665: Becoming a Contributor at a Major Publication: 3 Mistakes to Avoid w/ Jason Feifer

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode we talk to Jason Feifer, Editor-in-Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine.

Click here to connect with this guest on LinkedIn.

A relationship with the right referral partner could be a game changer for any BEDB company. So what if you could reverse engineer these relationships at a moment's notice, start a podcast, invite potential referral partners to be guests on your show and grow your referral network faster than ever? Learn more at sweet fish Mediacom. You're listening to the be tob growth show, a podcast dedicated to helping be to be executives achieve explosive growth. Whether you're looking for techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. I'm James Carberry and I'm Jonathan Green. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to the BB growth show. We are here today with Jason Fifer. He is the Editor in Chief at Entrepreneur magazine. He's also the host of a really popular business podcast that I listen to all the time called problem solvers. Jason, how you doing it a man? Hey Man, thanks for having me. I'm really excited to chat with you today. Before we dive into to this topic, we're going to be talking about three three common mistakes that you see folks making whenever they try or they're trying to become a contributor at large publication. Obviously, in your context it's at entrepreneur, but before we dive into that, would love to just hear you just a little bit of background on you kind of what is your day to day look like? Between all of the different things that you're handling at entrepreneur? M Day to day is a horror show. I don't even know. I don't even know how to describe my day to day. You know, I'd be the thing that I love about this job and the reason why it's absolutely my favorite job I've ever had. Favorite job, I don't know what we're just came out of my mouth was every day is totally different and the demands of this job are so multi media. For example, I started the morning I came here, I I edited a piece, I ran down to tape of like a t like an Internet television thing that came up here interviewing some people, and then I got...

...you. I'm doing a podcast and then later I'm running out for a meeting and then later I'm going to try to record some of my own podcasts. Like it's just so many different things, I guess, so much coming at me at the same time, which I just adore, because I've reached that stage in my career. We're doing the same thing over and over again, is is depressing and boring. My last job I was I was I was editing features over and over again, which is something I had aspired to do, and then I got to a position where that's what I was doing. I was editing long form features every month and I was like, is this it? Is this? Is this actually it? And so this is this? Is this? The exact opposite of that. I love it. I love it and tell us a little bit of problem solvers, because I obviously people listening to this, I think, are going to get a ton of value out of out of that show. So just kind of real briefly. What's that show about? Yeah, so that show. It's about entrepreneurs solving unexpected problems in their business. So each episode focus is on one entrepreneur, one specific problem, often a business defining problem that they faced and how they solved it. And we don't know. It's not a qua show. It's more of like a radio produced show, so it's me doing a narration and then you hear from the person throughout and I do that so that I can make sure that I really dive into and explore the themes and the challenges and the way that they overcome them. Because the thing is about entrepreneurship, everybody faces similar challenges, but people often don't talk about them. So it can feel lonely, but it really shouldn't because in fact, the problems are the things that bring us together. Yep, I love it. Awesome. So so, Jason, I want to dive into to this topic because I think this is something that I've been seeing that a lot of people are trying to do. Obviously, who wouldn't want to be what founder? Wouldn't want to be a contributor at entrepreneur, Anchor Forbes or insert big publication here? And you are coming at it from a perspective of actually having some inside baseball knowledge on how this can happen. And as we're talking about it offline, you should the first mistake that you see folks making is around actually pitching the right...

