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There are two words in the public relations world that often cause industry outsiders to say “huh?”
These two words: Contributed content.
Contributed content, also known as bylined articles or contributed articles, are written by you, the expert, and are meant to offer a vendor-neutral perspective on topics relevant to a publication’s readers.
You start with an idea. Preferably a good one, and you pitch the idea to an editor or content gatekeeper at a publication. Should they accept it, you get to share your insights and knowledge with their audience.
Case in point. This very article is an example of such a process.
Most people might think, “I can’t write an article of value. I’m a small operation. I don’t have any credibility. I don’t have a huge, successful business.”
Gaining consistent media attention is not exclusive to large, established companies. It’s about the value your story brings and if it resonates with people.
Contributed content brings benefit to you as a solopreneur or entrepreneur. While you may not be overtly publicizing your brand in your article, you are speaking to readers (ideally, your target audience). After seeing your byline, those readers can look for more on you and your brand. Plus, by sharing your content, the publication validates your credibility.
Think about your business objectives. Do you want to increase your blog subscribers? Increase traffic and warm leads to your website? Build trust with established customers?
From the outside, it may just look like more work. From the inside, you’re doing more than writing. Getting your expertise published can make an impact on your brand, inspire new levels of creativity and make you stand out with editorial gatekeepers such as reporters, bloggers, etc.
Your voice serves your editorial success.
There is a lot of content online and no shortage of people writing about the same thing again and again. Editors expect guest posts to stand out, and this is where you can insert what makes you unique — your personality, your voice and your ideas.
Just think about your favorite writers, where they insert wit, nuance and their own style. You keep going back to them because it feels like they are directly speaking to you, and they start conversations you’re not seeing elsewhere.
Editorial gatekeepers (the people in charge of curating external content), are looking for the same thing. They want you to provide value that speaks directly to their readers. You give yourself a leg up by making their lives easier when they can share germane and engaging work from a contributor.
Once the piece is published, you reap the rewards; your website analytics are a good indicator of how articles can drive website traffic.
Don’t jump to hire a ghostwriter — be a part of the process.
If you’re considering hiring somebody to write for you, reconsider. As an entrepreneur or solopreneur, it’s understandable that you have a packed schedule. However, as you build your authority, you need to be a part of this process. This is for the sake of your business, and for the editorial gatekeepers’. Their job is to sift through submissions and find the pieces that are written by the same person receiving the byline. They are checking your content at the door for any funny business.
Oftentimes editorial gatekeepers can tell whether a piece is not from the original author because there is a dip in the quality of the content. It’s why certain media publications who used to take unsolicited article submissions have stopped and now operate on an invite-only basis. Why? Quality control. They were getting hundreds of painful-to-read pieces and not enough publish-worthy gems from original authors.
The messages, the quality of the content or something else gets diluted when you hand off your ideas without regard for staying involved. There are skilled ghostwriters out there, and if you have the resources to hire them and work with them when you are ready and established, kudos to you.
But, for those who hire an inexperienced writer or just remove themselves from the process entirely, you run the risk of letting your content quality take a nosedive along with your results.
Your voice best serves your business message.
No one knows your voice better than you. When you are a part of the writing process, from start to finish, you can really dig into shaping and sharing your voice. When you write a piece, you decide what direction to take it and the main points you want to address. Even better, you realize the topics you’re not interested in addressing. Don’t want to touch a fad? Choose another topic.
You don’t always get this level of authority with your content. For instance, in media interviews, reporters may use what you have to say or not at all. The point is you have less control over what gets shared. By sharing a bylined article, you identify the most salient points and the most beneficial ideas to share. You control your own message.
And, you are doing it all for an established audience. You do not have to wait months or years to build up tens of thousands of blog subscribers. You get to borrow audiences from publications that readers already visit, and trust.
Remember, it all starts with an idea. You stumble upon them daily. Maybe a colleague asks you a question that inspires an idea. Maybe you have data ready to share (see OKCupid’s blog for a great example). Maybe you’re not seeing an industry trend or problem being addressed. If you can support your points or others can garner knowledge from the topic, then share.
Keep sharing and when people see you as a credible source, the media will start coming to you for your outlook or expertise.