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I moved to Atlanta in 1997 to work as an editor for a publishing company that had a unique editorial model: Most of their articles were submitted by non-professional writers who were experts in a particular field.

The obvious benefit was that there was no cost for the articles. The writers were trying to establish their credentials as subject matter experts, not get paid for writing. The biggest drawback was, well, sometimes you get what you pay for!

But this job opened my eyes to the marketing power of writing and placing bylined articles. This content marketing strategy is as relevant today as it was a quarter-century ago.

Build Your Credibility

Articles are a versatile but often overlooked tool in a content marketing program. Getting articles published in academic and trade journals and local newspapers and magazines is a great way to build credibility and establish yourself and your business as experts in your industry.

But how do you go about it? The first step is to identify publications and websites that your customers and prospects are likely to read. In my experience, it’s hard to beat industry trade journals for this purpose.

According to one estimate, there are more than 7,000 trade journals published in the U.S. alone. Pretty much every industry that exists has at least one trade journal devoted to covering the industry and reporting on the latest news, developments and products.

Making Pitches

Once you have identified the trade journal(s) that cover your industry, the next step is to pitch them article ideas. Many trade journals have a page on their website that explains how to make pitches, so look for this and follow the instructions to a T.

At the least, the website will probably list the name and contact info for the editor. Before pitching the editor, you should spend some time getting to know the journal. What kinds of articles do they typically publish? What is their style and tone? What are the regular departments? Then tailor your pitches accordingly.

Remember that most trade journal editors get lots of unsolicited pitches, so try to make yours stand out. Be as specific as possible and focus your pitch on a unique or timely angle that isn’t being covered anywhere else. Include any relevant statistics, examples and tips you think might catch the editor’s attention.

Be sure to emphasize your specific expertise when making pitches so the editor knows your credentials. Trade journals usually include a brief bio along with the byline to give the article and author more credibility.

Writing the Article

Once your pitch is accepted, the fun part starts: Writing the article! Here are five tips for writing articles for industry trade journals:

1. Keep the content non-promotional. Your article is not an advertorial and cannot promote your company or your products and services. Period. Your byline and bio will let readers know who you and your company are and how they can reach you to learn more.

2. Follow the basics of good writing. Trade journals usually don’t expect the same quality of writing from unpaid contributors that they do from professional writers and journalists. But you should still write a quality article that follows basic grammar and punctuation rules. Here are a few of my top article writing tips.

Most editors aren’t going to spend a lot of time cleaning up poorly written articles — they’ll just toss them aside instead. If you’re not confident in your writing ability, consider hiring a professional freelancer to write the article for you.

3. Adhere to the journal’s editorial and style guidelines. Most trade journals follow certain editorial rules which the editor will share with you. Adhere closely to these rules to minimize editing time. Also respect the length guidelines — don’t submit a 1,000-word article if the editor asks for 500 words.

4. Meet deadlines and be responsive. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that the fastest way to get on an editor’s bad side is to miss deadlines and be non-responsive. There’s usually at least a little wiggle-room built into production schedules, so if you’re going to miss a deadline, let the editor know soon enough that he or she can plan accordingly.

5. Pitch first and submit later. It’s usually smart to pitch article ideas and get approval first instead of writing unsolicited articles and sending them to editors blind. This avoids potentially wasting time writing an article that trade journals don’t want. It also allows you to write the article based on specifications provided by the editor.

Establish Your Expertise

Don’t overlook the power of article marketing when planning your content marketing strategies. It can be a great way to establish your expertise and credentials with highly qualified customers and prospects.