The public-relations world is changing. With the need for continuously updated websites and 24-hour news cycles comes a push for PR companies to fill the content void with articles pitched by their clients.
Interviews and profiles are increasingly becoming things of the past as some editors are seeking contributed pieces, preferably written by experts in a specific field. Ideally for the editors, these columns might require little fact checking and only minor copy editing.
By contributing their expertise, businesspeople get their name out there and websites are provided with much needed content.
Unfortunately that’s not always the client's expectation. This is where PR firms need to do a better job of educating clients on what’s required of them in the age of the Internet.
Don’t let clients’ hopes of interviews and profiles praising their business culture (or innovative technology) or their expections of a CEO’s rags-to-riches story cloud their vision about public relations. Instead be sure clients are aware that getting their names out there requires some legwork.
And while there’s a lot of work involved when a businessperson contributes an article, it becomes easier and less time-consuming over time and the benefits far outweigh the minor challenge. Outlets are always in need of articles, so chances are, if a client and the publicist are easy to work with, the writing will be welcomed.
Another benefit comes from the fact that clients can have some control over the message (although someone will edit the piece). But that's totally not the case when a publication writes its own article about the client.
About 90 percent of my public-relations work involves pitching outlets. I have learned a thing or two about writing contributed content and op-eds. Here are my tips for ensuring constant media placements for contributed pieces:
This is the golden rule of writing articles for tier-1 publications. Don't write articles on the five reasons the company's business is the best or the four ways the organization is better than its competitors.
Instead, executives should write articles based their expertise or what they've learned from their jobs.
This article is a good example of that, by the way. While it’s not about my business, the topic -- discovering what works for contributed articles -- is something that I have learned from my business and professional career.
Remember: The purpose of such articles is to share knowledge -- not be a billboard for the businessperson. That's called advertising.
Related: Why Leaders Are Great Storytellers
One question I receive from clients time and time again is where I get my story ideas from. This is easy: I pull them from my own life and business experiences.
For my Entrepreneur.com pieces, for example, I look for current concerns about my business and write about them. If they're plaguing me as a small business owner, I’m probably not alone.
A person doesn't necessarily have to be the world's greatest expert in a subject in order to write about it. Instead write about the experiences encountered in business and successful tactics that have resonated.
I often write about how I go about solving the problems that I encounter in a workday. Or I interview other entrepreneurs and share what's working for them. By looking at professional life for inspiration, it's possible to not run out of things to discuss.
And contributed articles don’t necessarily have to be about the client's industry. For example, on top of writing about PR, I also write about cash flow, time management and finding new clients -- topics that any small-business owner can relate to.
Think about how you read articles online. In this day and age, people don’t like to read pages and pages of content, even on topics they love. Instead they browse, skimming from page to page. When I write articles, I generally stick to a list format, offering up tips that allow readers to view what I’ve written yet take away valuable information in an instant.
As a general rule, most outlets want articles to be n the 600- to 800-word range, which is good for the readers who're skimming pieces and busy writers. Keep things short and focus only on providing valuable information with real world examples.
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