101 Questions Your Team Needs to Answer Before Pitching a Publisher

101 Questions

A successful content marketing campaign can be broken down into three main stages: ideation, production, and promotion. To maximize your efforts, all three should build off each other by focusing on one common goal—creating content that will inspire your audience and compel them to share.

Here we’ll walk you through the questions you need to ask yourself during the three phases in order to produce a campaign that will reach high levels of social traction.

33 Questions


1. What makes my target audience tick? Which topics do they talk about?

Regardless of your end goals, if you want your campaign to be successful, you need to tailor the content to align with your target audience’s interests. A quick way to figure out  what they’re talking about is to see which stories performed well under verticals geared toward your audience.

2. Which part of the buying cycle am I trying to target with this idea?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all campaign that will achieve all your marketing goals. A campaign that is designed to deliver hyper-accelerated traffic is very different from one that encourages consumer engagement. Determine your end goal before moving forward.

3. What ideas are tangentially related to my brand?

When building a list of potential ideas, it’s best to keep them broad by making a big list of potential topics. The list should include ideas that are only slightly related to your topic area and target audience. When paired with a more aligned idea, a tangential idea can expand the audience for your campaign – increasing its overall reach.

4. Will this idea reach a broad enough audience?

If you want to maximize reach and visibility, you’ll want to be sure your idea is comprehensive enough to interest more than one demographic.

5. Will top-tier publishers want to cover this as a story?

This is a big one. You’ll want a promotable campaign, so include elements that are enticing to industry-leading publishers. In a study asking 500 digital publishers what they want, 39 percent of editors stated they were interested in “exclusive research,” while another 27 percent were looking for “relevant content.”

6. Does this idea offer an emotional connection?

If you want your campaign to receive high social traction, you’ll need to include emotionally-driven content. In a survey that asked 60 participants to view 30 of the top 100 images of the year from Imgur, as voted on Reddit, they noted which emotions each image activated for them. Results revealed that positive emotions were found more commonly than negative emotions in highly viral content. However, negative emotion campaigns were more likely to go viral if they included an element of surprise, so you’ll want to keep both of these elements in mind when refining your idea.

7. Is there a trending news story that I can build on for my campaign?

If your idea is built on something that is happening in the news, execution needs to be done in real-time to take advantage of press coverage.

8. Can I connect this idea to a current event?

See if you can connect your idea to an annual event, like a holiday or a national cause month.

9. Does the topical news story or event conflict with the proposed production window?

If you’re connecting your idea to something that is trending or will happen in the future, make sure that your production window will allow for a time-sensitive promotions cycle.

10. Are there any issues my audience is sensitive to?

Before crafting ideas, you’ll want understand your target audience, specifically who are its heroes and villains and what might be off-putting to them.

11. Is this idea too specific or narrowly focused?

Make sure that your idea reaches beyond a specific niche; otherwise, you’re cornering yourself during the outreach process.

12. Is this idea groundbreaking?

Humans are creatures of habit, so some publishers and their readers are interested in learning about the same topics more than once. Take advantage of this by repurposing an old idea in a new and interesting way to show your audience something they’ve never seen before.

13. What trends could I reveal in my industry?

A great takeaway from any successful campaign is something actionable. If you can connect your idea to revealing trends, you’ll increase your project’s reach by promoting it as a “best practice” feature.

14. Will this idea incite a discussion and spur engagement?

If your content can offer new insights into an existing story, you’ll encourage readers to debate possible causes for the change.

15. Is this idea controversial?

Although you’ll want to be mindful of what is OK with your audience, try offering ideas that go against existing beliefs. As mentioned before, negative emotions can help a campaign go viral if there is an added shock value.

16. Are there any other restrictions on what can and cannot be produced?

Before you begin the ideation process, you need to be very clear on issues that might be sensitive to your company. Proactively ask if there are any subjects you should stay away from and work from there.

17. Does this idea offer ego bait for audiences?

An idea that can easily connect to readers is a great way to ensure increased social shares. A simple way to implement this concept: maps. Make sure these visualizations personally resonate with your target audience by relating to regional insights.

18. Have similar ideas have performed well in the past?

You can easily run your idea through Google to determine whether or not similar campaigns have performed well. If they haven’t, look through the comments section to see if there are ways you could tweak your idea for success.

