Improve B2B PR With Better Bylines

Timely, authoritative and well-written bylined articles – contributed pieces for business and trade publications – can elevate a B2B public relations effort exponentially, if executed correctly.

How hard is it to write some short articles on a subject you know well? Harder than you think, if you want editors to consider your content for publication.  And we’re going to use this opportunity to share some secrets to better bylines that will get published and be noticed by customers and prospects.

Eight Secrets To Better Bylines

Always start with editorial guidelines

Understanding what the decision-makers want before you begin writing is a major timesaver. Most online publications have editorial guidelines. You may have to search a bit to find them, but here’s a tremendous shortcut. The guidelines will typically cover the most important issues such as word count and how the publication prefers to receive submissions. Many prefer to receive a pitch and an outline first, though some will look at a completed article right off the bat. Following the editorial guidelines will streamline the process and improve the odds of publication, as discussed in a previous post on how to construct bylined articles.

Write for the audience

It may seem obvious, but study the publication you’re pitching, and read more than one issue. This will offer insight into its tone, target audience, and topics. Although, as a rule, it’s smart to avoid jargon, bylined articles offer a bit of an exception. Because every industry has its own language and terminology, to write like an insider may require the inclusion of certain terms. In adtech we talk about “viewability” and “monetization” – deadly to those outside the industry, but considered hot-button issues by many inside it. Try this simple exercise to gauge readability – can you substitute a common phrase for an “insider” term and still have the piece make sense? In instances where you have to use insider terms, consider inserting a brief explanation that doesn’t interrupt the flow and keeps the reader interested. This piece on emerging technologies written for a supply chain trade is a great example.

Choose a hot topic

Even editors of the driest trade publications need to attract readers. So it pays to make a topic as “of-the-moment” as possible, while staying relevant to the publication’s editorial coverage. Also key, can the topic be tied to anything in the day’s news? Newsjacking is great for a byline, but only if you can get something written and published before the story reaches its expiration date, which happens quickly in the 24/7 news cycle. Again, pay close attention to the style for each publication and how edgy, or not, you can be with tone and language. It’s helpful to convey as much as possible in the title of the piece so that both editors and audience have a clear idea of where it’s headed. This piece written for a 3D printing company, does just that.

Time your pieces strategically

Timing is everything, and coordination of a byline’s publication should be part of an ongoing PR plan. If your company is about to debut a new IoT home security device, time a story submission to coincide with the launch. Consider a broad home security topic that your product can fit into, but not dominate, and offer insight and advice for the reading public. Think about a topic like 5 Ways IoT Has Changed Home Security Forever. A well-timed publication will build on other PR efforts – press release, interviews and product reviews, etc. – and help create even more awareness of the effort.

Create a writing track record

Editors of top business publications like Inc. and Forbes are very particular about the writing they select. To convince an editor that you have writing experience on the level they require, build a track record by writing and publishing articles on LinkedIn and your company blog, or guest-blogging on a complementary site. Build a portfolio and start by pitching lower-level industry trades, which are typically in great need of content and have less stringent guidelines. As pieces are published, leverage them up the vertical and business publication foodchain. These examples will demonstrate ability and instill confidence in editors considering contributed pieces.

Do your research

This point can’t be stressed enough –  there are no shortcuts when authoring a meaningful byline. Do research that includes citing data and statistics to support the case or point being made, or the questions being probed.  Quote sources and conduct interviews of third-party experts where possible. Also important – dig deep for relevant statistics and objective data. Check out industry and analyst reports, niche newsletters, and industry experts to lend depth and perspective to the piece and to separate it from “been there, done that” content. Editors are looking for credible contributors who offer unique perspectives that can be supported with facts. Take a look at articles on similar topics and keep a file of the particularly well-written ones that you might “reverse-engineer” to see what kind of research supported the piece. Compile as much background and context as possible before you start writing.

Take a contrarian point of view when appropriate

The best articles are the ones with a strong point of view. And sometimes, the less popular point of view stands the best chance of being selected.  Take care when taking an oppositional stance, but if it’s true to your core beliefs, a byline championing an unexpected position makes for powerful reading.

Tell, don’t sell

Overtly selling a product or service is the kiss of death for editors who make judgments about contributed articles. Submitting a story where you’ve tried to wedge in some sales talk, even vaguely, could result in being blacklisted. So, don’t. Often the only mention of an author’s affiliation is in the actual byline, (the author’s name and affiliation) listed at the bottom of the piece. Sometimes, with an editor’s agreement, a story can include information specific to the writer’s day job, but that’s on a case-by-case basis. If you want to deliver an engaging article, don’t sell. Instead, let the effort and insights of the article work to subtly sell for you.

Ideally, byline writing will be part of an overall executive visibility or thought leadership effort that will incorporate provocative ideas, insights and new learnings for a receptive audience while building a personal and corporate brand name and reputation.

10 Habits Of Highly Successful PR People

The Tony nominees were announced this week, and it’s award season for public relations as well. We are pleased to be contenders in a couple of categories. Nothing beats acknowledgment by industry peers for a job well done. The timing also provides a good opportunity to review the kinds of traits that create award-winning PR teams.

Cultivating Habits of Highly Successful PR People

The following illustrate some habits to help any PR team excel at their jobs. Although research shows that it takes 66 days to form a habit, we challenge you to incorporate at least some of these right away.

Write more and write better

Good, error-free writing is under threat today. We constantly find horrid examples committed by journalists. Some are benign and others are really galling. It seems the need for speed in writing and editing is taking its toll. Don’t let this happen to you! One of the best ways to improve your writing is to create the ideal environment in which to write. Create the conditions you prefer when writing – e.g. complete silence, music in your headphones? If writing doesn’t come easily to you, set some goals such as completing 1000 words or writing for two hours. Set a timer and give yourself breaks. It helps tremendously to read work aloud, you will catch 99% of common errors that way and be sure to embrace editing, don’t short circuit the process. Best of all, have someone else critique your work.

