to your readers or, You should run this story. If someone
knows our business better than we do, well hire him or well go back to
However, if you spot a new trend in say, packaging food in plastic
containers vs. glass jars, and you can provide statistics and information to back up your
claim, go ahead and contact the appropriate editor. He or she will probably appreciate
your interest and effort.
THE INITIAL CONTACT
Should you call or should you write? Most editors wont object to
either method of pitching an idea, but they usually have a preference for one or the
other. Its simply a matter of personal choice and time constraints. If you
dont know how a particular editor feels on the subject, call and ask. An appropriate
opening might be: This is Joe Jones from XYZ Corp. and I have a story idea you might
be interested in. Do you have a few minutes right now, or should we set up a time to
discuss it later in the week?
An editor who prefers a letter or written outline will no doubt take
this opportunity to tell you so. Editors who prefer a quick description over the phone
will appreciate your respect for their time, whether they take the call or ask you to
phone back later.
Some editors, such as Mr. Russo, favor a phone call to zero in on an
idea. If I know someone and have confidence in their work, Ill often say go
ahead and submit an article. Otherwise, I like to see an outline first, he says.
Mark Rosenzweig, editor at Chemical Engineering, agrees.
With a phone call, I can tell someone right away hes on the right track. But a
letter summarizing the idea is OK, too. In any case, if I like an idea, Ill then
request a detailed outline describing the proposed article.
A written query with a detailed outline appeals to Mr. Dunn because, he
says, A phone call is all right, but I cant make an editorial decision until I
see a query letter.
At Modern Materials Handling, Assistant Editor Barbara Spencer
suggests writers send in a letter of introduction, followed by a phone call a week or two
later. We look for someone who knows his field and products, and the letter helps us
gauge that expertise, she explains. But call the magazine first and find out
which editor handles the type of article you have in mind.
Thats good advice for dealing with any journal. A two-minute
phone call to find the right editor, get the correct spelling of his or her name and check
the address where the query letter should be sent can save time and aggravation later.
All letters should be addressed to a specific editor. A letter that
begins Dear Editor not only could end up in the wrong hands, but its
also unlikely to impress the editor with the writers research abilities.
Follow-up calls are almost always a good idea, too. The editors
reaction to your call will determine whether you should call again later. If an editor
flat out rejects an idea, accept the verdict gracefully and try another publication.
If youre told an idea has merit but needs further
explanation or a different approach, you may be able to get a go-ahead by answering the
editors questions or suggesting a new single over the phone.
THREES A CROWD?
On the other hand, you may need to supply more information in writing
and call again a couple of weeks later. Of course, if the editor gives you a go ahead,
great. Youve cleared the major hurdle to getting an article in print.
What if you have more than one great story idea you want to pitch? Most
editors are willing to listen to two or even three at once, but dont overdo it. Each
idea should be fully developed ahead of time, not pulled out of a hat in
desperation if an original idea is turned down. A good tack is to ask editors what kind of
stories or applications theyre looking for. Perhaps youll find out
theyre interested in new ways to use one of your company products, or how a new
government regulation is affecting your industrys production operations. They may
well have an interest in something that ties in with your company and which you are
qualified to write about.
Mentioning certain elements in your initial query-whether over the
phone or in writing-can sway an editor toward accepting your proposal. For instance, many
magazines seek practical information that shows their readers how to save money, time,
labor or improve on-the-job performances. Statistics, benefits, examples and how-to tips
can strengthen your case substantially.
Specifics are what sell a story: Youre much more likely to grab
an editors attention if you say, Our newly developed Dry Scrubber pollution
control device saved the Smithson Paper Plant $4,400 a day in fuel costs than if you
say, Our new product can save paper plants a lot of money. Then go on to
explain just how the company has saved money. And be prepared to back up your claim with
If someone tells us something is more efficient than something
else, we want to know how much more efficient, says Mr. Russo. Superlatives should
be backed up with percentages and explanations.
