The Huffington Post - Pitching Strategy Guide

Due to the way things work at The Huffington Post, getting your first article published can be tough, but your second, third and fourth articles are much easier.

And while that's also true for many other publications (i.e. once you've written for them once, you're a "known quantity" not a random stranger) it's especially true at HuffPost because of its "blogger" model.

Non-staff writers are called HuffPost bloggers. Once approved as a blogger it's much like having your own column on the site and pitching and publishing your work requires jumping through fewer hoops.

But to get approved, you need to publish that first article. Let's see how to do it.

How to Get Your First Article Published on The Huffington Post

Here's the basic process for pitching and publishing your first article (and becoming a HuffPost blogger along the way):

  1. You pitch an idea for an article (or story)
  2. A Huffington Post editor shows interest in your idea
  3. You write your article and send the final draft to the editor
  4. The editor approves the article and signs you up for a blogger account
  5. You submit your article via the blogger account
  6. Your article gets accepted and published in the appropriate section on The Huffington Post

Depending on exactly how you pitch your idea, you may write the article in advance and include the final draft of your proposed article in the initial pitch, effectively condensing steps 1, 2 and 3. (The options for pitching, together with pros and cons, are discussed later.)

Of course, these are the steps involved for a successful pitch. But why might a pitch fail?

3 Reasons Your Pitch Might Fail

There are several reasons your pitch might not be successful, for example:

  1. Your idea might be ignored or rejected (e.g. the idea is not appealing enough or has been covered in detail already)
  2. Your final draft may be rejected (e.g. the article does not meet the required writing style or standards)
  3. Your submission via your blogger account may be rejected (e.g. for technical or formatting reasons)

If you fall at the first hurdle, you can try pitching alternative ideas to the same editor or you can approach a different editor.

If you fall at the second, an editor may give you notes on your draft and allow you to resubmit, or the rejection may be final.

If you fall at the third, you will likely get the opportunity to fix any problems with your draft.

Now you know what success looks like (and why you might not succeed the first time), let's look at how you actually pitch your ideas.

The Official Way to Pitch The Huffington Post

The official channel for pitching article ideas to The Huffington Post is to complete an online form, linked from the site's main contact page.

Here's the form:

Pitch a Blog to The Huffington Post

The form has six required fields:

  • Proposed headline. The proposed title for your article (120 characters or less).
  • Your pitch. A brief summary of your proposed article followed by a final draft (500–1,000 words).
  • Your name. Your real name.
  • Your bio. A short personal or professional bio.
  • Your email address. Your primary contact email address.
  • Topic. The general topic area you're pitching to: “News”, “Impact and Innovation”, “Entertainment”, “Lifestyle”, “Voices”.

Here are some tips for completing the form:

  • The headline. The main purpose of your headline is to make the reader want to read your article – so make sure it's attention-grabbing and creates curiosity. Study popular headlines from the appropriate section in our guide to The Huffington Post's Most Popular Articles (included in this toolkit). Don't be afraid to adapt an existing headline to your own topic – if a template was successful once there's a good chance it will be again.
  • Your pitch. Briefly explain what your article will cover and why The Huffington Post's readers will be interested. Two or three short paragraphs should be enough. Make sure the pitch clearly relates to the headline. Editors hate "bait and switch" headlines that create expectations that the article does not deliver. When including your final draft in the post, include the headline again at the top. Because the field in the online form is plain text, you will not be able to use text styles like bold or italic. So keep the formatting simple and use blank lines between paragraphs.
  • Your bio. The aim of this section is to introduce yourself and establish your credibility. Who are you and why are you the best person to write this article? List any relevant academic or professional qualifications you might have. Talk briefly about any experience that qualifies you to write on this topic. Mention other places that your work has been published. Again, just two or three short paragraphs should be sufficient. And if you don't have qualifications or much experience, talk about your passion for the topic.

The Unofficial (But Highly Effective) Way to Pitch The Huffington Post

Many articles do get published on The Huffington Post via the official channel, however in most cases it's not the most reliable way to get featured.

So why is that? Well, since the pitching form is on the public internet and relatively easy for anyone to find, it attracts a lot of submissions, and many of them are very poor quality.

When editors review these submissions, they tend to do so rapidly, hoping the best ideas will leap out at them. They know that it's not worth reviewing each submission in detail because most of what they receive is garbage.

The downside for you as a writer is that you could submit a great idea via the online form, an idea that's perfect for The Huffington Post, but it gets overlooked. It simply gets lost in the sea of crappy submissions.

Fortunately, there is a better way.

Pitching your idea directly to an editor.

Instead of taking your chances on the general submission form, you will usually get a better response if you pitch your idea directly to a specific Huffington Post editor via email.

