Most advice on getting published in top-tier media like The New York Times sounds like:
- “You need to have a really solid pitch.”
- “Build a strong relationship with the editor.”
- “Have a story people care about.”
Notice how it’s all so nuanced and tactical.
Yes, you need to have a good pitch. Yes, building a relationship and having a story people care about help. These are all true, and I teach these things, too. But this kind of “just the tactics” advice quietly sweeps under the rug an important fundamental truth about The New York Times – no, actually… ALL of media.
The media only cares that you are credible.
Notice I said credible.
Not an accomplished, high-powered CEO nor bearded guru with crossed arms (but trust me, these things DEFINITELY help.)
Editors and journalists at The New York Times and elsewhere want to work with the most credible. The most credible experts and sources. The most credible writers and idea-makers.
Basically, they’re looking for … *shifts eyes left to right* … a certain level of clout (hence, the name of this blog).
So what if someone is just starting out or doesn’t have much so-called clout? That’s what this entire post is about. To break down the main strategy and principle I use to build that clout and credibility to get published in various publications, including The New York Times (several times! AND in the paper, too!).
It’s the same method that’s worked for students and clients. It even helped a friend get his own work in the Times:
I call this The Slingshot Method. And this works, even if you have no prior publishing experience. Or have zero connections. Keep reading on to learn more about it!
And once you understand this, you can apply it to get virtually ANYWHERE in the media!
I’ll show you the deeper side of media strategy that no one really talks about (and why that’s important). Plus, you’ll get to see how this method helps you overall EVEN if you’re NOT aiming for The New York Times.
Why The New York Times cares about clout
I know, I know.
The word “clout” can feel icky. But here’s the way I see it:
Pretty much everything we do – online or offline – is, at its core, all about gaining clout, credibility, and social acceptance. Whether it’s posting on TikTok, hoping to get a lot of Likes and views. Or getting excited over an invite to an exclusive VIP party. Or wanting to build a following? All acts of clout (even if nobody wants to admit it).
If your reaction is “Ugh, I don’t CARE about clout! That’s just vain!”, let’s look at it another way. Think back to the last time you thought about buying something. Did you read a bunch of reviews across 56 open tabs? Maybe ask your friends for recommendations? Or stick with the brand and company you know and like?
I recently replaced my old Macbook with a Macbook Air, and I made the decision to buy based on just 2 things:
- I already knew Apple had a reputation for good products.
- I was happy with my old Mac and trusted it would be as good, if not better.
But if I WASN’T already familiar with Apple and their products, I’d look for quick heuristics like:
- Reviews from trusted experts
- The number of reviews
- Overall star ratings
Basically, I’m looking for easy, external signals that give me the confidence that I’m making the right choice. That there’s enough clout to trust here. If there were zero or barely any reviews, I’d be less likely to take a chance and probably go with options that did. Wouldn’t you do the same?
Thought so! This is just our psychology. And guess what?
The media (and if we’re being honest, the ENTIRE WORLD) operates the EXACT. SAME. WAY.
This is why clout matters.
The same way you and I hem and haw over our buying decisions by looking at reviews and company reputation, the media looks for those signals – those quick heuristics – to deduce someone is a legitimate, credible enough person to feature on their publication.
The truth is, no editor wants to make the WRONG decision, especially when the stakes are too high. Their reputation among their peers and on behalf of the publication is on the line. If they don’t know you and you don’t have the equivalence of reviews to look at, they’re taking a risk. Once you see it this way, you start to see how clout influences who the media wants to work with.
(And it’s not JUST traditional media. Creators and companies on podcasts, TikTok, YouTube, etc. ALL want to work with proven people. People with clout to show.)
This is the other side of media strategy that’s not often talked about. Welcome to the invisible game, if you will, of media. And if you stopped reading right now, you’d honestly walk away understanding one of the most important and subtle nuances of media strategy better than most people.
Here’s the thing: As you gain more clout, all the pitching, relationship-building, and having media-worthy stories…GET WAAAAAAAY EASIER. But ah, the wrinkle! You typically need some degree of clout (or an INCREDIBLE and TIMELY story) for the media to work with you. So if you’re just starting out, you run into a little bit of a chicken-or-the-egg problem.
Luckily, The Slingshot Method is my answer to that. So let me FINALLY tell you about…
The Slingshot Method: A systematic approach to building clout
When most people think about getting published somewhere like The New York Times, this is how they might approach it:
Unless you’re Kanye West saying something ridiculous, IT ALMOST NEVER HAPPENS THIS WAY IN ONE SHOT.
Rather than lobbing a Hail Mary pass at a target publication like The New York Times, The Slingshot Method helps you BRIDGE the credibility and clout gap between where you are now to where you want to go by proving yourself on other relevant, higher-authority websites first.
