Who you need to know to get published

Woman working on her laptop sitting on a bench, representative of a magazine editor

When it comes to getting published, it’s about who you know as much as what you know. Understand the media hierarchy and the different roles people play in the publication process, and you’re half way there.

If you can understand how a publication works and can speak the publishing lingo, you look more competent in the eyes of the editor.  It also helps you understand who you should be pitching to.

Whether it’s a print or digital publication (or a combo of the two), all media outlets and agencies work differently. They will all have a different number of staff, and a different hierarchy or approval process.

To make things even more complicated, a lot of media outlets will have different definitions of the same position title, and many will have ‘honorary’ positions in place, that don’t necessarily hold much power.

For example, an executive editor is listed first (before the editor-in-chief) in the credits, but often have little to do with the actual production of the magazine. They might give their ideas here and there, but don’t necessarily have the power to impact change  – similar to the role of the governor general in Australia.

Confusing, huh?

That said, there’re a few key common positions native to media outlets that you should know about before making your pitch:

If you can gain access to the editor-in-chief’s inbox, they should always be your first port of call.

The editor is responsible for planning, curating and overseeing all content. They will play a heavy hand (usually) in the look and feel of the publication, create the long term editorial calendar for the magazine, commission stories to external writers or brief internal journalists on stories, manage budgets, and edit any articles or content that comes in. More often than not, they’re a key player in the selection and approval of the cover image, and some editor-in-chiefs still actually write content (I always did at least three articles per issue for WH&F).

Essentially, they are the face of the publication.

Most major publications will have in-house qualified writers to write articles, source images and provide other ad-hoc help to the editor. They may pitch ideas or talent to the editor, and usually play a large part in the publication’s direction.

While editors ultimately have final say, contacting an internal journalist or eds assistant can be a good way to get your brand in front of the people who matter, and/or provide feedback on your pitch.

For large publications, the editor will commission some major feature stories out to contributing writers – usually qualified journalists. They will provide a brief of the topics to be covered and angle they are after, and then the journalist will write it by deadline for a fee.

Again, getting your brand in front of the relevant journalist can pay dividends in terms of interviews and exposure.

Unpaid contributors are people who provide content for the exposure, rather than dollars. Sometimes contributors are budding or student journalists wanting to add to their portfolio; more often they are subject matter experts. Think personal trainers, nutritionists and similar who contribute content (often from the first-person) as a once-off article, or as part of a regular column or section.

For example, WH&F had an Expert Think Tank section, where five hand-selected experts commented on a particular topic (selected by the editor) each and every month.

Securing a place as a regular contributor is the wholly grail of marketing. It means your face, name and ideas are in front of your target audience on a monthly basis, positioning you as a thought leader in the space. The editor has chosen you to align with their brand – you must be good.

Some publications will seek to align themselves with particular experts in the field or have them be the ‘face’ of the publication. This is usually a mutually beneficial relationship: it provides exposure and authority for both the selected expert and the publication.

For example, the bunch of faces you saw at the start of WH&F near the credits, such as the WH&F Head Trainer. These experts usually contribute regularly to the magazine, although not necessarily every month.

You usually need hefty qualifications and/or a social following to make your face worth aligning to the publication. Or you need to work hard to build a relationship with the editor!

The experts journalists interview to provide quotes and background information for a story. More often than not, being a source and providing commentary on a particular topic is how most trainers, nutritionists and other experts first gain media exposure.

Take the images and copy from the editor, and put them together in a way that is both visually appealing and legible. Particularly in terms of magazines, they play a key role in the feel and branding of the publication.

They can provide great feedback on the quality of any images you have ready to pitch to the editor and the alignment of those images with the  publication.

A final word
While this is not a comprehensive list of all publication stakeholders, understanding the editorial hierarchy will help you know who to contact, and for what feedback or purpose. Editors are the decision makers, but building relationships with other key staff members can be an easier and less intimidating way to network. In short, networking is ALWAYS a good idea, no matter how junior your new friend is.

Are you a budding health and fitness professional wanting to get your face and brand in front of the mainstream media? Contact me today for an obligation-free chat. 

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