TOP Talk

Feeding the Owned Content Machine with Great Contributed Articles

Posted October 08, 2014 By Kathy Wilson

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Bylined articles can be an effective way for an organization to showcase a perspective or help prospective buyers tackle a timely business issue. But just because you build it doesn't mean they will come. Or put another way, just because your byline appears in a magazine doesn't mean it will automatically attract readers who, in turn, will want to curate your content among their peers.

Clients often ask what makes for an outstanding, shareable contributed article. Here are six strategies we've cultivated over the years to help improve the odds your article won't just make it into publication, but will become a must-read:

1. First, do your homework.

The first step with any bylined article program is doing the preliminary research to understand your audience and what they need. What unique knowledge or experience can you bring to the table that will add value to the general industry discourse? .

2. Identify the right vehicle.

Decide what form your contributed should content take. For instance, does your target audience value customer case studies that showcase how an organization is getting real business value from a particular solution? Does it seek out opinion pieces that present novel or even controversial thinking on status quo approaches? Are short-form letters to the editor the best vehicle by which to get your views across? Do the contributors tend to be vendors, or does the publication primarily run stories by neutral third-party influencers like industry analysts?

Most publications that accept contributed content will have a section on their site that explains their policies around contributed materials and offers author's guidelines in terms of word count and preferred format.

3. Have a point of view.

Sounds simple enough. But how are you going to make your article stand out from what's already been published? A good first step is defining your platform. What are those three timely issues you'll be exploring in your contributed articles that showcase new ideas and set you apart from the pack?

Before you rush in, peruse a few issues of your target publications and conduct a quick search to see if your topic has already been covered and how. Take a look at articles your competitors may have submitted so you can further differentiate yourself. And most importantly, make sure your point of view is grounded in fact, with proof points to bring it to life.

Another tip: make your article "snackable" by breaking down your perspective into tips. Readers (and editors!) love "top five reasons why…" or "10 steps to overcoming XX obstacle" sorts of stories that can be quickly read and offer actionable takeaways.

4. Keep it authentic.

Be sure your contributed content reflects your actual voice. Don't try to write in a style that's not you, or use words you wouldn't use in everyday conversation. A reader can spot a phony a million miles away.

5. Keep it vendor-neutral.

Your bylined article is not an advertorial, so tell your story in a vendor-neutral way. Your audience will read on because you're an expert in a certain field and are sharing information they want to hear, without the hard sell. Most bylines will give you an opportunity to share a short (as in, a sentence or two) bio at the end. That's your chance to associate your knowledge and expertise with a particular company.

6. Be willing to invest ongoing skin in the game.

Looking for more than a one-time byline? Sometimes the more prolific a writer is, the more he or she will appeal to a publication as an ongoing "contributor" or columnist. Forbes, InformationWeek and Yahoo! Finance are just some of the outlets that seek interesting and original contributions from outside authors for ongoing byline opportunities.

7. Give it legs.

Congrats, your article is in print or online. Now's the time to help extend its shelf life through smart social or syndication strategies. For instance, take to your social channels to promote your contributed article. If you're a publisher on LinkedIn, consider developing a synopsis of the story you can share with your followers.

Investigate syndication platforms like Outbrain or Taboola to draw more eyeballs to your story on other content sites like CNN, USA Today and more. These platforms work on a cost-per-click model, where you set a budget (modest or otherwise) to syndicate your content via links and compelling headlines across the web.

Sure it takes time to develop owned content like bylines. But this tactic is a great way to credibly earn thought leadership in your key markets and help differentiate from the pack.

Kathy Wilson

About Kathy Wilson

Identifying and showcasing the unique and authentic elements of a company’s story – those “aha!” storylines that set a great company apart from the merely good ones. Then developing a strategy that leverages a variety of storytelling channels, whether it’s traditional media, social campaigns or visuals, to bring that company’s value proposition to life. 20+ year PR veteran.