It helps you be more systematic about building more clout (see: more “leverage”) – enough to open doors. Using The Slingshot Method, your example pathway to The New York Times actually looks more like this:
Keep in mind this is simplified. The beauty of this method is that it meets you where you are. Whether you have ZERO published articles and experience, SOME experience, or already a lot of it, you can use this to catapult yourself forward more methodically and more successfully.
How The Slingshot Method works
Just as reviews and star ratings are important for a restaurant’s level of clout, these are the things that are important to building our own clout:
- Credentials (PhD, CSCS, MD, etc.)
- Who you know
- Affiliation with a well-known company or person (ex: Google engineer)
- Number of followers
- Having a book or popular blog
- Previous published work
I call these Clout Markers.
Going over all of these Clout Markers is beyond the scope of this article. For now, just know that The Slingshot Method focuses on getting you the most important Clout Marker:
Previous published work that show you’ve been published in the media or elsewhere.
There’s a lot of information baked into that single Clout Marker.
It tells them that if an editor or gatekeeper at another reputable publication already trusted you, then maybe they could trust you too. Kind of like a 5-star rating or an expert recommendation you trust.
If we put The Slingshot Method into practice, this is what it looked like for me:
This is a super simplified version. But the point is, I leveraged my published work and credibility from each platform to “slingshot” myself to the next, wherever it was relevant for me at the time (and this worked across industries too, as you can see). By the time I reached The New York Times, I was “proven.”
Remember my friend from earlier who got their own New York Times articles published? Similar thing. They started with industry blogs, made their way to bigger publications like Mashable and Fast Company before they tried to get on The New York Times. And if you’re wondering, yes, The Slingshot Method works for niche industries as well. Just look at what this student of an older course I used to have said:
This is what we’re after!
Get published in more places. Build more credibility and clout, so that people who don’t even know you are willing to work with you. Here’s what you need to get started.
3 steps to using The Slingshot Method to get published more and build more clout
There are 3 major steps to The Slingshot Method.
- Find similar publications/blogs you can currently get published on
- Get published
- Use your published article to “slingshot” to the next publication
Note that if you’ve already been published in a few key places, you can skip to Step 3. Repeat ad nauseum.
Let’s go over how each works.
Step 1. Find similar publications and blogs
The first step of the Slingshot Method is to forget The New York Times. Yes, I said forget it. For now.
Instead, find a blog or publication that is within “striking distance” of your current experience. If you’ve never been published before, start by focusing on blogs or publications within your industry or your area of interest – basically similar sites that your audience would read.
As an example, if you’re in the personal finance industry, your target sites could be popular industry blogs and publications like Motley Crew, Penny Hoarder, or I Will Teach You To Be Rich.
So basically in Step 1, your goal is to assemble this list of possible places. Here are a few ways to find these publications and blogs:
Go on Google
No duh, right? Sheesh, let me show you how to be more specific in your search query!
Let’s say you’re a fitness coach. Maybe you work with busy women and you want to find out the sites they’re potentially reading. Here’s what they might search for:
- “Best exercise to tone arms”
- “Quick bodyweight workouts”
- “Best recipes to eat when working out”
Then take it a step further by taking one of the above search phrases and Google:
- <search phrase> “contribute”
- <search phrase> “guest post”
- <search phrase> “submissions”
- <search phrase> “Write for us”
- <search phrase> “contributor guidelines”
- <search phrase> “editorial submissions”
So using the examples we have, you’d be searching for best exercises to tone arms “submissions” or quick bodyweight workouts “write for us.”
That should give you a pretty solid list of both smaller niche and mainstream websites. You could even try Googling: “What does <reader> read” or “fitness websites” or similar variations.
Use “Where to Pitch”
Where to Pitch is a simple search tool that spits out a list of publications related to your industry, such as:
It provides you with pitching guidelines, if available, and any other relevant info. I like this because it gives a great starting point and is easy to use!
Ask similar readers what resources they read
Chances are most readers trawl Reddit for learning material on their favorite topics that you happen to write about.
If you’re in fitness, there are so many sub-Reddits that you can go deep into. For example, if you were looking to see what female powerlifters read regularly and who they follow, you go to /r/xxfitness. Or if you want to write something on the ketogenic diet, you might check out /r/Dietandhealth/ or go really niche with /r/ketogenic.
Reddit is a treasure trove of information to help you research your target reader and what or where they’d love to read.
Step 2. Get published
The 2 easiest ways to gain clout and get your initial published articles when you’re just starting out are:
- Publish on your own blog or another platform like Medium
Your own blog is obviously the lowest barrier-to-entry. You can always write high-quality blog posts on your blog. But don’t just write any blog posts. Write the BEST blog posts you can in your space.