...person, and so this is something you know. You get pitched often. You know, hey, I want to be a contributor, but you are actually not not the right person to talk to at Entrepreneur. That's the case, can you elaborate on that? Like you're not the right person, and you, I would even think you know, you being editor in chief, like Oh, that makes sense, like you would control who does that. So I guess who is the right person at at a publication that people should be targeting? Yeah, so I'm not the right person. I just want to stress that over and over, because my this, this is, this is what my inbox is. Like half of my inbox as people asking to be contributors. And I got to say, when you reach out to the wrong person at an organization, particularly if you're reaching out to the wrong especially busy person, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, like you're not even reaching my eyes, like delete, delete, delete. The second I see that somebody's asking to be a contributor, deletally. So what you need to do is is identify which editors work with online contributors, because most don't. Publications or structured in really the publications like ink Fast Company, Fortune, these these places that publish professional journalists work, and then also online contributors, which we think of, as you know, basically not a non professional writers, but entrepreneurs who consultant whoever. They're usually handled by separate teams. So I work with professional journalists. I don't. I don't work with contributors. Sometimes people will reach out to me and they'll they'll be they'll want to contribute and I'll see their value and I'll pass it along to a contributor editor. But anyway, you need to find an editor who will generally have a title that either is like contributors editor, or sometimes insights editor or something like that. Track down people who are already writing for the publication that you want to write for and just ask them who their editor is like. That's the most important thing you can find, and then you want to reach out to that person. Your chances of success by just simply spending the time finding the right person to reach out to will go up infinitely. I love it.

Okay. So, so this next one that we talked about was inside the pitch itself. You see that people have botch this seventeen ways from Sunday because they're they're pitching themselves instead of the idea. Talk to us about this. This is so listen. We're not like and I don't I don't mean to be harsh about it, but I just so that you can understand the perspective of people inside the building. We're not hiring you, so we don't. I don't care about your resume that much right like. What we care about is your actual value to readers. So that's that's what anybody who works at a publication cares about more than anything else, is value to readers, because that's what we do. We serve our readers. So when somebody reaches out to me or anybody here, as they very frequently do, the biggest mistake they make is that they just pitch themselves as if all we're doing is sitting around waiting for qualified people to reach out to us so that we can give them an opening to write for the site. It's not how it works. What we want to do is make sure that you know something and can communicate that something in a way that is valuable to our readers. So there's only one way for us to know that, and it isn't your resume or bullet points. It's by you literally writing some thing. It's it's I hate I did this when I started out as a freelance writer. Like a professional freelance writer, I'd write something on spec which means that you write it and then you try to sell it. It's an all, it's awful. I hate it. Like, I'm going to be honest with you, I'm telling you to do something that I personally but guess what, I did it, and when I tell people to do this, their chances of success go up significantly. You need to write it. You need to write out something that you think belongs on our site, like top to bottom, even give it a headline, and then send it to that contributor editor and then when you do, you can give all your background information and your bio and whatever, so that we know that you're not just some person off the street, because we want to know that you're legit. But the evaluation will come purely on what you said. Did you send something that belongs on our site or not? That's where the decision is. That makes sense. So I've heard people talk...

...about and of not necessarily writing entire articles, just pitching and of Hey, these are these are some headlines that I think do really well. See that. I noticed. It's a funny thing that people do. I mean, listen, I'm I journalism is not a and and publications in general are. They're not regimented. Everybody operates a little differently. Every publication and every editor operates differently. So everything that I'm telling you is kind of general best practices. It's entirely possible that you could find some editor who, if you just said, a series of headlines though aside. I I grant that, but I can't tell based on a headline whether a story is going to be good or not. The you know, think about it this way. I don't know if you know this, but in the world of book publishing there are completely different ways to sell a novel, a fiction, piece of fiction and a piece of nonfiction. A piece of nonfiction you can sell just like a bitch. You put together like a sample chapter and in a table contents whatever. You don't have to write the entire book. Fiction you have to write the entire book. You write the entire book and then you see if you can sell it. You know why? Because the premise of a book, at the premise of a novel, and the execution of the novel are do totally different things. I could tell you the greatest idea for a novel, but I might have no idea how to write that novel. So nobody's going to pay me to write a novel. Based on an idea. And similarly, nobody's going to green light, or very few people are going to green light a story based on a headline. I never do it and I don't do it when I write, when I work with professional journalists either, because I need to know what is this story going to be and can you actually communicate the value to the readers that I'm looking for? That makes perfect sense. So that the headline is an I mean you're not even really past the starting point at that point, because the the execution of what you do at that headline is so much more important, and that that makes perfect sense. I love that. So this third piece that we're going to talk about this th third of common mistake that you see people making all the time. I...