Of course, that means finding the right editor to contact.

How to Find the Right Editor to Pitch Your Idea

The first step to finding the right editor is to identify the section (or sections) where your article idea fits best.

There are two methods to do this: browsing and searching.

Method #1: Browsing

This method involves browsing The Huffington Post to look for articles on similar topics to yours.

A great place to start is the "ALL SECTIONS" menu on the main navigation bar:

Pitching Strategy Guide - 1

Explore a few sections that look promising and make a note of any that seem like a natural home for your proposed article.

Method #2: Searching

This method uses The Huffington Post's built-in search function to find existing articles that cover a similar topic to your proposed article, based on relevant keywords.

Pitching Strategy Guide - 2

If, for example, you wanted to write a post about living with autism, you might type the keyword "autism" into the search box. From the results, you’ll locate posts about autism in various sections, including “Parents” and “Science”.

You can tell which section an article belongs to by looking at the masthead. In this example, it shows  the “Parents” section:

Pitching Strategy Guide - 3

Once you've identified the section (or sections) where you think your proposed post belongs, find the contact email for the appropriate editors using The Huffington Post Editorial Contacts guide included in this toolkit.

How to Pitch Your Idea to the Editor

There are two broad approaches when pitching an editor:

  1. Pitch only. You pitch the basic idea and wait for the editor to respond with interest before writing the full article.
  2. Full submission. You send an entire submission "package", which includes the final draft of your article.

There are pros and cons to each approach.

The first saves you time because you don't have to write the draft before knowing whether the editor is interested. It also allows you to get some feedback on your idea from the editor to incorporate into your draft before you start writing.

The second approach is more "all or nothing." It requires extra effort upfront but more closely matches the general submission process (via the submissions form), which asks for a draft too. In theory, if the editor likes your idea, they have everything they need to set you up with a blogger account so things could move along quickly.

We recommend the first approach because you can spend your time working on ideas and pitches rather than writing posts that might not get accepted.

To pitch your idea we recommend writing an email similar to the following template:

Subject: Quick question
 
Hey [Editor’s First Name],

I'm working on a story idea I think would be a great fit for [Section Name].

Do you have a moment to take a look?

Here's my pitch:

[Your Headline]

[Describe what the story is about and/or give some example points.]

[Explain why the section's audience will love it.]

[Say a little about yourself.]

[Provide links to any relevant articles already published.]

Does this sound like it would be suitable for [Section Name]?

If so, just say the word, and I'll start work on a draft. 🙂

Either way, I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Yours,

[Your Name]

Here's an example of a completed email using the above template:

Subject: Quick question
 
I'm working on a story idea I think would be a great fit for HuffPost Parents.

Do you have a moment to take a look?

Here's my pitch:

9 Things to Remember When Your Baby Just Won't Sleep

I'd include points such as:

  • One day your baby will sleep through the night
  • Sleepless nights are a badge of honor for new parents
  • At least new babies are easier than teenagers!

I think new parents will love this idea because most existing posts on this topic seem to focus on trying to fix the problem of poor sleep. But sometimes, when none of the advice seems to work, you simply need some encouraging words to get through the night.

Just to tell you a little bit about myself, I'm a mother of two young children (with many sleepless nights under my belt!), and I write about challenges of parenthood over at my blog Mom vs. Twins.

My most popular post to date was shared over 1,000 times on Facebook:

6 Ways to Say "No" to Your Kids Without Actually Saying "No"

Does this sound like it would be suitable for HuffPost Parents?

If so, just say the word, and I'll start work on a draft. 🙂

Either way, I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Yours,
Jennifer Paxton.

Sending a Full Submission Package

If you choose to send a full submission package, i.e. the second of the two approaches, we recommend using a modified version of the email above.

Subject: Quick question
 
Hey [Editor's First Name],

I have a story I think would be a great fit for [Section Name].

Do you have a moment to take a look?

Here's my pitch:

[Your Headline]

[Describe what the story is about and/or give some example points.]

[Explain why the section's audience will love it.]

[Say a little about yourself.]

[Provide links to any relevant articles already published.]

Does this sound like it would be suitable for [Section Name]?

If so, I've included a full draft below.

Yours,

[Your Name]

---

[Your Headline]

[Your full draft]

Author bio:

[Your bio]

Your bio is the short description about yourself you want to appear on your author page should your submission be accepted.

Here's an example:

Sarah Sandifer is a mountain-loving, dark-chocolate-eating, owie-kissing, truth-telling freelance writer who writes about seeking out the passionate life with her husband and two kiddos at www.thejellyjars.com

Important note: Your draft should be included in the body of the email, not attached as a separate file.