19. What’s new about this idea?

If you are expanding on an existing idea, highlight the content that distinguishes it from similar data.

20. Which ideas have worked well within this particular vertical before?

An easy way to see what interests target audiences in specific verticals is to simply read previously published stories. Which particular assets have performed well? Which articles have the most comments? These are answers you’ll want to note.

21. Which ideas performed poorly within this particular vertical before?

Again, an easy way to do this is to read previously published articles. See what posts gained the least amount of shares and determine the common denominator.

22. Which internal data do I have access to that might be interesting to others?

Before looking for secondary research, see if you have any in-house data that might not be readily available to others, making your content that much more unique and compelling to your target audience.

23. Are there public APIs that relate to my brand that I could leverage for my campaign research?

APIs are a great resource for curating data and unearthing informational gems that may otherwise not be widely known. Check out this list of 40 useful APIs to get started.

24. Is there a large enough data set available for my campaign topic?

For your content to be credible, you’ll want to make sure you’ll have enough data to reinforce your conclusions. For example, using five years of data to reveal a trend is much more convincing than simply using six months.

25. What data will serve as my primary research?

This is data you collect yourself and they include any surveys, interviews, observations, and ethnographic research that would elevate your campaign.

26. What data will serve as my secondary research?

This data involve summarizing existing research that can be included in your campaign.

27. Is my secondary research authoritative enough?

If your secondary research cannot answer all the questions included in your campaign, you’ll need to conduct your own primary research.

28. Has my secondary research been published within the last year?

You’ll want to be sure that any secondary research you use is not dated. A good rule of thumb is to stick with research that has been published within the last year or less.

29. If I need to conduct a survey, will my sample size be large enough?

In order for your data to represent a considerable group, you’ll want a minimum of 300 respondents, but most top-tier publishers prefer at least 1000 respondents.

30. If this is a repurposed idea, what didn’t work before?

An easy way to figure out what an idea didn’t work before is to review articles where it was published and look at the comments section. Did anyone list any complaints about the asset? Were people upset about the number of respondents? Take note and revise your new idea accordingly.

31. How much time will I need to produce the campaign assets?

Most strategists have a 30-day production window, so consider ideas that can be executed within that timeframe.

32. How much time will I need to research the topic?

A majority of strategists anticipate a week’s worth of research, so keep that in mind when discussing the complexity of an idea.

33. Will the cost of my expected resources exceed my budget?

You should begin with a budget and then work your idea around it so you’ll stay within the limits.

37 Questions

1. Which assets perform well with my target audience?

Not all assets perform well with each demographic. For example, Millennials have proven more difficult to engage due to excessive exposure to online images. The solution? Make sure your campaign provides something new or surprising. You’ll want to determine your key demographic, understand what piques its interest, and decide on your asset from there.

2. Which content format will best display my campaign data?

Different audiences are interested in different formats, so you’ll want to determine your target and tailor your asset to its preferred content type.

3. Should I create a landing page (LP) for this campaign?

The need for a landing page is based on personal preference as well as feedback from editors. If your campaign involves a more interactive asset, realize that some publishers’ sites might not be able to host it. Make sure you’ll have the ability to attribute any secondary content to an LP where their readers can enjoy the information in its entirety.

4. Do I have specific brand guidelines I need to follow?

Although you don’t want your asset to be over branded, you do want to follow along general guidelines (e.g., make sure your logo is the right color and verbiage aligns with an approved tone).

5. How can I incorporate branding but not overdo it?

Most publishers will avoid content that they deem “over-branded.” They want their data to look like original content instead of a sponsored curation, so keep that in mind during production. A great example of minimal branding is eBay’s “What Makes You Feel Beautiful” campaign. The company saves its logo for one of the final pages in the flipbook, valuing the content over branding – something its audience will appreciate too.

6. Which type of call-to-action (CTA) should I include at the bottom of my promotable asset?

This is tricky because it can hinder promotional viability. If you need a CTA, make sure that the wording is perfected so that your asset doesn’t come across as “overly promotional.”

7. Do the graphics/images make sense?

Included visuals should align with your content and its overall tone. Ask for additional opinions to see if your asset ignites a consistent response.

