Readers often wonder how we come up with topics and shops to write about in feature articles, so I thought I’d share some insight about that. First, it’s important to define what a Modern Machine Shop feature article is. Feature articles are almost always staff-written and almost always the result of an editor’s personal visit to a shop. Classic feature articles highlight shops that are leveraging shopfloor technology and concepts to effect fundamental change leading to greater success at machining parts. Unlike case studies (such as those that appear in our “Better Production” section) that explain how a specific piece of equipment, software, etc., helped a shop solve a specific problem, feature stories paint a higher-level portrait of a shop’s endeavors to improve its overall shopfloor processes.
Our editorial calendar ensures that those feature articles address appropriate new machining technology, trends, topics and emerging markets in that regard. But no matter how we happen on a lead, we first must be able to identify a clearly defined story “hook,” something Editor-in-Chief Mark Albert calls a “nuggety kernel.”
So where do they originate? Sometimes, story leads come from manufacturers of machine tools, worhkolding devices, software, cutting tools and other equipment that have identified customers who have a good story to tell. Proactive manufacturers have internal marketing departments or external public relations agencies that liaise between editors and the shop to facilitate communication. Oftentimes, these groups have a pretty good idea of what we’re looking for in a good story lead, and can explain how a shop leveraged the OEM’s product in its overall process-improvement efforts. After that, it’s just a matter of chatting with someone at the shop to see if we can identify that magical nuggety kernel.
Other times, shop owners or managers contact us directly, or meet us at industry events or trade shows to explain recent improvements they might like to crow about in a feature article. They understand that having an article appear in the magazine and on our website helps boost shop morale and also gets the shop in front of new customers.
Then, there’s the Internet. I’ve had some success identifying prospective shops to profile by using keyword searches to locate shop websites or YouTube videos. I use a variety of industry-related keywords, depending on what I’m hoping to write about, such as medical machining, five-axis machining, hard turning and so on. I then check out the links that appear in the search results, looking for information that leads me to believe a shop might have a good story to tell. I’ll call if something piques my interest.
Admittedly, the success rate of this third cold-call-type method is lower than others, but it has worked nicely on occasion. However, there’s another reason I wanted to mention this lead-generation method: If I am searching the Internet looking for shops to profile, your potential customers are, too. Therefore, make sure your website is set up to attract as much attention from internet searches as possible through search engine optimization (SEO). It is an effective marketing tool to help us find you.