by Karla Pollack and Paula Hartman

Write it, and they will read. Unfortunately, that’s not always true. Increasingly, it’s becoming all about the content, content, content. That’s where sales and marketing techniques come into play. Start by taking inventory of the stack of reading materials on your desk not to mention in the reception area and in the recycling bucket, never to be opened by the target readers.


What can you do to increase the odds of your article seeing the glow of fluorescent light over the member’s desk? The Basics like any writing assignment, its good to start with the basic five Ws: who, what, where, when and why.

  1. Who are you writing to? Is your target audience a group of conservative investment bankers or an association of real estate agents? You want to write in the style preferred by the industry at large whether it be colloquial, or crisp and formal.

  2. What should you write? What’s keeping your readers up at night? Can your topic solve some of their problems? Clearly articulate the topic in the headline and make sure your content delivers its promised solutions.

  3. When should you place the article? It sounds obvious, but you want to strategically publish your article at the appropriate time of the year or when there is the best fit with the rest of the editorial content in a publication. (For example, you wouldn’t want to cover fall cleanup in the December issue.)

  4. Where should you publish? First, determine which publication types you have available, and then select the publishing vehicle that makes sense for your organization. Don’t worry about the “glam” factor of the publications. If your audience reads a highly technical trade journal, then that is where they should find you. Some professions may only check fax communications if that’s where all their bids are delivered to the office. On the other hand, e-zines are effective niche publications for other groups.

  5. Why write the article? A published article serves as a great promotion for your organization. If you are writing an article that can help your target audience, it’s a perfect opportunity to attach your company name to this resource.

The Next Steps:

So you’ve answered the basics and are all set to go. What are some strategies to help get your “Pulitzer Prize” winning piece read? Ask your current members what they read. Going back to No. 4 above, you can ask them basic questions about what magazines they read and which sections.


Do they use e-mail at home and in the office? Do they subscribe to any e-news services? You also can ask how much research they conduct on the Internet and if they generally read beyond the first paragraph of online articles. Be sure to ask a few specific questions that will be helpful in your particular situation.


Write for the reader. It may be all about you before starting, but once you embark on the writing odyssey, you need to seat yourself in the target audiences’ reading chair and answer “what’s in it for them.”


Create an enticing title. A bold headline should not only explain exactly what the article is, but also provide a reason to read on. A play on words can sometimes be effective, but you don’t want to be overly clever. There is no worse reaction than someone scratching their head, murmuring, “huh?”


Sum it up in the lead paragraph. You’ve seen dismal statistics about the media clutter and how little time is spent by the actual readership skimming through each issue. Gone are the days when people poured over publications page by page. You don’t want the reader to feel “cheated” after spending the time to read the introductory paragraph. Briefly outline the problem and how to fix it at the beginning of the article.


Place a byline under the title. The author’s name may never be seen at the end of the article if the reader never reads beyond the first paragraph. However, you can usually include a brief bio at the end of the article that gets recognition for the association as well as the author.


Tell a story. Talk about real problems and how to go about addressing them. Relate a story that the reader could possibly identify with and provide practical solutions. Readers will be much more interested if they feel they can apply this technique to their situation, because you’ve shown that it has worked for their peers.


Try collaborative marketing. In the case of associations, what companies are targeting the same organizations or their members? If you are talking about high-end printing machines, you might be able to incorporate critical advice in your article from a banking partner for the lease, an accountant’s amortization or depreciation schedule, IT suggestions for linking into the network and so forth.


Review editorial schedules. Get a copy of a publication’s editorial calendar and select the best issue in which to appear. This advance planning helps you set your production schedule for writing.


Incorporate current events. If you are going to make a point of reference, avoid 25-year-old case studies unless they are still relevant.


Compile an article archive. Start putting together story ideas, background resource materials and your organization’s information that can be incorporated into future writing assignments. After all, it is much easier to edit and expand upon existing notes than starting from scratch each time.


Outsource writing when it makes sense to do so. Let’s face it, until you have an archive of articles in the vault, writing diverts time away from catching up on e-mail correspondence, courting clients on the golf course and meeting with the accountant. If you don’t have a full-time communications person on your staff, you can hire a talented freelancer for the writing mission.


Proof it for readability. Run the article by someone outside the industry to see if they come away with a basic understanding of what you’re writing about.

Now put your best pen forward, and may your articles be reader magnets.


This article was published in “FALL 2004: 501(c) Publishing.” Reproduced with the permission of McNeill Group, Inc.