The more help your idea promises readers, the more likely it is to
interest an editor. Were interested in articles that help our readers solve
specific problems, says Mr. Dunn. We want technical, engineering-oriented but
down-to-earth articles that address common problems. A good question to ask before coming
to us is, Will this provide readers with information they can apply to their
Put yourself in the readers shoes, analyze their problems, and
you will have a better perception of what kind of articles an editor wants. If you happen
to read the magazine regularly, you may well have a head start in coming up with useful
ideas. Also, any knowledge and technical expertise you have will help you sell
yourself to an editor as an authoritative source.
We prefer bylines by technical experts or plant engineers, since
that is our audience, Mr. Dunn says. If theyve got a good subject,
well go as far as necessary to accommodate them.
Adds Ms. Spencer: We value technical ability above writing
ability. Know your field and its products; if you are visible in your field
for giving speeches or being active in a professional organization, so much the
But dont despair if you are not a technical whiz or industry
name: Plenty of trade journal authors, including legions of public relations
executives, arent either. They are published because they take the time to study a
subject they want to write about. That doesnt mean they acquire nearly the amount of
knowledge a technical expert would have; they are simply able to delve into a subject
enough to write clearly, concisely and logically about it. For many trade journals,
thats all thats required.
Take Packaging. Says Mr. Russo, We have both outstanding
journalists and excellent technical people on staff, so we can consider articles that are
short on either end. What counts for him and scores of the editors is the
newsworthiness of an article.
Im particularly interested in new ways of doing things,
whether someone has found a better way to package products, or new and significant
developments that are practical.
Mr. Rosenzweig looks for heavy duty nuts and bolts articles, not
puff or promotional pieces. Title or position isnt that important to use-its
whether theres any
meat in an idea, he says.
BEWARE OF BIAS
Impartiality is another must with many editors. Remember,
theyre not there to praise your companys products-although being published can
be as good as if they were; theyre there to give readers an objective overview of
going-on in their industry. This can be a particular sticking point in dealing with public
relations personnel, although most editors recognize the one-hand-feeds-the
other usefulness of such contacts.
Were certainly not prejudiced against articles from PR
firms, says Mr. Rosenzweig. We just generally have to make more revisions to
eliminate their tendency toward one-sidedness. We want all the disadvantages spelled out,
as well as the advantages.
Adds Mr. Dunn: If an article is about storage methods, we want to
see all 15 methods discussed, not just the ones used by the writers company or
Still, the fact that public relations people are generally eager to
give editors information and can be trusted to produce articles on target and on time
helps endear them to many editors. We dont have to chase after them,
explains Mr. Dunn. They understand our role a little better than most people, they
know how we operate, and they tend to give us good service.
So, follow the public relations agencies example and make
yourself available to editors when they call, follow their guidelines, and deliver written
copy as promised. Youll put yourself in good stead with people who are in a position
to exert considerable influence on your companys fortunes.
Some magazines will kill a feature story simply for lack of photos or
illustrations. Many others weigh heavily the availability of appropriate graphics. Those
visual extras can be a deciding factor in choosing one story idea over
another. Even though the larger journals may have illustrators on staff to produce
high-quality finished drawings, they often work from original sketches supplied by an
You can get a good idea of how important visuals are to a particular
magazine, before you make your pitch, by scanning a couple of issues. Note whether photos
or drawings are used. If photos, are they black-and-white or color? Is a least one
illustration used with every story of one page or more? If so, you should be prepared to
provide to provide the same. Otherwise, your article may move to the reject pile,
regardless of its other merits.
Professional photographs, while nice, are not necessary for most trade
journals. Straightforward, good-quality 35mm color slides satisfy most trade editors. Some
magazines will also take black-and-white glossies or color-prints-an editor will be happy
to tell you whats acceptable.
A KEY RULE: EXCLUSIVITY
Never submit the same idea, or story, to more than one competing
magazine at a time. Only if the idea is rejected should you approach another editor. This
is one point nearly all editors agree on: They want exclusive material-especially for
If a story is particularly timely or newsworthy, and has run in a
magazine not directly competing with the one youre approaching, you may be able to
get around the problem by working with the editor to expand or rewrite the piece. But be
up-front about it or you will risk losing an editors confidence and goodwill.
Id like everything to be exclusive, says Mr. Russo.
