On Bad Content & Why GigaOm Changed its Guest Post Policy

Jun 13, 2014 Beth Monaghan

A Checklist for Your Contributed Content

GigaOm decided to limit guest posts and I understand why. Late last month, Tom Krazit explained why in his piece, We’re updating our policies toward guest posts on GigaOm. Here’s why. The main reason: bad content.

There is only one thing to say about this from a PR standpoint – garbage in, garbage out. Yes, PR people are likely going to help shape the content. This is not new, or news. While some have decried this ghost-writing trend, the practice has been around as long as thoughtful people have been writing and speaking in public. In fact, we revere the speechwriters who crafted the memorable words we quote from presidents like JFK. We accept that not all influencers are great writers (even Sheryl Sandberg had a co-writer for Lean In – her name is Nell Scovell).

PR people are often the conduit for ideas. We help translate complex concepts into stories that are accessible to a broader audience. And yes, we should do a better job at parsing the good from the bad. I want to side with PR people, because I am one, and a proud one. But I also get it. I don’t own a media property and even I get pitched on guest post topics for the InkHouse blog that have nothing to do with PR or content marketing.

The problem and the opportunity is that there are so many places to offer these great ideas that more people are getting into the game. Content draws eyeballs, which can create leads so we have lots of content in search of stardom through native advertising, guest posts, Op-Eds, Medium, LinkedIn Publishing and more.

This rush of content will eventually ebb, and as we’re seeing with GigaOm, the best will rise to the top. It begs an important question for PR people and our clients: what is good content in the age when everyone is an expert and anyone can publish? This is the issue that compelled GigaOm to change its policy.

Before you pitch a contributed piece, consider these questions:

  • Is your idea original? Is it your idea? You need to be passionate about the idea or else no one else will. Authenticity shines through interpersonal relationships and it’s no different between an author and a reader. The reader absorbs the author’s state of mind.
  • Is the topic relevant to the industry conversation? If yes, why? Is it a unique perspective or is it the same as everyone else’s point of view?
  • Is your topic timely? If it’s related to news, make sure it’s today’s news, not last week’s or last month’s.
  • Is your content promotional? Does it include verbiage about your products and services? Does it include links back to your product pages and sales teams? Does it include your favorite company buzzwords that have lost their meaning through over use (“best-of-breed” and “leading edge” are red flags)? If you answered yes to any of these questions, no respectable media outlet will run the piece.
  • Is it well written? We’re not all natural writers, and many great thinkers need the support of great writers. Enter good PR people!

The same timeless basics of good PR apply to contributed content. Make it thoughtful. Make it relevant. Make it unique. Make it good.

Topics: Blogging, Content, Journalism
Beth Monaghan

Beth is the CEO of InkHouse, which she co-founded in 2007 and has grown into one of the top ranked agencies in the country. Beth’s been recognized as one of the Top Women in PR by PR News, the Top 25 Innovators by The Holmes Report and as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist. Beth believes that shared values, and the freedom to create are the foundations of all meaningful work. She brings this philosophy to building a culture of creative progress at InkHouse.

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