How to Get Published in HBR

Even in the age of social media, where anyone can publish anything (and many people do), companies and individuals still aspire to publish in the Harvard Business Review. HBR remains the thought leader in business, read by executives around the world.

Disclosure: for 10 years BullsEye has done work for HBR—creating executive summaries of live conferences and webinars. Yet we’ve never actually published in HBR. (Sort of like a caddy at Pebble Beach who has never actually played the course.)

Now we know the secret formula—and you can too.

We recently heard and summarized the Executive Editor of HBR (Sarah Cliffe) speaking to marketing folks from consulting firms at an AMCF (Association of Management Consulting Firms) event about how to get published in HBR. Highlights are below; click for full AMCF Executive Summary.

  1. Align with HBR’s mission. It is “To improve the practice of management and its impact in a changing world.”
  2. Fit with topics HBR covers. These include general management, functional management (such as finance, marketing, operations), and areas getting lots of attention, like entrepreneurship or sustainability.
  3. Contribute to thinking in the field. To make it into HBR an editor has to believe an idea is unique, original, and contributes to the world’s thinking on management.
  4. Resonate with what readers care about. Idea must be current and appealing. Recent examples include articles on analytics, managing personal energy, and measuring life success.
  5. Be seen as “compelling.” This is more art than science. The bottom line is rigor and relevance. Here are factors HBR will consider:
    • Is the idea new and/or surprising?
    • Does it tackle an important problem?
    • Do many people need to know it?
    • Are the idea and story fresh and interesting?
    • Will the article provoke change?
    • Are the authors credible?
  6. Fit with an HBR “destination” or “section.” HBR publishes books and a magazine, and has a rich website. So, determine the best destination for an idea. For ideas in the magazine, think about where it fits best. Possibilities include sections such as Spotlights, Big Idea, The Globe, Idea Watch, Vision Statement, or a standalone feature.

Now that you know how an HBR editor thinks, go forth and get your great idea published!