Creating a contributed article is hardly a new concept; contributing authors have been part of the media landscape since the launch of the New York Times’ OP/ED section in the late 1960s. Today, the genre is wide open, and is one that all marketers, executives and subject matter experts should closely examine. Submitting a thought-leadership piece presents opportunities for experts to showcase their knowledge or the company’s expertise in dynamic and creative ways. And, thanks to shrinking newsrooms and publication budgets, subject matter experts are being published in a dizzying array of media outlets.
At Voxus, we have successfully conducted contributed article campaigns for clients, publishing everywhere from Geekwire and American Banker to Inc. Magazine and ComputerWorld. In fact, last year, the team working with WatchGuard Technologies established a new benchmark with an astonishing 56 contributed article placements (that’s more than four per month on average).
How can you become a marquee contributor? Here are three important tips to remember when pitching an idea or creating your content:
List it out
We get the chance to review a lot of online content from contributors and staff writers at mainstream publications…and we pitch a ton of ideas as well. One of the trends we’ve noticed when looking into writers’ catalogues is that listicle-style articles sit at the top the “most read” category. (As a matter of fact, with some outlets, we even get backend analytics that show this style of article performs the best.) This is not surprising. When we’re pitching ideas to editors on behalf of clients, they like easily consumable ideas that are tied to lists, such as “5 network performance metrics every tech should track,” or “6 IoT devices that put your corporate network at risk.” When pitching an idea, consider taking the bulleted approach and building around a list of key takeaways. This also makes for a compelling headline that helps inform the reader of exactly what they can expect from the article.
Strike while the iron is hot. It’s a tired saying, but it’s true. Good contributed content ties into the latest trends, threats, sporting events, movies, video games, holidays, political landscape, etc. Good timing can help jumpstart an article’s popularity and increase its social media shareability. For example, we recently contributed an article themed around the new Ghost in the Shell movie and have content planned around Mother’s Day, Spring Fever and more. We’ve even tied topics to the NCAA Final Four, USA’s Mr. Robot, the new Star Wars movies and video games like Halo. But, it doesn’t always have to be pop culture. Does your industry have a new compliance standard? Has a new technology disrupted your space? Is the new political administration putting pressure on your market? All of these subjects can be turned into engaging, real-time contributed ideas that show an editor you’re not just looking to push a product message, you’re looking to talk about your market in the context of real-world issues.
Be genuine, but professional
Contributing content is hard and time consuming. It doesn’t often come naturally to subject matter experts. Making a personal connection to the content you’re writing is key. Successful content starts with anecdotal information or a personal perspective. The more you can tie a topic to a personal passion, hobby or experience, the more genuine your commentary will be. For example, one of our clients has a child with autism and epilepsy. He often writes about how the marriage of technology and medicine associated with his daughter’s life motivates him to innovate in his industry. Another client loves sci-fi and compares challenges in his market to storylines from blockbuster movies. While relating to something personal is extremely effective, be sure you still remain professional and deliver solid analysis. Hook the reader with personal flare; impress the reader with real knowledge.
If contributed articles are not a prominent part of your marketing or PR program, you’re missing a big opportunity. Fortunately, as mentioned above, the opportunities to publish contributed content are wide open. If done properly, a good contributed article campaign can engage your audience, deliver thought leadership for your SMEs and brand, and provide sticky content to populate your marketing funnel.
Read more about how we secured more than 50 contributed articles last year for WatchGuard here.