Along with “What does it take to be a Black Enterprise event speaker?”, “How to get covered by Black Enterprise?” is a question that I and my colleagues get dozens of times a day, via e-mail, our respective social media accounts, and when people meet us in person.
And as you might imagine, we get thousands of pitches a week (as is true for most media outlets), the vast majority of which will not result in being featured by Black Enterprise. However, while there is no way to guarantee that a pitch will result in coverage, there are best practices that will help you dramatically improve your chances. Whether you are an entrepreneur, a career professional, a corporate executive or anyone else seeking to be featured by Black Enterprise, here’s what you need to know.
How to Get Covered by Black Enterprise
Pitch for digital, not print magazine, coverage.
If you’re thinking that your goal is to be featured in Black Enterprise (the magazine), as opposed to on Black Enterprise (the website), you’re already on the wrong track. And you are really off if you make a pitch for the cover. In fact, if you are paying a media company or professional to get you media coverage, and they tell you that their plan is to pitch you for a Black Enterprise magazine cover, my considered opinion is that you should fire them immediately, because they are clearly out-of-touch with the current realities of the media business.
Pitching for a Black Enterprise magazine cover is an exercise in futility, especially in the age of digital media. While we are best known for our award-winning magazine, it is now a quarterly publication (not a monthly) with a growing proportion of each issue distributed digitally, not via the snail mail or on newsstands. Even when Black Enterprise was a monthly, it was a subscriber-driven, not a newsstand-driven, publication. (It’s a major reason why Black Enterprise has never depended on celebrity cover subjects.) As a result, our cover subjects have always been selected by our in-house staff, based on internal branding, sales and marketing objectives, not outside pitches. This is, even more, the case now that the number of covers we publish annually has been reduced over the past several years from 12 to a precious four.
Here’s what you need to remember: The majority of the content that makes it into our magazine is re-purposed or drawn from our website. That means your best chance of being featured by Black Enterprise magazine is to pitch for coverage on Black Enterprise’s site.
Don’t expect to be a one-pitch wonder.
If you pitch to be featured by Black Enterprise only once and then go away when your pitch is rejected or generates no response, you will likely never get coverage. We get literally hundreds of pitches a day (maybe thousands; it’s impossible for us to respond to most of them and still have time to actually produce content). If you want us to take notice of you and your business (or client), you have to be both patient and persistent.
To increase the odds of getting featured by Black Enterprise you need to pitch yourself or your business repeatedly and regularly. I’m not talking about sending the same pitch to us over and over again—that will inspire annoyance and rejection, not interest from us. You should constantly vary your pitches, based on new developments in your business, profession, or industry, as well as fresh angles based on topics and trends currently in the news.
Regularly sending relevant pitches for coverage by Black Enterprise increases the odds of success just by sheer numbers. It also does something far more important—it begins to build awareness of you and your business with our content team, increasing the odds that you’ll be remembered when we need the right subject or expert source for a story, video, podcast, or other coverage.
Pitch to our needs—actually our audience’s needs—not from yours.
Repeat after me: Black Enterprise does not exist to publicize me and my business.
Our purpose is to serve our audience (including event attendees, web content consumers, and social media communities) and to help them succeed. To increase your chances of being featured by Black Enterprise, pitch ideas designed to support our mission and help serve our audience, not just give you and your business exposure. Offering practical, actionable how-tos, resources, and solutions that will allow others to duplicate your success (not just be inspired by your example) or achieve their goals will increase your odds of getting featured by Black Enterprise.
That said, for a clue about what our content team will be most responsive to at any given point in time, pay close attention to our events (including Black Men XCEL, Women of Power, and FWD)—and specifically, the topics and themes of their respective agendas. Live events (not the magazine) are the primary revenue drivers for Black Enterprise, and much of our content planning revolves around the topics and trends that will be addressed by speakers, panelists, and session leaders at our events. Notice the correlation between who and what is featured by Black Enterprise on our website and the speakers and topics featured on the agendas for our upcoming events. It’s the next best thing to having access to our content planning calendar. My advice: Pitch accordingly.
Be intentional and targeted with your pitches.
The more general and randomly targeted your pitch, the less likely it will result in you being featured by Black Enterprise. To be successful, you need to do more than just e-mail or direct message the one person at Black Enterprise you happen to know—or who is most visible on social media—and hope your pitch makes its way to the right person.
You (or the media pro you choose to hire) need to spend time on the Black Enterprise website to become familiar with each section (clearly identified in the navigation bar), as well as the bylines of the people who write and produce content for them, including staff editors and writers, freelance writers, and contributors. For the best results, follow them on social media if you can, and work to build relationships before you pitch them; it will increase their likelihood of remembering and being responsive to you, which increases your chances of eventually being featured by Black Enterprise. Once you get an idea of who usually covers what, your outreach should be directed to those people and for those sections most relevant to your pitch.
One more thing: “First/only black” is nice, but usually not enough.
Be very careful about leaning on the “first black” angle when pitching yourself or your business to be featured by Black Enterprise. We tend to receive such pitches with skepticism and/or disinterest for at least two reasons.
First, most people making the claim are just making an assumption unconfirmed by research; “first black” really means “first black that we know of.” Without confirmation from a credible source, it’s virtually meaningless. If you can’t cite that source, don’t make the claim.
Second, not all black firsts are significant, especially for a national media platform such as ours. Being the first black owner of a sushi restaurant in your town may be interesting, but it is not a historic breakthrough. Significant would be the first African American to assume leadership of the Worldwide Sushi Industry Association (if there is such a thing; I made that up).
Please consider the above if you don’t want to receive the equivalent of a yawn from me and my colleagues at Black Enterprise when you tell us you are the first black whatever.