That increases its value to us and can sway us toward acceptance if its a
borderline story. Offering world exclusives can also make an
article more appealing to an editor. That means you promise to submit the article to any
other magazine, even if its in a completely different field. Whether you are willing
to do that depends on how much you want a story in a particular magazine. You may decide
youd rather try to get more mileage out of a story by submitting it to a number of
unrelated magazines or newspapers.
As Mr. Dunn points out: Exclusivity is a quality consideration
for a feature article. Editors dont want their readers to pick up their magazine and
see something that theyve already read elsewhere. Often the exceptions to this
rule are column items or case histories-for example, a problem/solution/result story
describing how a particular customer successfully used a companys product. However,
even those items should not be submitted to a magazine that competes with one that has
already accepted them.
Submitting unsolicited manuscripts is always a risky proposition-again,
with the exception of case histories and short new pieces. Some editors never want to see
an unsolicited manuscript; others are willing to review them and may even publish a few. Chemical
Engineering falls into that category.
We get hundreds of unsolicited manuscripts every year, but we
have the resources to do a heavy amount of rewriting for the ones we use, says Mr.
On the other hand, Ms. Spencer says she never uses unsolicited feature
manuscripts, and Mr. Russo Cant remember the last time his magazine used an
unsolicited piece as a major story.
What it boils down to is this: Most editors prefer to be asked about
story ideas before an author writes the article. It saves them the substantial amount of
time required to read a lengthy manuscript to determine whether the subject if right for
the magazine. And it saves the author the time and trouble of researching and writing an
article that might never get accepted anywhere.
Even if you have a manuscript already in hand, by submitting it
blind you may lead an editor to suspect youre submitting it to nine
other magazines at the same time. Thats not what an editor wants to hear. Its
far better to query first, then send the story only if the editor expresses interest.
LENGTH AND DEADLINE
Once youve got your idea accepted, which is always tentative
until final review of the manuscript, youll need to know any length and deadline
requirements. If the editor doesnt volunteer this information, by all means ask. The
answers may help avoid misunderstanding later.
As a rule, be generous with length. Include everything you think is-or
may be-relevant, and dont skimp on examples. Editors would rather cut material than
have to request more.
A few magazines, such as Chemical Engineering, are very flexible
on length. We run articles anywhere from three paragraphs to 40 to 50 pages long,
says Mr. Rosenweig. Most other magazines give authors more specific limits. Check
with your editor for the specific range.
Deadlines, too, can vary considerably among journals. Some dont
like to impose any deadlines at all, especially if they work far enough ahead that
theyre not pressed for material. But if the article is intended for publication in a
special issue, the editors will probably want the finished manuscript in hand at least two
months prior to publication. That allows time for final revisions, assembling photos or
illustrations, and production.
Chemical Engineering, for example, has a one- 11/2-year lead time on many of the
articles it assigns. In at least one case, the magazine waited for six years before
receiving a promised manuscript. Not surprisingly, the editor had completely forgotten
about the story.
Some magazines may send a follow-up letter to remind delinquent authors
about expected articles, but, as Mr. Dunn says: We wont chase after someone.
If we dont hear from a writer about six months, we figure the article is never going
Dont put an editors patience to the test. You may gain a
reputation as being undependable, which can hurt your future chances of getting ink.
By Winning an editors friendship, or at least his or her respect, you may
find yourself in the pleasant position of being asked for information about your company
in the future. At the least, youll find a receptive audience for your story ideas.
So how do you develop this kind of rapport? Stay tuned to editors
needs by keeping up with information in their field, as well as your own; staying up to
date with any changes-in format or content-of their publications; heeding their
suggestions; being considerate of their time; and, above all, delivering articles as
promised. The best way to cultivate an editors friendship is to produce
results, advise Mr. Dunn, because the people who are sincerely interested in
helping us out are the ones we go back to.
© Copyright 1999, Robert W. Bly. Reprinted by the kind
permission of Bob Bly, Copywriter/Consultant/Seminar Leader, 22 East Quackenbush Avenue,
3rd floor · Dumont, NJ 07628 Phone (201) 385-1220 · Fax (201) 385-1138 email: firstname.lastname@example.org