Make them longer and more thorough. Provide up-to-date information. Blow everything else out of the water.
Once you have these blog posts, you can move onto other publishing platforms like Medium, LinkedIn, and Quora – wherever the audience is relevant.
These blog posts and articles on Medium, LinkedIn, and Quora help you set a strong foundation because they are the “unedited” pieces to show other bloggers and the media your thinking, your expertise and ideas, and your ability to write.
- Use HARO to get your first media appearances
Ever heard of Help A Reporter Out (AKA HARO)?
HARO is one of the few places where all kinds of editors from notable outlets are actively seeking experts and sources. And they are usually on a tight deadline.
(By the way, the basic version is FREE to use.)
HARO can also be a “shortcut” to your first feature in the media. Or at the very least, your first contact with someone in the press. But most people don’t use it effectively, so here are some tips for making the most of HARO:
- HARO moves fast. Editors are on tight deadlines, so create a templated email about your expertise, so that you can respond to editors quickly.
- Be VERY relevant to what the editor is asking for. They are usually looking for specific tips, advice, and expertise. Don’t try to bait and switch.
- Focus on making the editor’s job as easy as possible. This means personalizing and providing all relevant information an editor is requesting and needs in a single response. Assume they will not have time to go back and forth with you.
Aim to respond to at least 5 HARO queries per day (because sometimes this is a numbers game).
OK…so obviously, there is some pitching skill involved here, but the nitty-gritty of it all is for a whole other 3,000-word article. Until I’ve written that and can link to it, why not check out the Clout Monster newsletter for exclusive pitching tips and all things media? As a bonus, when you sign up with your email in the box below, you’ll access a behind-the-scenes look at a real, accepted pitch to Entrepreneur.com. Try it:
Step 3. Use your published article to “slingshot” to the next publication
Part 3 is the linchpin of The Slingshot Method.
Rather than talking to editors and site owners, begging them to feature you, and merely TELLING them that you’re a credible source and expert…
You now use each published article as LEVERAGE to SHOW THEM you are credible.
Show your proof, not just tell them about it.
Remember: Your previous work on other publications (even non-US publications) speaks louder than words. Now it’s just a matter of showing off the articles. And if your article was published on a publication that they’d recognize or know about, you should mention the publication by name. Here’s how you do it.
Let’s say you recently got published in Yahoo! from your efforts in HARO and you have a Medium article on the same subject. Here’s what you might say (notice the bolded part):
I want to contribute a story to [NAME OF PUBLICATION]. It’s about [SPECIFIC TOPIC YOU’VE WRITTEN OR TALKED ABOUT].
The article will cover [A FEW BULLET POINTS].
I’ve spoken about this topic before. Most recently, I was featured in Yahoo! [LINK]. I’ve also written about this on Medium and my blog, which was one of my most popular posts [LINK].
Would love to write a 1,000 word article for [PUBLICATION]. I think it would add a lot of value.
(Obviously, this needs to be fleshed out a bit more and personalized for the editor.)
The key takeaway here is: People want to know you’re credible and can provide value in the way you’re promising. And you have to SHOW them, not just tell them.
The best part is that as you get published more and more, you naturally build more skills along with credibility to open more opportunities. And these published articles can be used FOREVER. I had a client whose 7-year-old article on Business Insider was enough for us to bust open a few doors to NEW media placements.
Keep using The Slingshot Method and mention your (latest) previous published work to keep going from one publication to the next. And to the next. And maybe…to The New York Times? 😁
Recap of The Slingshot Method
In Step 1, your goal was to identify all the places where you could get published with your current resources, clout, and published work. Usually, this is your own blog, places like Medium, or industry blogs.
In Step 2, you focused on publishing the best damn piece of content for those audiences ever. (Even if it’s for your own blog.) Or you’re using HARO (or both!).
In Step 3, you’re using these published articles (or “clips” as they say in the media world) as leverage to slingshot to the next place.
Now you try it: Ask yourself:
- Who are the big players in your industry?
- How can you give them massive value?
- How does it help build your clout and slingshot to other opportunities?
The Slingshot Method is just one of many techniques I use for clients, but it’s also the most important principle that guides the rest of my strategies. But there’s a reason only a few will get published in places like The New York Times.
It takes work! It takes time!
And yes, you do need to hone other skills like pitching. I’m still working on that blog post. 😮💨
If you’d like to get notified on when that blog post is done and also get more pitching tips and expert insights on how to land more media placements, then consider signing up for the Clout Monster newsletter in the box below!
Once you put your info and hit the shiny purple button, you’ll also get special access to a bonus video breaking down an exact pitch that landed my client in Entrepreneur.com – with ZERO connections. Curious? See for yourself: