The media landscape is shifting. As technology increases the speed of communications, the way everyone — from companies to consumers — interacts with the media continues to change as well.
As a result, getting the word out about your company is becoming increasingly difficult. The global digital transformation has significantly impacted the media industry — and the coronavirus pandemic only made things worse, with many media outlets slashing resources or shutting down entirely and other outlets ensuring they create digital versions of their content to keep up with changes in consumer behavior.
With shrinking audience attention spans, fewer reporters covering fewer topics and the constant barrage of smartphone notifications we all receive, how can your company break through the noise to tell its unique story?
Enter contributed content, or a bylined article — written by your company or agency — that appears in a publication targeted to a general audience or one that represents your industry.
Why Contributed Content?
Contributed content in targeted media outlets offers companies access to new and larger audiences with whom they can share their ideas, opinions and expertise as thought leaders. Contributing a well-crafted article (more on well-crafted articles below) positions executives or subject matter experts, and the company they represent, as authoritative figures on a topic or in a specific industry.
Contributed content gives companies the opportunity to demonstrate both expertise and thought leadership, and it is another way to get your name (and your company’s name) out there. Unlike an article penned by a journalist about a company or its offerings, however, contributed articles are drafted by the company (or its agency) to communicate the story they want to tell in their own words.
The Value of Contributed Articles
While proactively pitching our clients into earned media opportunities can seem more exciting than securing an opportunity to contribute content, bylined articles can be just as — if not more — valuable for your company.
Not only do contributed articles allow you to tell the story you want to tell in your own words, they also ensure you receive exposure to an outlet’s broader audience. And when you “borrow the microphone” of a media outlet to speak to their audience, that means audiences will likely be much more receptive to the message you’re communicating.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that contributed content must look very much like the regular content of the publication. Readers quickly and clearly recognize the difference between an ad and an article, but bylined contributions (if they’re done right) fit right in the flow of the publication and appear as though you’re a contributor in much the same way as staff members.
Remember: This is Not an Ad
Even as newsrooms continue to shrink and the competition for website visitors increases, the demand for consumable content has not subsided. From nonstop, 24-hour news cycles to the nascent need for constantly updated websites, contributed articles help outlets fill that growing demand for content. Increasingly, publications rely on contributed content to fill their editorial calendar and add new voices to their website.
While not all publications offer contributed content opportunities, those that do usually have lofty expectations for the content that they publish. Editors are seeking contributed pieces more often, but those articles are ideally written by an expert and should require minimal fact-checking and only minor copy editing. Perhaps most important to remember — the piece cannot be a simple feature story on your company or repurposed sales copy. It must have legitimate news value and be written to the same standards as other pieces in the outlet.
Ultimately, if you don’t immediately have something groundbreaking to unveil (which can often best be communicated with a news release) and don’t want to pay for an ad, contributed content is a great solution to gain coverage and help position your company and experts as industry leaders.
Contributed Article Tips and Tricks
When pitching outlets for a contributed article, remember that editors want compelling content, not the trivial marketing language of self-promotional pieces. Strike a balance between readable and informative (that is, not too technical). Be sure that you have an actual story to tell, tips to offer, trends to watch for, etc. In short, your contributed piece needs to provide unbiased value to an outlet’s readers and absolutely cannot come off as sounding like a commercial for your company. While you may from time to time get away with a commercial piece, it won’t resonate with readers and will fail to meet your communications goals.
Consequently, it’s important to understand your marketing and business goals to determine the messages that should be prioritized and what will be most relevant in helping achieve your goals. Thus, it is also important to make sure the target publication placing your content makes sense for you. Will getting your message in front of a publication’s readership actually equate to your definition of success? Consider your audience and offer them something of value.
Always think about the outlet as well. Would your story make more sense in a general outlet with a broad audience or in an industry-specific publication focused on the ins and outs of your business sector? If no actual potential customers are reading the piece, it’s not doing its job. Top-tier publications with a broader audience might not want to publish a highly technical article, however, if you have an idea that you believe could position you or your company as a forward-thinker or thought leader, then consider aiming beyond niche industry publications.
Most importantly, is the article or topic you’re proposing the type of thing you’ve seen the outlet do before? If not, are you sure the topic is the right one for this outlet? While new and fresh ideas are critical, articles that are completely outside of what the outlet delivers to its readers will likely not fly.
In the end, contributed content is just one part of a well-considered marketing and PR campaign, and when done well, it can drive incredibly positive results. At MAPR, writing contributed articles allows us to sharpen our researching and creative writing skills while simultaneously embedding ourselves further into our clients’ unique businesses and their industries. Find out how we can help you tell your story by capitalizing on opportunities to contribute content.