How to Negotiate With Busy & Important Editors

Content marketing is one of those weird skills, and to some extent it either comes naturally or it doesn’t. One thing is for sure – you’ve got to be good with people. Mostly in written form via email, but you should be prepared for editors to want to call you as well. You also need to be confident.

The tricky thing about content marketing is that when you’re going for really top-level websites, there’s a lot of competition. Their editors receive emails in the hundreds every day, and on top of getting through them, they have plenty of other work to be doing!

So put yourself in their shoes. How would a busy you want to be approached? Anticipate their questions, understand that ‘you win some, you lose some’, and get ready to put on your Mr Potato ‘friendly’ face.

Start by getting to the point

When you send off your first email to an editor, you’re going in relatively blind. You don’t know them yet, and they don’t know you. So of course you should begin by introducing yourself, but don’t give them your life story. A good opening email should contain the following:

    • A clear, no-nonsense subject line
    • Who you are and what you do
    • Your reason for getting in touch
    • Why you chose their website or blog
What’s in it for them

You may wish to boost your credibility by including some examples of previous work that you’ve had published on other sites. You should also include an email signature that links out to your website and primary social media channels. Give them the option to find out more about who you are and what you do – if they want to.

If you’re using an email outreach system like Pitchbox, there are still ways to personalize your opening emails so they don’t feel detached. When setting up your templates, the program can auto-fill details such as the recipient’s first and last name, the name of their website, the URL and even the title of a recent blog post. This doesn’t always work perfectly, but it’s better than Dear Sir/Madam!

Finally, always remember to thank them for their time. If you need to follow-up with them, leave it for at least a week – there’s nothing more aggravating than having your inbox plagued daily by the same persistent hopeful who just won’t get the message.

Preemptively deal with questions and objections

This is where content marketing can feel a little bit like sales. You need to figure out what could be preventing an editor from wanting to work with you, and what their questions are likely to be when coming to an arrangement. For the most part, it’s the same points coming up time and again:

    • What’s your angle?
    • How does this work?
    • Do you expect payment?
    • Will you be promoting anything?
Are you looking for links?

Try to answer these questions yourself early on – in the first or second email – as it saves everybody time. Not just the editor, but you as well. There’s no point pursuing an opportunity that isn’t going to work.

You may want to save an email template that has all of these answers ready to go, but always remember to read through and tweak so your response feels natural.

The money issue can be a tumultuous one. Editors’ expectations are wildly varied, from “we charge $300 to publish a post on this website”, to “if it’s good, we’ll publish it” and “how much do you charge to write content?”.

Know your parameters: if you are offering a high quality post and it gets published by a powerful website, then the arrangement is mutually beneficial – they get content for free, and you get some free promo.

Learn to negotiate respectfully

Broadly speaking there are two ways to have a post published on another website: one way is with money (a sponsored post) and the other is by writing good quality editorial content (a guest post). The nature of marketing is such that if you’re promoting a business, more often than not you will be paying for sponsored placements.

So, you must learn to negotiate. The value of this life skill cannot be underestimated.

In How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, the author reminds us that “when dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity”.

In the online world, you’re dealing with blogs and websites that people have put a great deal of time and love into. If an editor gives you a quote for a sponsored post and you attempt to cut it right back, you’ll probably insult them.

Some pointers to consider when you’re trying to negotiate with editors:

  • Come back with a deal that is a reasonable step down if you’re negotiating. Not sure what that is? You can just ask if there is room for negotiation and see what they come up with.
  • Never attempt to bring an editor down in price by belittling the site, or telling them why your piece is awesome and should be accepted — leave the decision up to them and respect their rights
  • Assuming you intend to provide a good, interesting piece of writing that will benefit the readers of the website or blog in question, then stress the quality of what you’re offering. Decent content is what websites need, and business owners don’t always have time to update their blogs as much as they’d like. Reassure them that the post will be unique and tailored to their website
Make life easy for them

Busy and important editors are just that: busy. You may not get a response from them for several days, but that doesn’t mean they’re ignoring you. If there’s one thing editors appreciate, it’s people who go the extra mile to reduce their workload and make life easy.

So if you can think of a way to speed up and improve the process of negotiating, writing and publishing a guest/sponsored post with an editor, then offer it. Here are some suggestions:

  • If you’re writing content yourself, consider the editor and carefully proofread your work, so they don’t need to spend lots of time editing it and clearing up your sloppy grammar. Free grammar checking tools can be very useful
  • If the editor comes back with any changes, take the time to address them properly rather than rushing through them and not getting it quite right
  • Offer to upload content to be published on their behalf. This is an easy job if their website is built with a user-friendly CMS such as WordPress or Shopify. The host can assign you guest login details and still retain final sign-off before the post goes live
  • Optimize the post for keywords that the website wants to rank for. This way you will provide them with extra SEO juice that will make you a valuable contributor
  • Include images and image credits with your post to save them having to search for accompanying images themselves. Here’s how to find royalty-free images
  • If content guidelines have been provided, stick to them!
Have a friendly and positive attitude

To refer once again to Dale Carnegie, “if you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s good will”.

Making a good impression starts with being friendly, warm, and respectful. We can push and push to try and get our way and to bully editors and bloggers into publishing our carefully crafted piece of content, but it’s a hostile and frankly exhausting way to do business. What’s more, you will start to get a bad reputation – and reputation is vital.

Always be grateful of the fact that an editor has chosen to engage with you, rather than sending your outreach email into junk right off the bat. Positive outcomes that have been pleasant on both sides could well lead to more opportunities in the future. When your arrangement comes to a conclusion, always thank the editor for publishing, share the post on social media, pay them promptly (if money is involved) and leave things on good terms.

At the end of the day, success with influencer & content marketing often comes down to being open, sincere and professional with the editors you approach. That, and having a savvy mindset that means you will not get ripped off. You will always encounter some tricky customers, as with any role that involves direct contact with people. But if you can master this useful skill, you will become an asset to any marketing team.

Related Story: Dear PR People, Stop Sending Terrible Pitches 

About the Writer:

Gareth Simpson – Technical SEO & Startup Founder

Gareth has worked as an SEO for almost a decade and has recently started his own content & SEO agency. His specialisms are managing content and blogger outreach, as well as carrying out full site migrations and on-page optimization projects.

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