Highwire Talks Contributed Content with Entrepreneur

Jayson Gaignard felt like he’d been sucker punched.

That’s the opening line of one of the most talked about contributed articles on Entrepreneur.com, according to Entrepreneur’s Articles Editor, Andrea Huspeni.

For nearly 30 years, Entrepreneur has served as a guide for both the ambitious entrepreneurs and the top executives of today. At Highwire, it not only serves as a reference for news and helpful tips for our own careers, but also a top target for our client’s thought leadership articles.

Highwire recently spoke with Andrea Huspeni, who helps handle the ever-flowing pipeline of contributed content for Entrepreneur.com, for an insider’s perspective on the do’s and don’ts of pitching contributed content to the publication.

What’s the best email subject line to use when reaching out with a contributed content idea?

Something eye-catching. Entrepreneur focuses heavily on “news you can use,” or advice experts or entrepreneurs can provide to others looking for insight into a certain topic. So, the best subject line for me is what I would imagine the headline to be. For example, I would be more likely to open an email with the email subject line being: “Contributed piece: The 5 Social Media Hacks No One Is Talking About” as opposed to this email subject line: “Expert looking to write about social media tips.” It needs to be compelling.

How long should a contributed content abstract be?

It depends. If it is someone that has written for me before, I usually just ask for a few sentences. If the person writes regularly for us and we don’t need to send back for edits, the contributor can just upload the piece. If it were someone new, I would ask for a quick outline: two to three sentences plus what the subheads would be (if applicable).

What are the key elements you must include in a contributed content abstract?

As mentioned above, I would say two to three sentences about what the piece is about and why this person is writing it (why should our audience trust this writer?) and then the advice/tips/insight that are going to be addressed in the subheads.

Are there any contributed content topics you are tired of getting pitches on or would like to see more of?

At the moment I can’t think of topics that I am tired of receiving. But there definitely have been times. For instance, big data was huge for a while and everyone was pitching us stories about this subject, which is fine as long as the contributor can provide a new angle. I would love to see more topics pertaining to management, failure, funding, legal and growth strategies. But again, I am definitely open to other topics.

After you agree to review the abstract’s full article, what’s the ideal timeframe you would like to see the full draft by?

We have such a backlog of stories that it is more beneficial for the contributor to turn around stories than it is for us. There are times when stories can go up one week after submission and other times it can take five weeks. So the quicker you turn it around, the better.

What kind of balance is needed in a contributed content article to address the market in which the expert is a part of, while still being vendor neutral?

I understand that the piece is to provide some sort of marketing for the expert or his or her company but if it comes off as PRish, I will edit it out. For format, I usually like people to begin the piece with a general sentence or paragraph (“funding can be a huge pain but often a necessity for entrepreneurs”) and then go into why we should trust this person (“as an investor to more than…”). Also, if the expert points out a product or service that is theirs, make sure they state it. For instance, if a piece was about the 10 social-media tools that save time and one happens to be a product the expert founded, let the audience know.

Do you have an example of one of your favorite pieces of contributed content on Entrepreneur? If so, what made it stand out?

Here are a few pieces that I edited that did extremely well. One piece was advice that hadn’t been reported on our site and the other was a longer feature that was very well written.

Tomayto/Tomahto: Where US & UK PR Aligns

For the last two weeks I’ve been lucky enough to work on the other side of the Atlantic, in the New York offices of US agency, Highwire. Working in another country, with a different agency and unfamiliar sectors, I was expecting to feel like a doughnut in the big apple cart. What I wasn’t prepared for was quite how easily I’d fit in.NASDAQ

A few hours into my first day and it was already apparent just how many similarities there are between US and UK communications. The journalists and publications may be different, but the way we craft stories and target contacts is exactly the same; the media landscapes are shifting in parallel and clients round the world want similar outcomes.

So shouldn’t this be good news for businesses? After all, if communications can be executed globally, surely this smooths the path to achieving a global presence. And it seems that this is what businesses are looking for in 2015, as more and more organisations – from British retail stalwart M&S, to US streaming site Netflix – declare plans for overseas expansion.

But is there such a thing as cookie-cutter comms? Google “international communications blunders” and you’ll be flooded with eye-watering examples of company messaging gone awry – lost or worse distorted in translation at huge expense and embarrassment to those involved.

So while businesses are looking to operate in a global environment, they shouldn’t underestimate the importance of potayto potahto. Forging a strong, universal identity is one thing, but converting this into sales will be tricky without a dusting of market relevance. While many businesses understand that tailoring their communications is key to achieving this, if my search and the numerous results tell me anything, it’s that there’s room for improvement.IMG_9098

International execution is a challenge comms professionals face every day. While my time in New York may have highlighted superficial similarities, it’s also reinforced my belief that there’s no substitute for local intelligence; knowing your client’s audience in an area and how to communicate to them. It’s why global campaigns can be built centrally but are better executed locally – and are best when flexible enough to accommodate local nuances.

Whether you’re looking at the problem of global roll-out from a business or communications perspective, the solution is essentially the same; know your audience and listen before you speak – because there’s a world of difference between tomayto and tomahto.

