Following a few key tips will help ensure your byline gets the editor’s nod
Byline articles are a fantastic way to promote thought leadership and gain exposure for your executive director or CEO. They provide a platform for in-depth idea sharing, opinion, and a call to action to support a cause. Further, when you are lacking “news” to share and have run out of pitch ideas, they are a great way to get your organization ongoing coverage and boost visibility for your organization’s leader in target publications. However, in order to get a byline published, and amplify your voice, opinion and cause, you need to follow a few key rules to secure the placement.
Rule #1: DO your research on the publication
Before sending out a byline article pitch willy-nilly to every contact on your media list, do a deep dive into each publication to ensure your article idea is a good fit for their audience. Remember, not every publication will accept contributed content, so don’t waste time pitching outlets that won’t accept your work.
For those that do accept content, check out their formatting guidelines and the style of articles they’ve published from other authors. Do they prefer 1,000 word “how to” articles or 500 word personal essays? Are they looking for opinions on specific topics? Make sure you are dotting your “i”s and crossing your “t”s when it comes to the publication’s guidelines and expectations. Don’t give an editor an excuse to pass on your article idea just because you didn’t pay attention to the tone, word count, and stylistic requirements.
Rule #2: DO NOT recycle old content verbatim
The vast majority of publications that accept contributed content will require your article to be original work that has not previously been published. Even if you are repurposing content from a blog post, make sure to adjust the content and material enough so that it is fresh and could not be considered previously published material. You can still use your original blog post or article as inspiration and a starting point, but change the examples, the phrasing, the headline, and the flow so that you don’t get stuck explaining why your article appears to be duplicate content to an old blog on your website.
Rule #3: DO share an opinion
While the editorial sections of a publication will typically be fact-based and share information on a specific topic, contributed content sections are where you are expected and encouraged to share your expertise and opinion on a specific topic. For example, if you work for a behavioral health organization, a reporter might interview your CEO to gain insights on the top three ways to support substance use recovery for the editorial section of the publication. However, if you are writing a byline article on the same topic, your executive director can insert thought leadership as to why certain approaches to substance use recovery are, in their opinion and experience, more successful than others.
In addition to sharing an opinion, the author can also share a call to action. Though not a necessary component of the article, where appropriate the author can encourage people to take action. For example, an executive director of an organization that supports teen moms might encourage people to seek out educational resources on teen pregnancy or highlight ways to support a population in need.
Rule #4: DO NOT self promote
While sharing an opinion and a call to action are appropriate in a byline article, stop short of being too self-promotional. If you use the byline to talk about your organization, highlight all the amazing work that you’ve done, and wrap it all up with a rundown on your recent gala, then rest assured, no one will read it. Why? First because you are being self-promotional and thus not providing real value to the reader and second because you probably won’t get the article published in the first place. No one wants to read an advertorial that blabs on about how great you and your organization are. Byline articles are for sharing information to educate, entertain, and inspire action. A highlight reel of your organizational and personal successes are not going to gain any traction.
Rule #5: DO share your story
While no one wants to read blatant self promotion, we do want to read a good story. Sharing your “why” or your personal connection to your cause is always a good idea. Telling anecdotal stories that highlight your mission and impact or emphasize the progress you’ve made towards a cause will help make your article compelling. As humans, we love a good story. Making an article personal creates genuine authenticity and creates opportunity for connection. Sharing stories that pull at the heart strings will make people both remember and want to support your cause. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and honest, those are always the best stories in the end.
Rule #6: DO cite sources and ensure accuracy
When crafting a byline, ensure you are providing accurate information and data to support your points. Editors will want to verify information and cite sources, so make sure any “statement of fact” that you make is that – an actual fact that can be verified. Help your editor out by citing sources or research. Your readers will thank you, too; for those who want to do a deeper dive into your area of focus, you have provided a resource for them to continue to learn and expand their knowledge on a particular topic.
Rule #7: DO NOT stop when the article is published
If you get your article published, take a minute to celebrate, then get back to work! Always thank the editor for publishing your work and then share on both the author’s and the organization’s social media channels. Don’t forget to tag the publication! In addition, you can pull quotes from the article for social media graphics to be used down the road, or share excerpts in your newsletter. Include links to the published article in the author’s email signature and their executive bio. You’ve worked hard to get that article published, so make sure as many eyes see it as possible!
Follow the rules to get published
Byline articles are an amazing PR tool to gain exposure for your thought leadership, to amplify your cause, and reach new audiences. Just remember to follow the publication’s guidelines and listen to the editor’s requests when it comes to making any adjustments to format, length, and content. As the author, you are essentially playing the role of the “freelance writer,” so you must follow the lead of the editor and fulfill the editorial needs of the publication. As long as you are working within the parameters of the publication, and you’re sharing relevant, timely, educational, and inspiring ideas, your contributed content piece should get the editorial nod!
Diana Crawford is a seasoned public relations consultant with more than 15 years of agency, consulting, and in-house experience. She joined Orapin in 2013 and manages account services and client communications strategy development. She has worked across a variety of industries and has expertise with professional services, food/alcohol, health and wellness, lifestyle, sports, education, tech, and non-profit organizations.