...and get this being at are, you know, just getting people pitching trying to be on our show. You know, I see people like this every single day where they're clearly they've shoved me into some sort of sales automation platform that's just blasting out emails to five hundred podcasts that they're trying to get featured on, and it's very it's just abundantly obvious that they have no clue anything about what our show is about. Zero context for what the type of content we put into the world, and that's in the same vein. Is The the mistake that you see a lot of people making. They're just not paying attention to what you guys publish, and so the pitch is kind of doomed from the start. Can You unpack that for us? Yeah, it's absolutely dumed from the start. It's a waste of your time. If you're going to spend your time, spend it getting to know one or two publications and then reaching out to those specific editors, versus rounding up email addresses for five hundred publications and blasting something out, because I guarantee you everybody that's five hundred publications can sniff out immediately that you do not know anything about the publication and then this was some kind of mass blast. I have people. Let's just for a second like problem solvers is podcast that I do. People pitch me problem solvers episodes all the time and guess what, they don't pitch me a problem. Do you like? It's fine, blowing right. They'll be like so crazy to me. The literal instructions for what belongs in the show is in the title of the show and instead people do they don't do it, then what they'll do is they'll just be like, you know, I'm this successful person, I'd love to be on your show, or I wrote a book, I'd love to be on your show. And it's like, guys, the show is about problem solving. Tell me a problem that you solved. It's literally making it so much. Why didn't you do it? The answer is good, people are lazy. So listen straight up, if you're listening to this right now, the number one thing you have to do is...

...not be lazy. Like, if you are not lazy, you are already heads and toes, whatever phrases, above everybody else. So spend some time getting to know if you want to write for Entrepreneurcom, you're on a rite for fortunecom, for inked at whatever. Spend some time on the site. Just just read through it. See what they're publishing, see what they're doing for their readers. Like if you spend some time critically, if you just ask the question why did they publish this? Ask that question and then come to an answer, and the answer is what they're serving their readers. So now you understand how an editor thinks and now you have a better sense of what it is that you can pitch the publication of the publication will imagine wanted to run. It's that simple. And then think about it. Let me just add like a layer of complexity to it, which is that you want to stand out. So I think sometimes people might go to my go to go to our site and they'll see that we you run a bunch of stories on marketing and so they'll just be well, great, all right, a story and it will be called five things to improve your marketing or something. But that is so generic and we've written, we've run a bazillion versions of stories like that that it's not going to stand out, it's not going to feel fresh and new and the editor that you're reaching out to is not going to be excited to run it. So think about how you can differentiate yourself in what is really a market place of ideas. Can you offer something that's timely? Can you offer something with with a some kind of time hook? Do you have insights or some kind of anecdotes or some or some experiences that will rise above everything else that's already out there? You're competing not just against contributors who are actively writing for us, but you're competing against things that we've already published. So you need to think really creatively and think about what you truly have to offer and then start with that. is fantastic advice, Jason. I really appreciate you walking through all those things. So finding the right person, making sure they're actually pitching the right person, and then in the...

