PR professionals are constantly on the hunt for ways to get their clients and brands media coverage. And with a 24-hour news cycle, publications are always searching for fresh content. One staple from the B2B PR toolbox is contributed content. A piece of content like a guest post, bylined article, or op/ed is a useful way to keep a brand executive relevant and generate exposure for his organization. Not only that, but a bylined article, in contrast to an editorial piece, typically allows a brand to take control over its own message.
Unlike a traditional article written by a reporter about a person or company, contributed content is written directly by a brand or company executive and submitted to a publication. This is clearly a big advantage, but because this piece isn’t being filed by a journalist, the brand executive must work hard to make it a high-quality and interesting piece that meets editorial standards. The best bylined articles offer insight and first-person perspective on issues or topics relevant to a specific industry or community. They may contain advice, a call-for-action, or express an option on a burning business or social issue. Through such content PR professionals can position clients as thought leaders in their fields.
Pitching for contributed content like bylined articles can be tricky. Here are some tips and tricks for landing bylined placements.
Do your research: Most publications that feature contributed content have a dedicated editor working on these pieces. Usually the piece must meet specific guidelines for word count, format, style, subject matter, and target audience.
Study key outlets: Note the subject matter and scope for the publication you’re pitching and be cognizant of topics they’ve recently covered to spot the best opportunities and avoid duplicating efforts. Pay special attention to opportunities to zig where others zag.
Take a strong point of view: It’s important to express a viewpoint that’s strong and distinct. It helps if it’s contrarian, or if it’s considered unique or unusual by most readers. If it’s an opinion or analysis piece, the angle should offer a new perspective and insights. If it’s an article about trends, it must contain a surprise factor and/or tell readers something they don’t already know.
Don’t be self promotional: When crafting a contributed piece, you should not mention your own brand. Instead the piece will typically identify the contributor with a one-line description of his or her affiliation. But the implicit positioning is as an expert in a given field. For example, a client in the professional services category may address the legal or security implications of widespread remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The author might offer meaningful advice to business owners or share a point of view about the impact of the pandemic on productivity and service. Whatever the case, its publication helps establish the writer as an expert.
But don’t be afraid to be personal It can be refreshing for a bylined article to contain a reference to a personal situation or observation – if it’s relevant to the topic at hand. One of our best and most widely read executive bylines started with a reference to the executive’s young daughter and her reaction to a digital advertising video slogan. The writer quickly moved on to make a point about good and bad digital advertising, and you didn’t need to be a parent to understand his point.
Be audience-driven: Consider the ideal targets for the piece and what their takeaways will be after reading. Know your audience and be mindful of their needs and time.
Sharing thoughts, experiences and hard-earned problem-solving techniques establishes industry executives as educators and helps make connections to strengthen their personal brand all while gaining thought leadership and brand exposure.