It’s a common misconception that public relations = press release. But that’s simply not true. In fact, effective PR programs don’t even require lots of company news. Many different avenues for generating company awareness exist outside of the traditional press release. One of the best? Thought leadership content that’s posted by influential publications in the appropriate market. In the PR biz, we typically call these bylined articles or contributed content.
The reality is that very few companies have a steady stream of press releases that reliably generate news coverage—and that’s ok. In fact, we routinely counsel clients against issuing press releases that do not have news value because with the media, quality counts. So regardless of your company’s newsflow, contributing content is another way that you can regularly promote your expertise and point of view.
Some historical context
As you may know, the media business has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. Industry trade publications used to have editorial staffs with some level of expertise in their coverage area (or “beat”). As advertising increasingly moved online, these publications lost many pages of editorial content and unfortunately, a lot of extremely knowledgeable journalists found themselves without a job.
Fast forward to today. Trade publications that remain in business typically operate with skeletal editorial staffs, often with just a managing editor. This means that many rely on articles contributed by industry insiders to fill the pages of their magazine and bring eyeballs to their website. And that’s good news for you.
What are magazines looking for?
Most publications that accept bylined articles typically publish different types of content (e.g. guest column, trend article, how-to piece, etc.) and post submission requirements or article/writer’s guidelines on their website outlining exactly what they are looking for. When this information is available, writing an article is similar to following a recipe.
Like a recipe, it all starts with quality ingredients — think: a great idea that no one else is talking about, your unique point of view, or that underdog trend that is more important than people realize. For a lot of publications, including images with your article is mandatory, so gather the key ingredients before you get started.
Once you have all the quality ingredients, follow the recipe. If the publication prefers list articles, start by making your list (e.g. “3 ways to X, 5 reasons Y). If it wants a “how-to,” identify the necessary steps clearly in your article. Lastly, pay attention to word count guidelines (this is the ‘yield’ in your contributed article recipe). If the publication wants dinner for 6 and you give it dinner for 4, or dinner for 12, you reduce your chances of your content being accepted.
Is it worth the effort?
This is a common question. Finding time to research and write an article is difficult for most companies. (That’s where a PR firm or freelance ghostwriter can come in handy!) But it’s worth the investment because the content’s lifespan usually extends far beyond a single industry publication.
Make the most of bylined articles by repurposing the content in every possible way to boost its reach:
- Corporate blog: repurpose or repost (with permission and attribution) to your company blog.
- LinkedIn: share with your networks (with attribution).
- Social media: promote on both your personal and company accounts. Repeat.
- Email: include these valuable pieces of thought leadership when sending marketing emails/newsletters/blog shares to subscribers.
- Visuals: create an infographic and/or other compelling visuals that can be shared on your website, via social channels, etc.
- Lead generation: transform the topic into an eBook or a white paper that you can use to collect leads from your website.
- Industry events: submit the idea for a speaking opportunity at an event where potential customers will be in attendance.
- Internal communications: repurpose into company messaging that inspires employees.
- Town halls or fireside chats: use content topics as conversation starters with company employees.
If you have 10 articles that you can get this much mileage out of, you will have a year’s worth of content at your fingertips.
Which leads us to another important point: Thought leadership via contributed articles is most effective when you put a little strategy behind it. Maybe you want to evolve a particular topic over time to educate the market. Or perhaps you want to hammer home some key messages. Map out a series of topics and target publications and make a plan.
So there you have it. Contributed articles are an important and effective part of any public relations program and one that should certainly be taken advantage of. If you need any help, give us a ring—we’re happy to help.