8. Are graphs accurate and labeled properly?

Make sure you double and triple check all of the labels on any graphs to make sure the data are accurate.

9. If there are multiple assets and/or images, can each stand alone on a publisher’s site?

Multiple assets are beneficial during the promotions cycle; offering editors choices is a great way to increase the likelihood of a placement. Just make sure that every standalone asset includes proper attribution and shows a complete piece of information.

10. Do I have rights to use all included images?

If you’re using stock photos, make sure that you’ve secured the rights for fair use. If you’re including original photography, make sure you’ve been granted permission to use the photos.

11. Do any animations loop slow enough for the viewer to take in?

Using a motion graphic is a great way to add additional interest to your content, but make sure that it is timed in a way that’s easy to digest.

12. Is all the text readable?

If you’re creating an infographic, the text should be large enough to read without needing to zoom in.

13. Is the information arranged in the most easily digestible way?

When it comes to your asset, make sure that you’ve presented the data in the simplest way possible. You’ll want to be sure your target audience can skim through your content to pull key takeaways, encouraging it to read further.

14. If possible, are primary keyword strings evergreen?

To optimize SEO, make sure your primary keywords (e.g., header, footer, and inbound anchor text) are those that will remain consistently relevant to readers.

15. Is the most intriguing data highlighted?

In order to encourage your audience to read all of your content and ultimately share it with others, make sure the most surprising data visually stands out from the rest of your content.

16. Can any subjective points easily be shot down/criticized?

Take a look at your content from another perspective to determine how solid your content is against opposing viewpoints. You’ll want to encourage a debate, but you don’t want viewers to easily tear apart your data.

17. Is my content’s subject covered completely or does it focus on surface-level information?

Your asset should be data-driven and offer insightful information versus “common knowledge.”

18. Are the graphics that provide limited value taking up too much space?

Not all visuals are created equal. Some data simply won’t be as shocking as others, so make sure that the graphs which provide more interesting data are larger than those that do not.

19. Do I get to the “meat” of the data fast enough or is “boring information” (more widely known) taking up the majority of my introduction?

Your asset should include a brief introduction – typically explaining your methodology and what you’re trying to answer – and then get immediately into the most interesting stats. This will maintain the interest of your readers.

20. Is the content’s conclusion insightful, leaving the reader with a desire to learn more about the subject?

Make sure you sum up key points from your data at the end of your asset. You want to remind your readers about what they learned and encourage them to find out more.

21. Have I incorporated diversity in our characters?

Your visuals should be just as diverse as your data set; it’s as simple as that.

22. Which key takeaways should I highlight?

Before production, take a look at your data and outline any interesting facts that you want to highlight more than others. This will ensure your visual grabs your audience’s attention and maintains it.

23. Throughout production, have I reviewed any relevant topical information that could impact reception of the final content?

If you’re connecting your data to a current event or trend, research the latest articles on your topic. If your content would be seen in “bad taste,” for instance, rework your asset so that it will be more sensitive – and more promotable.

24. Have I fact checked all of the information and data?

The last thing you want is an editor or commenter pointing out inaccurate data. Some campaigns rely on a data set that can change during production (e.g., one that calculates the net worth of real individuals). All your content should be up to date before handing it off to promotions.

25. Are all of the sources and data credible?

Make sure that you have linked to viable sources instead of questionable sites on which the data can be manipulated (e.g., Wikipedia).

26. Are any sources missing?

Make sure every source for secondary research is properly attributed.

27. Is the asset sized properly?

In order to increase the likelihood of a quick turnaround from an editor, make sure your asset is sized between the preferred width for most publishers – between 600–800px wide.

28. Have I checked the asset’s functionality in different web browsers?

Members of your target audience may not use the same browser, so check your asset on multiple platforms to optimize visibility.

29. If interactive, is it fully functional?

Again, you’ll want to be sure you test your asset on multiple platforms and among different people multiple times. To secure quick placements, you’ll want to eliminate any bugs before offering it to a publisher.

30. Have I set my post’s open graph (OG) sharing settings?

This tag controls the title, description, and image when shared, so you’ll want to make sure it’s correct before offering the asset for publishing.