If submitting a full package, you should also attach a "headshot". This photo will display on your author page and at the top of any post you write. We recommend a square JPEG image cropped to 400x400 pixels. Name the file "your-name-headshot.jpg", for example "jennifer-paxton-headshot.jpg".

Even if you decide to pitch via the submissions form, you can use the template above. (You won't be able to attach your headshot though.)

How to Dramatically Improve Your Chances of Getting a Positive Response

If you pitch the right idea via email to the right editor, you have a good chance of getting a response.

But if you haven't previously had any contact with the editor, you're essentially sending what amounts to a cold email.

And cold emails never perform as well as warm emails.

So what's a "warm email" exactly?

Simple, a warm email is one sent to a person who already knows who you are. In other words, someone you already have some relationship with, however minor.

Here are some way to start that kind of relationship:

  • Comment on their articles. Most editors will also write articles on the site themselves. Read these articles and leave insightful comments. Most people will read these comments - at least in the first 24 hours after publication. Tip: You can find a link to a list of articles for each editor in The Huffington Post Editorial Contacts guide (included in this toolkit).
  • Connect with them on Twitter. Many HuffPost editors are also active on Twitter. Follow them, retweet any relevant articles that they share (making sure to tag them using Twitter's @mention feature) and find opportunities to interact with them. For instance, if they ask a question on Twitter, try to give an answer.
  • Email them a note of appreciation. If one of the editor's articles particularly resonated with you, email them a quick note to let them know. Nothing too gushing, just a short message that effectively says: "Thanks for writing the article. It really resonated with me because [reason]. Keep up the good work!"

If you get a response from the editor – e.g. a reply to your comment, tweet or email – then you can think about following up with your pitch.

What Happens If You Don't Get a Response?

If you submit your idea via their public submission form, it can be difficult to follow up because The Huffington Post's official line is that they only reply if they're interested in your idea

But when pitching an editor directly, it's usually fine to follow up if you haven't had a reply within two weeks of sending your pitch.

Here's an email template you can use to follow up:

Subject: Following up
 
Hey, just a friendly follow-up.

Have you had a chance to look at the [pitch/submission] I sent a couple of weeks ago? If not, no worries, just thought I would check in.

P.S. I've included the original [pitch/submission] below.

---

[Text of original pitch or submission]

Remember to re-attach your profile photo if sending a full submission package.

If you still don't hear anything after another two weeks, you could try one more follow-up then move on to a different editor.

How to Use a Custom Bio to Maximize Your Results

Once you land your post, these tips will help you to utilize your Huffington Post profile to its fullest advantage.

Most of the fields on your profile image screen will be self-explanatory, e.g., date of birth, country, email address — just complete them as you normally would, paying attention to detail.

Huffington Post Bio 1

Your "Micro bio" is of particular importance because it displays next to your profile image atop each of your posts.

Huffington Post Bio 2

Note: The “Micro bio” field strips any text links you enter, so if you want to point people toward your website, be sure to enter the full URL (sans the http://www.) of your domain.

Huffington Post Bio 3

Next, key in your Twitter username making certain not to include the @ symbol.

Huffington Post Bio 4

The Twitter field displays in two places on each of your posts: as a linked icon at the top of each blog post next to your Micro bio (see previous images above), and at the base of each post in a linked extended URL (see below).

Huffington Post Bio 5

With your profile set-up, the next opportunity you won’t want to miss is your Author Bio, which you will need to create for yourself at the base of each post.

The following is a screenshot of the “Blog Post” window where you will paste and edit your posts.

Huffington Post Bio 6

Create a byline at the base of each post, inserting a short bio, a text link to your blog or opt-in lead page, and if you like, an image, e.g., a profile thumbnail, shareable social media graphics, or marketing media for your opt-in.

Note: You do not need to be a programmer to insert an image and wrap text around it — use the “upload image” option from the left menu. There are additional instructions within Huffington’s Blogger Guidelines and FAQ pages.

While you do not need to code to create an attractive byline at the base of your post, you do need to save and preview it to avoid errors like these.

Huffington Post Bio 7

Note: If you do not include your full bio (with links and an image) at the end of your post when uploading it within the “Blog Post” window, readers will not be able to see your full bio unless they click on your name and visit your Huffington Post profile page.

Finally, don’t forget to complete the fields for your post’s tags, which load at the base of each post.

Huffington Post Bio 8

The image below demonstrates how your tags will display at the base of your post below your Twitter link.

Huffington Post Bio 9

Tip: While in theory you should be able to edit old posts to modify your signature lines, in practice it’s virtually impossible, so be attentive to every detail. Also, posts cannot be edited on any live pieces, so any tweaking at that point will update only after your next blog post gets published.