Contributed Articles – The Perfect Opportunity for Thought Leadership

Posted by Beth Hespe

Earned media is very important. Most people think reporters and editors control all the content. They don’t write everything. One form of earned media, contributed articles, offers a unique way to earn free media placement and generate thought leadership.

A “byline” or contributed article written by a subject matter expert (SME) or CEO offers a powerful way to share your company’s point of view about your industry, an important issue, or company expertise.

With a contributed article, you control the content. Articles written by a reporter or other editorial staff may mention your competitors. By writing the article yourself, you can focus on the message you want.

So, where do you begin? Here’s a quick getting-started guide to developing contributed articles:

  1. Develop a story idea – Develop a story idea or topic that you want to write about. Be strategic and keep it in synch with your PR and marketing program. Develop a pitch to approach editors about your story idea.
  2. Target your contributed article – Not every publication, online or in print, is interested in contributed articles. Before you begin, think about who you want to read your message. Read a few samples and look at the editorial guidelines. Then, pitch your article to that editorial decision maker. Sometimes, you may have to negotiate your story idea to make it right for the publication and its editor’s wishes. But, this is an important part of developing the right content for you and your publishing partner.
  3. Editorial Guidelines – Once you have received the go-ahead, carefully follow your editorial guidelines and deadlines. If the editorial wants a piece that should be 750 words, don’t turn in 1,200 words. And, don’t submit your copy late. If they want you to submit images and diagrams, design this into your development process. Be honest with you and your team. If you don’t have the time to dedicate to the project, don’t take it on.
  4. Editorial Development – For some companies, it is best to begin editorial development with an old fashioned outline, in other cases, subject matter experts, SMEs, like to start on their own. In some cases, you can adapt a research paper or white paper to get a head start. But, don’t wait until the last minute to look at a draft and run it through internal approvals. Put together an internal process with check points so that you can turn out professional level material that your editorial partner and their readers will love. 
  5. Don’t be overtly promotional – Steer clear of sales pitches and overtly marketing driven material. Editors will not want to publish it. However, you do want to include information about your website (and especially for online contributed content, include links) and other valuable content to drive readers back to your web site.