31. Do my links work and connect to the right URL?

Again, this is something you’ll want to double and triple check. LP URLs could change during production, so make sure your final asset links to pages that exist. This will ensure that natural syndication attributes to the correct links as well.

32. Is the campaign pushing  sales goal too much?

This ties back to the question of over-branding. Make sure your asset seems authentic and not curated to promote a specific goal. You want to encourage action from your target audience, not demand it.

33. Has the asset gone through multiple Quality Assurance (QA) checks?

No one likes to see mistakes, and two sets of eyes are always better than one. Make sure you send your asset through multiple QA checks to ensure an error-free asset.

34. Have I asked for feedback from the promotions team?

Your promotions team is on the front lines with editors daily. If anyone knows what a publisher wants to see, it’s them; take full advantage.

35. Is my logo included properly?

Although you don’t want an overly promotional asset, you’ll want make sure that your logo is included and fits its preferred standards.

36. Have I received approval for the final asset?

Before you send the asset to promotions, make sure you receive final approval to avoid any possible retractions.

37. Have I gone through it one last time for errors (grammar, spelling, etc.)?

A data-driven, error-free asset is the ultimate goal. Make sure all of the information is accurate before sending your content through promotions.

31 Questions

1. Which top-tier publishers attract my brand’s target audience?

Not all publishers will cover the verticals that interest your target audience. Research which publishers include sections that align with your audience and begin building a list.

2. How many different verticals can I reach out to with this campaign?

In order to maximize your campaign’s reach, make sure you target multiple verticals. An easy way to do this is by creating a few different story angles that connect with your content and pitching the appropriate editors accordingly.

3. Is this publisher open to publishing third-party content?

Some publishers will not publish outside content, specifically curated visuals. Make sure you have a place in your promotions process where you can note non-participating publishers.

4. Does this publisher host the content format I’m pitching?

As mentioned earlier, you’ll want to ensure that you’re offering an asset that an editor will be able to publish. For example, some sites cannot publish iframes, so make sure that you have a backup plan for any interested publisher.

5. Does the publisher’s tone fit with the tone of the content?

An editor is more likely to be interested in your content if it aligns with his or her existing beliefs. Research both the editor and the publisher’s target audience before offering your asset.

6. How much engagement does this writer get on an average post?

When offering an exclusive, make sure you target writers and editors who have heavy social engagement. This will increase natural syndication once the initial placement goes live.

7. How often does this person write?

The best target writes multiple posts per week. Don’t pitch someone who hasn’t written anything in over a month.

8. Does my content topic fit closely with this writer’s specific beat?

You’ll have a better chance at a placement by offering a writer or editor content that aligns with his or her beat, so research and identify what the person specifically covers before pitching.

9. Does this writer have any recent posts that I could tie into my pitch?

A great way to persuade an editor to publish your content is by connecting it to a recent post, specifically one that had high social engagement. Writers want to provide their readers with an interesting story as much as you do; show them that your data will do this.

10. Which type of personality does this writer have?

Evaluate personality through Twitter and blog posts. Pay attention to the tone of his or her writing – is the writer sarcastic, matter-of-fact, or friendly? You’ll need to edit your pitch so that it aligns with his or her personality.

11. Has this writer or publication ever posted anything negative about this topic or the brand I’m working with?

You’ll want to be absolutely sure that a publisher or specific editor does not have any ill will toward you or the topic. You’ll want to control the story in some respect, and this is a way to do that.

12. Have I leveraged anonymity and the identifiable “other” in my pitch?

The Northwestern Law theory on anonymity and the identifiable states, “by exchanging personal

information about yourself in a negotiation, the degree to which we perceive another person to be

similar to ourselves in traits and attitude, and to be worthy of our generosity or assistance, depends on the extent to which we perceive a personal connection with that person, no matter how trivial.” Use this theory to begin networking with publishers weeks prior to a pitch.

13. Could I provide thought-provoking feedback on one of the writer’s recent posts?

A connection with your writer before pitching will increase the chances of him or her publishing your content. A great way to do this is either by commenting on a previous article or including an opinion about one of the writer’s previous features in your pitch.

14. Have I determined how the editor prefers to be pitched?

Although email is common, some editor’s may prefer pitches via Twitter or a contact form, so make sure you determine how they want to be pitched before you send your email.

