The media landscape continues to evolve due to the rise of social media. Editors have to produce more content than ever before – and usually with fewer resources available, due to dwindling advertising dollars.
This presents a great opportunity for organizations that have the time and the public relations resources available to develop bylined articles, as editors are looking more and more for contributed content. While it’s true that editors will alter contributed material to fit the requirements of their publication, the bylined article is still a great way for an organization to get their message out to prospective customers with very limited filtering.
Editors are seeking bylines, but they don’t accept just anything that comes their way. There are specific guidelines that each publication follows, and when writing a byline, potential contributing authors should visit a media outlet’s website or contact the publication’s editor to discuss specific guidelines.
If a content developer would like to write an article and secure a byline placement in more than one publication, they will have to follow different guidelines at each outlet. There are some simple rules of thumb; however, that a writer can follow to pique an editor’s interest when drafting bylines:
1) Commercial free – Almost without exception, editors want articles that are vendor neutral – those that tell a story or provide advice without focusing on the organization that is contributing the material. Writers can discuss their organization’s products if they fit in the overall trend or issue the writer is discussing, but usually direct references to the organization contributing the piece should appear only in the author’s bio.
2) No Alphabet Soup – People who work in industries like technology or healthcare are familiar with the acronyms they use on a daily basis, but it’s a good idea to stay away from lesser known acronyms in an article. If an acronym must be included in a byline, the writer should always spell out what the letters stand for on first reference, to make the article easier to follow.
3) The short and the long of it – Some publications and web sites accept articles up to 3,000 words or more, but usually, editors are looking for 800-1,200 words. That is a good range to stick to, because based on the publication’s requirements the article can easily be edited down or expanded.
4) No “I” in Team – While the author is one person, (s)he is writing on behalf of their organization and should avoid writing in the first person. The goal in contributing content is for the organization to become an industry influencer.
5) Take ‘em to school – Articles that educate an editor’s audience always garner more interest than those that serve as a marketing piece for an organization.
6) Pick a side – Writer’s who take a stand on a hot industry topic – like a public policy issue – are usually given greater consideration for coverage. Editors are interested in controversy, so as long as the writer has a strong conviction that they are on the right side of an issue and their organization will back them up, they should seek out a publication to promote their perspective.
7) Be original – When writing an article, bring in some new insight that the audience hasn’t heard before. Editors are asked to consider a lot of contributed content, and writers can make their contribution stand out from the crowd by being innovative.
8) Know the audience – Organizations targeting niche publications need to know what the audience is interested in reading about. It’s always a good idea to visit the publication’s website to see the makeup of the publication’s audience to ensure your messaging is on target.
9) Hey, it’s me again – Before pitching an editor on a new article, writers should make sure the topic wasn’t recently covered in the publication by an editor on staff or another contributing author. This can usually be determined through a simple search of the media outlet’s website.
10) Picture this – Many times, editors like to include a picture of the author with the article. If the article is for a print publication, make sure to have a print quality photo (usually a photo in jpeg format at 300 dpi resolution) of the author available at the time of submission, so that publication of the article is not delayed while trying to secure a photo.
– By Dan Green