The Art of the Byline — Creating Stand-out Thought Leadership for Clients

What goes into a good byline article?

By Giuseppina Chiaramonte
The Hoffman Agency, San Jose

There are few things more thrilling than seeing one’s name in a byline. This goes not only for journalists, but for company executives as well.

Contributed articles provide an excellent way to establish your client as an expert. They get the executive’s name out there, and provide instant brand awareness with every story published. Not to mention that the media landscape is evolving, making contributed content a staple among top-tier publications.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at Forbes and Inc. to see who’s writing their stories.

So how do you do it? How do you secure a byline opportunity for your client, and then sustain the program to make it successful?

It isn’t easy, and it definitely requires work and commitment. But if thought leadership is a point of interest for your clients, then here are some tips to get your byline program off the ground and running.

First, do your research.

Before you even propose a byline program to your client, start by taking a deep look at the most relevant publications for their industry. Do they even accept contributions? If so, what does the publishing schedule look like? Is it daily, weekly, monthly — or does it vary? Understand what the commitment would be before offering your client as a contributor.

It’s also worth noting that most publications expect you to be in it for the long haul. Inc., for instance, expects its contributors to submit at least one article per week. The days of “one-off” contributions are nearly spent, so try to be realistic about what your client can actually produce.

Make your pitch personal.

There’s no single way to pitch a byline opportunity, so expect to vary it depending on the publication. Some will want you to include a byline in the pitch, others expect an initial abstract for an article and others still want multiple article abstracts. The one thing you can do consistently across your pitches is to outline why your client would make a good contributor. Highlight the author’s industry experience, and tell the publication what your client has to offer.

My personal advice — if you have a sample article handy, then include it in the body of your email. If the publication is interested, it’s going to want to see an article anyway, so you might as well get it out there and save some time.

Map out an ed-cal.

Once you’ve secured a publication’s interest and determined the posting schedule, work with your client to map out an editorial calendar. Keep in mind that topics change and timely issues may push new subjects to the forefront. The ed-cal’s function is to act as a guide and provide deadlines for drafts and submissions, not necessarily to plan topics out “to a T.”

Use sourcing sessions to keep the creative juices flowing.

Having regular calls or sourcing sessions with your client can keep ideas fresh and moving. It also gives the executives the opportunity to talk through article topics and pinpoint the right approach.

When sourcing with clients, start by asking what industry trends are on their radar. If they don’t have anything particularly insightful to share, it’s good to have some backup questions to prod their thinking. For example, “XYZ company announced a big move this week. How do you think it will impact the industry?”

Be the editor.

Finally, as the PR pro, you’re the liaison between your client and the media. So if your client provides an article that isn’t up-to-snuff, it’s your job to push back and suggest edits before it’s submitted to the publication.

After all, if you merely push content through that’s overly promotional, or that doesn’t match the integrity of the publication, you’ll not only damage your client’s relationship with the publication, but yours as well.

Don’t be afraid to act as an editor — after all, knowing what will resonate with media is our job.

What are some other tips for creating a successful byline program? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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