15. Have I included strong statistics or interesting facts from my content?

You only have a few minutes to get your editor interested in your pitch, so make sure you highlight the most interesting data. Bullet points are a great way to do this.

16. Have I included a link to my asset?

Make sure your pitch includes an easily identifiable link to your asset, and if it requires a password, include that immediately after the link in parentheses.

17. Am I keeping track of who I’ve already pitched?

Be sure to keep track of who you pitched, how many times he or she has been pitched, and when your last contact was. You should also set a minimum goal of 10 pitches per day.

18. Is my email subject line short and to the point?

Your subject line is your first impression. Make sure it includes an interesting stat and it’s brief – ideally between 45–65 characters.

19. Does my subject line use the information gap theory?

This theory says that by connecting your content to something the reader is already interested in, he or she is more likely to want to close the gap and find the answer. Offer a stat in the subject line and your pitch should explain it.

20. Does my pitch appeal to an editor’s emotions?

An emotional connection is key. You want an editor to have such a strong reaction to your content that he or she will want to share it with others – specifically readers.

21. Is there a CTA at the close of my pitch?

You should be very clear on what you want from the editor, specifically whether you’re interested in feedback or publishing. And if you’re offering an exclusive, include that in the close of your pitch too.

22. Is my pitch tied to a current event?

This is a great way to create a sense of urgency around your content, so if you can tie your data to something that is trending, do it.

23. Am I pitching the best fit writer at a specific publication?

Most publishers cover more than one vertical, so make sure you determine which writer’s beat most closely aligns with your content. This will not only increase the likelihood of a response, but there’s a better chance that he or she will want to publish your data.

24. Am I offering an exclusive? If so, have I said so?

Some editors only accept exclusives, so if you’re offering it, be sure to include it in your pitch and your subject line.

25. Have I proofread my pitch?

An error-free pitch is critical to earning a response. In fact, 33 percent of editors said they would delete a pitch with any grammatical errors. Make sure you double check your pitch before you send it.

26. Am I ready for a follow-up?

Some editors can receive up to 100 pitches a day, so your initial email might not be seen. Before focusing your efforts elsewhere, send a follow-up pitch. And make sure that you wait at least two days so that the editor does not feel overwhelmed or annoyed.

27. Where have similar campaigns been placed?

During your list building, research where similar campaigns have been placed. These publishers and editors will make great targets for your content.

28. How long is my promotions cycle?

Determine the length of your promotions cycle so you can decide when an exclusive should go live and how aggressive you should be with syndications.

29. If a campaign hasn’t been picked up yet, how can I rework the promotions strategy?

It can be frustrating when you don’t receive any responses or worse – a no. See if an editor who declined will provide you with additional feedback to rework your pitch and if not, ask for feedback from a fellow team member.

30. Do I have a previous relationship with this editor? If not, does someone on my team?

An existing relationship is an invaluable resource for any promotions associate. An editor is more likely to respond to someone who he or she is familiar with, so if you don’t have any connection with a target, see if someone on your team does. That person should assist with an introduction.

31. What are the expectations in terms of pickups?

Some individuals are interested in a lot of links, while others are interested in placement on specific niche sites. Determine what your goal is and plan your outreach strategy accordingly.

By answering all of these questions, you will ensure that your final product is unique, visually interesting, and encourages a discussion among a larger audience.


  • Ray

    I do really appreciate your post, Now i have clear idea about how to maintain my team and followup with marketing strategies.

    These FAQS are so effective to increase quality of our marketing campaigns and boost results, as we will have better understanding of everything.

  • Glad you had a few takeaways from the post, Ray!

  • This is a great post, and ideal for anyone wanting to lay out a process to follow and create a successful PR/outreach campaign. Looking forward to your next article.

  • Glad you enjoyed the post, Anna!

  • Darren DeMatas

    Hey Andrea,

    You really know your stuff. Obviously this is not meant to be a scalable content marketing plan. I am a big believer in going a mile deep, an inch wide vs a mile wide, an inch deep. But sometimes you got to do a little of both 🙂

  • Thanks, Darren! Glad you enjoyed the post, and yes, I think any marketing plan is more successful when using multiple strategies versus taking a one-size-fits-all approach.