How To Get Into Black Enterprise: What Not To Do

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

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Little things count. Timing is everything. Or how about this one: You only get one chance to make a first impression. Unfortunately, many people, and particularly small business owners eager to have their companies featured in Black Enterprise, shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to approaching us about a story. And in most cases, the self-inflicted wounds are absolutely avoidable. I’ve spoken to my peers on the editorial staff/content development team at Black Enterprise for an unscientific survey of the ways people sabotage themselves when pitching a story about their company. What follows is by no means an exhaustive list (I’ll explore others in future posts), but here are some key things to avoid:

Spelling the editor’s name wrong. Or not getting their title right. Or even sending the pitch to an editor that left the magazine five years ago. This kind of stuff happens all the time, and can make the difference between an editor placing your company’s materials on file for consideration in a future issue of Black Enterprise, or it ending up in that other file–the circular one–before we ever get a good look at how great or interesting your company’s story is. I get particularly miffed at having my name misspelled; it’s Alfred Edmond–not Albert Edmund or Edmunds or Edmonds or Edwards or Evans. (If you want to really impress me, add the “Jr.” and get my middle initial right.) Derek T. Dingle‘s title is editor-in-chief; not publisher or executive editor or CEO. We currently have a Sonja and a Sonia on staff; yes, it matters that you know which one is which. By the way, Paula McCoy-Pinderhughes is no longer our small business editor; she left the staff more than a decade ago. Why is this such a big deal? Our names and titles (and in many cases our photos) only appear in more than a half million copies of the magazine each and every month, as well as at BlackEnterprise.com. All you have to do is take the time to look it up–in a current issue. Or call our New York headquarters (212-242-8000) and ask. Failing to take the time to get it right tells us that you are either unprofessional, careless, plain disrespectful, or just not ready for prime-time national media exposure. None of these attributes will motivate us to present you and your business as examples to our audience, who trust Black Enterprise to introduce them to businesses they can emulate, do business with, work for or invest in.

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  • 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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