 

Written by Polly Robinson, an account manager at Brands2Life, a London-based Highwire PR partner

Survey from Internet Retailer 2015 – The Buzz on eCommerce

We are already six months into 2015 and before you know it the holiday shopping season will be upon us. What is the status of the eCommerce industry half way into the year? Highwire scoped out Internet Retailer 2015, the leading e-retail industry conference held each year in Chicago, and took the pulse of the market to find out what leading brands have seen so far and what we can expect. Taking a quick poll of conference exhibitors, here is what we found out:

Holiday Shopping Optimism Prevails

There was a hopeful feeling in the air among exhibitors. In fact, nearly everyone we surveyed— 98 percent—expect eCommerce sales to improve during the upcoming shopping season compared to last year. While it may be no surprise that sales are expected to spike due to the rise of eCommerce adoption, there are a few unexpected things to watch for. For example, brands need performance with purpose and doing well by doing good might be more beneficial to your brand than you might think.

Thirst for Mobile Accelerates

Last year, analysts predicted that 2015 would be the year that most online retailers would offer customers a mobile eCommerce site. Our quick poll underscored this as a strategic priority. More than half of the companies we polled ranked mobile optimized sites, apps and content as their top investment priority this year. In light of the pick up in mobile shopping, the mobile payments market is also heating up and promising better support for retailers who want to accept credit cards through mobile apps. The jury is still out on how soon Apple Pay, Android Pay and a flurry of competitors (Samsung Pay, Square, Stripe) will become household names.

Drones Don’t Cut it: The Cool Kids have Digital Wallets

It’s hard to compete with the visual appeal of drones and the sci-fi thrill of imagining your next purchase being delivered to your doorstep by a flying robot. However, when it comes to actual long-term impact to eCommerce, industry insiders are placing their bets elsewhere. Specifically, Internet Retailer exhibitors were hot on digital wallets (61 percent), augmented reality (31 percent) and beacons (28 percent). While we will probably continue to see drones stealing headlines, savvy companies are putting slightly less eye-catching technologies to use.

No. 1 Way to Woo Customers – Give Back, Be NICE.

It’s official, a great product and excellent service are table stakes in eCommerce. Inspiring consumers to fall in love with a brand requires something more meaningful in 2015. When asked, “What makes you love an eCommerce brand today?” The highest rated quality was “doing well by doing good.” Although great and dependable customer service is still very important—22 percent ranked it as the second most important feature—taking care of employees and giving back to the community wins the most points with customers today.

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Live From Internet Retailer 2015

This year marked the 10th annual Internet Retailer Conference held in Chicago and, with more than 600 companies exhibiting and nearly 90 percent of the e-commerce solutions on the market in attendance, there is no better place to get a pulse on the industry.

Yesterday, we decided to forgo a day in the office in favor of roaming the exhibitor floor to engage with some of the most recognizable and innovative brands in the space. We sat down with a select few to get their take on the show.

First, we spoke with Weebly’s Director of Business Development Chris Sheridan, whose passion for his company’s product was truly inspiring. Weebly is providing an intuitive e-commerce solution that allows entrepreneurs and businesses to build a website on their own simply and without coding. Here’s what Chris had to say:

Weebly WeeblyImage
Powerful and Robust E-commerce Solution That’s Ready When You Are

What is the big buzz at the show this year?
A big message for visitors to our booth this year is that people don’t want to outsource their websites; they want to maintain control and own every aspect of their site and, with Weebly, that’s possible. Consumers are not given enough credit and, in fact, they are way more sophisticated. There is always this analogy; “I want it to be easy enough for my mom or my grandpa.” That’s the wrong analogy. People understand online services and they can build a strong and powerful site on their own given the proper tools.

What can we expect from Weebly in the next 6 months?
Our direction is going to mobile; 30 percent of our traffic is coming from mobile devices, so being easily accessible on mobile is a big deal to us. When we started in 2007, we thought of ourselves as a single product. Now, we think of ourselves as a two-product company.

Is there anything else you want people to know about Weebly?
First, the free plan is something we encourage people to start out on, it’s a plan for people to come in and kick the tires with no risk. Judge for yourself how intuitive the tools are.

Second, whatever is involved in your business, we can help you. There is a powerful robust e-commerce solution that is ready when you are.

What will you make time for while in Chicago this week?
Game 1 of the Stanley Playoffs!

Next, we spoke with Brody Ehrlich, General Manager of Vift, an online video gift service. If you are ever looking to add a little extra spunk to your gift giving, this service is for you.

Vift
More Of You In Every Gift

VIFTImageTell us about Vift  and what makes you unique?
We are the only company that does video gift services that arrive digitally at the same time as a gift. Our competitors are a hassle for retailers and consumers that involve QR codes. We take the hassle away from retail companies and away from the consumer and automate everything.

Why would someone want to send a video message?
It’s a lot more personal and you can customize exactly what you want to say exactly how you want to say it. Our core business, Keeptree, is a private video sharing service. We give people the option with Vift to save their videos in our Keeptree vault, so you can access them whenever, wherever.

Who would get really excited about these things?
Keeptree has a special branded version for the military called Trooptree that we offer for free to all military families so they can communicate across the world.

What are you most excited about doing in Chicago outside the show?
I want to explore the city as it’s my first time here. I also want to watch the Blackhawks game!

Outside of everyone’s enthusiasm for the Blackhawks, we made sure to direct exhibitors to the hottest deep dish and Chicago style hot dog joints in the city.

Keep your eye out on Highwire’s blog next week for the results of our “State of the E-commerce Industry Survey,” straight from the show floor of Internet Retailer.

Written by:
Nicole Plati, an Account Manager in Chicago
Carolyn Adams, a Vice President in Chicago