How to Make Bylined Articles Work for You

The bylined article is a common marketing and communications tactic frequently used to distinguish someone as a thought leader in their field or a company as a credible media source for information and commentary regarding a specific industry. It offers a perfect opportunity for sharing one’s expertise without overtly promoting themselves while at the same time differentiating them from their competition.

Many media outlets, such as trade publications and magazines, publish these types of articles as an externally contributed piece that offers new perspectives, knowledge and expertise in a particular subject area or topic of interest for their readership.

In this post, we walk you through the process of how to create a bylined article that media outlets will notice and want to publish.

Initial preparation

The first step in developing a bylined piece involves undertaking some preparatory work in advance. Some questions to consider as part of this preliminary process include:

  • Why are you writing this article? (Define your focus) Determine what you are aiming to accomplish whether it’s introducing a new product or service, generating new leads, increasing brand visibility, managing reputation, building thought leadership or advancing a core key message.
  • Who is your audience? Profile your target audience by identifying where they gather and source information (e.g., blogs, news, industry trades), what they’re discussing, as well as what they don’t know and potentially searching for in terms of information and/or alternative viewpoints.
  • Where can your audience be found? Identify which industry or trade publications, blogs or online news sources your key target audiences are reading and getting their information from.
  • What problem do they want solved? Find out what issues your target audience is trying to resolve, whether it’s about an issue or a practical problem that a certain product or service could resolve.
  • How can you serve their wants and needs? Figure out how your position, product or service can best address your target audience’s wants and needs and make sure to angle your bylined article in the best way to showcase that.

Writing the article

Once you decide to do a bylined article and have determined its purpose, the next step is to write it. Bylined articles can vary in length and type though they tend to be opinion-based by nature.

Bylined articles can take many forms such as:

  • Providing information and advice for solving a problem. (“How to”)
  • Sharing industry news and trends or policy changes, and providing a perspective on this. (“Opinion”)
  • Highlighting case studies, survey results or new research. (“Lessons learned”)

These different kinds of articles provide opportunities for not only establishing you as an expert but also demonstrating your organization’s capabilities and exhibiting its range of products and services. However, the type of publication you’re pitching will have an influence on the subject matter of your article and how you choose to angle it.

Key questions to first ask yourself before you start writing:

  • Who cares?
  • What is the problem?
  • Why should your audience care?

In addition to these questions, keep in mind the following tips when writing the article:

  • Avoid burying the lead
  • Have a strong opening that contains facts, data and new information
  • Develop a compelling thesis
  • Choose a narrative voice and infuse personality in your article
  • Be a storyteller and try to create intimacy with the reader
  • Use quality data to support your assertions and build credibility with examples
  • Refrain from being overtly promotional
  • Review the specifications
  • Take not of the publication’s preferred format and style (i.e., length, tone, layout)
  • Read similar articles from the site
  • Use active voice and be conversational in tone
  • Use subheadings to break up text
  • Be objective and avoid jargon, clichés and buzzwords
  • Proofread the final copy
  • Rewrite the headline

Key considerations to review

After drafting your bylined article, it’s wise to take a step back and review it with fresh eyes to confirm you’ve hit the right mark and haven’t missed anything. Here are some important questions to ask yourself when reviewing your initial draft:

  • Did you follow the guidelines?
  • Did you deliver on your headline?
  • Does it align with your purpose?
  • Is there a clear next step?
  • Is it “on message”?
  • Will a non-expert be able to understand it? 

Perfecting the pitch

Once you identify the publications you wish to target, it’s critical that you thoroughly research them to make sure they align with the type of subject matter covered in your article so you reach the right audience.

After you’ve compiled your preferred media list, contact the editors (either by phone or email) to confirm their specifications for article submissions. Most publications have set guidelines about what should be included (and excluded) in a bylined article. This includes tone, style and format, word count, as well as rules for attribution and citation.

Use these steps to guide you in pitching the media effectively and with a clear sense of purpose for maximum impact:

  • Research the targeted publication
  • Read the articles and comments sections in these publications
  • Review submission guidelines (if available)
  • Reflect the publication’s tone and style
  • Check your spelling and grammar
  • Keep it brief
  • Personalize it
  • Be interesting
  • Make it relevant

 Be mindful not to commit the following mistakes so you can avoid making a bad pitch:

  • Sending a mass email
  • Using mail merge
  • Sending a good quality pitch to the wrong target
  • Badly spinning a current event
  • Overreaching the bounds of your expertise

Here are some helpful tools for making your pitch:

Next steps

After you’ve pitched the article to your intended media targets, your work shouldn’t stop there. Turn your focus towards fostering relationships with the editors you pitched and your online networks. Also take steps to ensure your bylined article continues to work for you and that you seed the potential for opportunities in the future to publish more.

  • Thank the editor
  • Nurture the relationship over the long-term
  • Share the article with your networks
  • Add the article to your website and social media channels (e.g., LinkedIn)
  • Monitor the comments section for new ideas and perspectives

Repurposing the article for multiple uses

A bylined article can also serve as a source of material for additional kinds of content to use in a variety of ways. The information can form the basis of further articles, social media content and other promotional tools. For this reason, you can:

  • Rewrite the article for vertical markets
  • Use the content for social media posts
  • Combine it with other articles for an ebook
  • Convert it into tips for an email newsletter
  • Transform it into a podcast or presentation
  • Create a short video based on the content

The use of bylined articles provides a highly effective mechanism for cultivating thought leadership. It enables you to position someone as an expert leader in their field, advance an organization’s key messaging, put a product or service in proper context and – ultimately – engage your audience.

Not a Solo PR PRO Premium member yet? Join today to access additional downloadable sample materials for navigating the bylined article process along with many other valuable resources and tools exclusively for members.

 

Image Credits: “Stack of Newspapers with Mouse” image courtesy of hywards at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.