How To Get Into Black Enterprise: What Not To Do

Avoid these mistakes when approaching an editor about a story on your business

Telling us everything about your company, your business plans, your clients and what a great CEO you areverbally. Sometimes we see you coming. Worse, sometimes we don’t. It happens via phone. I can tell what’s happening when I walk past an editor’s desk and they’re holding the phone to their ear with that pained look on their face, like a trapped animal. We can’t be rude and hang up, but they just wont stop. It’s also an occupational hazard for us editors at networking events such as the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference. There’s nothing worse than an entrepreneur chewing your ear off for 20 minutes, monopolizing your time and blocking access to others who are also trying to network with you, about stuff you won’t remember 5 minutes after the spiel ends. (Actually there is something worse—when they do it while we’re eating, or literally standing at a urinal in the rest room. Yes, really.) What we’ll remember is how rude, annoying and unprofessional you were. Just kidding (kinda). We’re not that harsh. We understand how passionate and enthusiastic you are about your business, and how excited you may be to get an opportunity to tell one of our editors, face to face, how important it is for you to be in Black Enterprise. However, here’s a tip: There’s no way that we can memorize anything you say after the first three minutes of what you share, no matter how fascinating it is. There’s a reason why developing an elevator pitch is so critical to your ability to promote your business. Do us and yourself a favor: Keep it short, assume we’re interested if you’ve captured our attention for more than three minutes, and follow up with a detailed, professionally prepared package about your company via mail or e-mail to the editor. After that, it’s a okay to call to make sure we got your materials and to answer any questions we might have, and to e-mail follow up updates on your business to keep it fresh in the editor’s mind.

But understand this: You can’t talk your way into Black Enterprise. In fact, it’s more likely that you’ll talk your way out of a potential story, especially if you don’t provide us with the key information we’ll need to know about your business. Please, try to avoid emulating the person ridiculed by the late James Brown: “Like a dull knife, just ain’t cutting. Talkin’ aloud and saying nothin’.” And can a brother at least wash his hands?

Click to read other posts in this series:

How To Get Into Black Enterprise

How To Get Into Black Enterprise: Entrepreneurs Take Note

How To Get Into Black Enterprise: Pitch The Right Editor

Pages: 1 2 3

  • SM

    I understand that the mistakes, lack of research/ due-diligence is annoying..
    But you are saying it’s more about YOU, your egos and whether or not someone spells your name correctly, than about ideas, a great business model, or a solid track record of some lesser known company ?
    There are plenty of business people who run great businesses, who aren’t –let’s say, Harvard or HBCU english grads. Yet, these grammar deficient folks run terrific small enterprises just the same.

    Is your staff that self-involved? Is it about business and news? or is it about your fragile, self involved egos?
    Grow up.

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  • I made no references at all to proficiency with grammar or level of education. It is basic professional courtesy to pay attention to details such as the correct name spellings and titles of the people you do business with. It doesn’t take a Harvard or HBCU English degree–or even a high school diploma–to take the time to simply look it up.

  • One more thing: no amount of proficiency with grammar will help when it comes to correctly spelling people’s names or using their correct titles.

  • Alfred I got what you were saying in your message and I appreciate your tips. Details are very important…

  • TK

    Wow, this is interesting. It seems as though it’s easier to get into a larger mainstream magazine like Inc. or Forbes. I’ve always been a big fan of BE. But, after reading this I really aspire more to get my business into, Inc. Forbes or Success Magazine with a larger audience for more exposure. Contrary to beliefs, those magazines want good minority businesses in their magazines. It’s great PR for them and it gives you a great deal of exposure. I’m not saying it’s a piece of cake getting in them. I know it takes work. Thanks so much for the input. It was a great help and I’m sure alot of people will find it very infomative.

  • Thanks for this great list of tips that are relevant for freelance writers, PR folks and small businesses trying to get some exposure on their own. It echoes what successful freelance writers and editors at any newspaper or magazine will tell you: details, proofreading, research and appropriate content and context matter, whether you’re pitching a major national outlet or a small, community paper. Keep the pitch short and interesting and make sure it answers for the editor: what’s in it for my readers and why should they care? Thanks Mr. Edmond and BE. On point as usual.

  • I write for the business section of a major metro daily (the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), and I can attest that business owners and their PR people make the same mistakes with us that they do with BE editors. In fact, for several months now, I have been taking notes for a manual for PR people, to be titled something like, “Don’t Do This!” When I write it, may I cite you?

  • Absolutely. Thanks for the “amen.”

    • Thank you so much, this article was very informative and will be a great asset to many. Having the correct spelling of the person you wish to do business with should be a given. As you stated a masters degree is not needed to search for the correct spelling of a persons name.

  • Henry

    Great job as always Mr. Alfred A. Edmond Jr. Your articles are always poignant, witty and always professional. Keep up the good work!

  • Hello Alfred, details are very important, and it appears almost as sloppy unprepared work not to even have a person name correct
    thanks again for the great tips

  • Anastasia

    Mr. Edmond –

    I greatly value the information you have provided in this story. As a budding entrepreneur myself I am quite keen on taking the advice of seasoned professionals in the industry. I do however want to encourage caution when advising others on attention to detail when it appears that your own editor failed to catch the misuse of “you’ll” or the presence of “to” in the phrase: “and what you’ll not likely to ever see” on the 10th line of this page’s paragraph. Human error aside, helpful and smart words from a man I know knows his stuff.


  • Anastasia

    Oh wait, shame on me, you’re the editor-in-chief so then you wouldn’t have had an editor, would you…?

  • I would have to agree with Alfred Edmond, Jr. 🙂 on this one. When sending correspondence out to decision makers, I send it to 3 or 4 people for proofing and grammar check. As you said, you only get one chance to make that first impression. The few extra minutes to the details can and will make or break the opportunity you are seeking.

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