Placing bylined articles in local and national media is a time-tested, effective public relations tactic to raise a company’s profile, position executives as thought leaders and improve brand awareness. Much like a news story, a byline placement implies a third-party endorsement because the media outlet’s editorial staff deemed it worthy of the reader’s attention.
Here are seven tips we follow to write unique, compelling bylined articles to generate awareness for our clients:
1. Research the client and industry
Before writing one word, we make sure we understand the client and the product/service about which we are writing. It is time well spent that helps us produce copy that’s on point with the client’s needs. Here’s what we review:
- Client resources: Blogs, byline articles, case studies and white papers
- Industry resources: Research reports and articles from industry trade associations, management consultants (Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Company, E&Y)
- Additional resources: Whatever the client’s business, there is a high probability that a publicly traded company is doing something similar – and those companies publish a wealth of great data about their industry and business. We look for investor presentations, mandatory filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (10-Ks, 10-Qs) and Wall Street analyst research reports.
2. Review published articles
We read plenty of articles about the topic before interviewing the client. Most likely, the topic/issue has already been covered, so we get familiar with how other authors approached the subject. This means reviewing articles on major trade industry news websites and mainstream business media outlets, as well as reading similar stories that have appeared on the websites of the client’s competitors. These steps with provide much-needed insight to differentiate our client’s article from the competition and, in journalism parlance, advance the story.
3. Confirm client expectations
Client expectations about the article’s focus must be determined prior to the first keystroke. Here’s a quick checklist of questions we ask when interviewing the client for the bylined article:
- What is the business problem that needs to be solved?
- How will the client’s products/services solve the problem?
- What are the benefits of the client’s product or service over competition?
- Can you provide examples of how customers benefited from the client’s solution?
- Why are you passionate about the topic?
We always recap the interview with a review of the key points to be featured in the article. (I always email the client a brief outline – a bullet point list will do – of the article to avoid possible confusion and make sure I’m on the right track.)
Readers are bombarded with content and are one click away from moving to another article, so the opening sentence and paragraph of the byline column must grab their attention.
4. Craft a compelling lead
Readers are bombarded with content and are one click away from moving to another article, so the opening sentence and paragraph of the byline column must grab their attention. This means providing readers with answers to “who, what, when, where and why” in the introductory paragraph. The copy must be compelling to make them stick around and read more.
5. Focus on storytelling
Storytelling is at the heart of public relations. It taps into the emotions of readers and gets them thinking about how the client’s products/services can solve a business problem. We make sure the narrative flows smoothly from paragraph to paragraph, section to section to keep the reader engaged.
6. Back up your thesis with research
No article is complete without including timely, quality research that validates the thesis of the article and positions the client as a thought leader and industry expert, so we often cite recent research from industry trade organizations and leading consulting firms. They are often a gold mine of data. One more thing: For SEO purposes, we include links to research highlighted in the article.
7. Don’t hype
One quick way to lose the interest of a reader it to hype the client’s product. Readers will see right through words like “bleeding edge,” “disruptive” or “transformational.” It is the rare product or service that fits the definition of those words.
Looking for more insight into PR writing? Check out my colleague Anthony Priwer’s blog, “How to Become a Better Writer for Your PR Clients.”