Stay educated

Continuing education in PR can provide a keen edge and there are many options from podcast to online and offline classes. We are big fans of webinars such as those offered by  Cision and PR News on topics ranging from  Craft a Crisis Plan for High-Speed News Cycles to Breaking Down the State of the Media in 2017. The content is varied and meaningful, you can participate on your own time and they’re usually free.  As there are advances in digital media, public relations measurement and other key areas, staying current can mean the difference between an average campaign and one that really ignites.

And do some educating

We’re big believers in giving back to students and those newly entering the field. There are many benefits in addition to the good feelings that come from sharing knowledge with others. Teaching, whether remotely or in a classroom, hones your speaking skills and offers an edge in PR presentation. And exposure to eager PR students helps fill the new hire or intern pipeline. Each teaching opportunity is also a chance to promote your skills on social media or perhaps a blog post or newsletter item.  Again, there are myriad ways to share your wisdom and experience with others.  Recently we took part in a webinar sponsored by Meltwater on Using Data to Achieve Efficiency and Accuracy in PR and Communications. Consider panels, webinars, guest-teaching at local schools and more.

Embrace technology and look for new tools

It’s estimated that the Apple App store grows by 1,000 new apps a day. Obviously only a fraction of theses will help you in business, but it does pay to look at what’s new in apps, software and hardware on a regular basis to see where PR can benefit. Here’s just a sampling. Don’t have time to read every relevant article right away? Pocket is an app that lets users save links for later without the need for internet connection. Want to make a killer impression the next time you meet with a prospect? Charlie App combs through hundreds of sources and automatically sends you a one‐pager on who you’re going to meet with, ahead of time. Finally, who hasn’t wished their phone took better pictures? For events or capturing the CEO in an interview, try VSCO for professional editing and filters for IoS and Android.

Break out of your reading rut.

The Skimm, Buzzfeed and Jezebel are all fun to read, but to improve business acumen, writing and conversation skills, consider broadening your reading horizons. Take a fresh look at your business to assess whether you’re on top of all the verticals and trades; nearly all are likely available online and getting to know the subject matter and the writers will also help anyone pitch more successfully. Next, where do you get pop culture news? To be creative and strategic in PR, it’s almost equally as important to know about the latest industry merger and what Rihanna wore to the Met Ball. Successful newsjacking and borrowed interest are time-tested PR strategies that rely on savvy pop culture knowledge. Finally, running a PR division requires basic business expertise. Publications like Inc. and Forbes are still valuable, as are any number of good business blogs — Daily Dose from Entrepreneur and  QuickSprouts’ short, easy-to-read posts, to name two.

Volunteer to do some pro bono PR

Finding a way to meld an avocation with your vocation is an easy win-win. Many PR companies take on pro bono work supporting causes as varied as domestic abuse prevention to the arts. But we also find taking on a PR project for a cause that resonates on a personal level offers great satisfaction – and great experience. The work can be as varied as a restoration project in your hometown to alumni PR for your alma mater. In addition to flexing some PR muscles that may have grown rusty, a pro bono assignment can also open doors to contacts in various fields. And the smart PR pro knows how to work contacts into relationships, as the unpaid work can turn into a seat on the board of a non-profit that is important for both business and personal reasons.

Pick up the phone and pick someone’s brains

It’s human nature to feel appreciated when someone seeks you out for your skills or knowledge. A good practice for many successful executives is to make a habit of calling a media contact, associate, mentor or other business associate on a regular basis. The value of a friendly phone call to catch up and seek advice can’t be underestimated. Unlike email, a personal call can be refreshing and serves to forge a connection. And if within that phone call, you also want to get some actual business accomplished, follow the steps laid out by Fast Company.

Get out of the office

Go out to lunch, drinks, and dinner. Everything about a relationship changes when you get off the conference call and out of the office. Spending more casual time getting to know a client, a colleague or other business partner will change the tenor of the association for the better as you get to know someone’s interests outside of work.  It’s a good idea to arrange a quick coffee or drinks in lieu of a call every now and then, to see if you don’t immediately feel a stronger connection. Stronger connections lead to increased trust, which improves any PR relationship.

Keep lists and learn from them

A good friend and media colleague, Paula Rizzo, has written an entire book on the subject. The joys of list-writing are numerous and include organizing subjects, freeing up time and minimizing stress. In public relations, starting and maintaining some simple lists will recharge your brain, give you back sand keep a project in line. For example, keep a running list of great PR ideas you’ve seen executed or read about. At the same time, keep a tally of total flops – ideas to stay away from. Also helpful, turn these lists into visuals via Pinterest or some other site to store creative output. These tips can save a lot of time in brainstorms and with ideas for new business proposals. We also advise creating lists of tasks for big projects and finding the best way to communicate them to your team. Some people are fans of Google Docs which allow for easy collaboration, as does Microsoft Office Online featuring its OneNote program. Whatever way you choose, get everyone on board with list-making and do something fun with the time you save.

Conquer something that isn’t your strong suit – yet

Is there an element of the PR practice that you’ve yet to master? Boredom breeds dissatisfaction, while feeling as if you’re on a learning curve can be inspiring. We find it helpful to periodically take a hard look at skills and see where there’s room for improvement. Is it time for that web analytics session? Could an investment in visual design pay off? Hate numbers? Maybe it’s time for a crash course in accounting.
Finally, integrating new habits does take time, though hopefully not 66 days! But try to tackle one or two at a time and see if it doesn’t make a marked difference in your PR efforts.