...pitch, stop pitching yourself, pitch the idea, focus on the quality of the idea and actually execute on that idea right out the article itself, before before pitching it, and then just paying attention to what they're publishing, looking at and really asking yourself why did they hit go on this thing? And ultimately it's going to be because it added value to readers. So making sure that your pitch, your article that you're pitching, is a line to that. And I love the piece about specificity in in in the content, the five ways to grow your business. I just wrote about this this morning on Linkedin. If you saw a headline that was how this company created forty seven case studies overnight or three ways to grow Your Business, what headline are you clicking on and every single time it's going to be the first one because of the specificity of it. It tells you the specific problem that you are going to learn how to solve, going back to the name of your podcast, right there in the headline. And then, so long as the content delivers on that promise, people are going to want to continue consuming the content that you read in the publication. Knows that, and so to make you a contributor make sense for them, because you're creating content that the reader wants to come back and read over and over and over again. So this is is. That's a great summary. And you know what, let me let me just add one other way to think about this about when you're reaching out to an editor. People like when their work is valued, and if you reach out and have displayed zero interest in the work of the person that you now want something from, they're going to have zero interests in you. So when people reach out to me and it's very clear that they have not listened to a single episode of problem solvers, that it didn't even occur to them to pull up an episode of problem solvers, but now suddenly they want to be on problem solvers, honestly, I feel it just as a human being. My feeling is like screw you, and the time to an episode before you pitch me, like come on, but and it's like, and I that's...

...not my job. My job is not to be flattered. My job is not to like wait around for people who just like me. That's not my job. But I'm just telling you, from a human standpoint, you are dealing with human beings on the other end of whatever it is that you want, and and the the number one way to flatter those human beings is to pay attention to what they do and to see some value in it and communicate that you see that value. It goes a long way and because because they are communicating to you that they see value in it, that, in essence, is is a microway to add value to you. And so the thing that I always talk about, Bason, is this idea of like value first and really letting that penetrate everything that you do, because when you're not positioning yourselves to add value first to someone and you're just trying to extract value on the front end of a relationship like that just doesn't work. Ever, like Gary v talks about it all the time in the cut, like in context of dating, like you don't go to a bar, sit down to a girl and put your hotel key down and say hey, let's let's go up to the room and do our thing, like it just doesn't work that way. Like you have to be able to add value you before trying to extract value, and I think that I see it all the time in people trying to pitch me when I was writing for the huving imposed even now with the show, like I get hitched all the time and it's like at like figure out a way to add value to me first before just asking me for something, because it just doesn't work. And so I love that you you explain that in a much more eloquent way in your explanation. But it's if I eloquent that I screamed the phrase, but it's it's an accurate reflection of of my own sentiment as well that I feel the exact same way. I just I haven't quite scream screw you and a mic yet, but but I think I'm getting there. I recommend it. It's good, awesome, Jason. This has been fantastic. I really appreciate your time today. If somebody's listening to this they want to stay connected with you obviously subscribe to problem solvers on...

Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts. How is going to listener to stay connected with you and everything you've got going on? Yeah, so thank you. The the number one way is to go to my website, just because that's a good collection of everything there. So my name is Jason Fifer. My website, believe it or not, Jason Fifercom Jaso and Feife are couple things that you might want to look out for. Their number one is so there's problem solvers. I also have another podcast which is Super Fun, called Pest Miss Archive. It's a history of unfounded fears of innovation. So each week we look at the moment that a new piece of technology was introduced and try to understand why it freaked everyone out. I think I just said each week. That is not true because they don't come out every week, but you know whatever, that's just we're going getting aspirational. And then also have a newsletter which I would be subscribe to. It's a monthly thing that I called the Fifer five, the five entrepreneuralian sites that excited and impressed me the most every month. So you can go check that out and then I'm being you know, they're my email addresses on their I do look at all my emails, though. I'm going to warn you if it looks like it was a spam email that was sent out to five hundred people that I hit. The otherwise happen to be in time. Awesome Day, so I'll get thank you so much for your time today. This has been fantastic and I really appreciate it. Hey, thank you. There are lots of ways to build a community and we've chosen to build the bed be growth community through this podcast. But because of the way podcasts work, it's really hard to engage with our listeners, and without engagement it's tough to build a great community. So here's what we've decided to do. We're organizing small dinners across the country with our listeners and guests. No sales pitches, no agenda, just great conversations with like minded people. Will Talk Business, will talk family, will talk goals and dreams, will build friendships. So if you'd like to be a part of a beatb growth dinner in a sitting near you, go to be to be growth dinnerscom. That's be to be growth dinnerscom thank you...

...so much for listening until next time.

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