It’s no secret that Ketner Group Communications takes pride in our content development skills, and when it comes to bylines, we think we shine! While our name may not be on the final product, you can always tell when content is written by someone who understands an industry vs. someone who tried to throw together an article based on their narrow view of that industry. We’re not trying to brag, but we’re often told by editors and clients alike that we “get it.”*
Despite the fact that we “get it,” bylined thought leadership content is not a familiar place for many solution providers. Oftentimes, vendors find it hard to be non-promotional or take a stance on the bigger issues affecting the industry without disparaging others, all while sticking to strict editorial guidelines. So, we’ve put together some recommendations to help solution providers wrap their heads around thought leadership and contributed content.
Focus on Thought Leadership, NOT Product Promotion
We get it – you eat, breathe and live your solution every day, and we have no doubt that you can write 800 words about its capabilities, features and benefits. There is certainly a time and a place for that. But when it comes to bylines, think outside the box and take a position on larger industry issue or trend. Prospects understand that you know your product, but they want to make sure you understand the broader industry context and all the problems and issues they face. For example, instead of writing about your shipping solution, discuss how hot issues such as new tariffs will affect the industry.
Keep Your Friends Close, But Your Frenemies Closer
Some executives think contributed content is the place to call out competitors for their failures and tell potential clients what they’re doing wrong. While that may be okay by some publications’ standards, we caution you to walk a fine line between being controversial and not offending your competitors or potential customers. After all, if you can tear down a competitor, they can do the same about you, and nobody wants the negative press! As far as potential clients go, you don’t want to risk losing a prospect because you crossed a line and slighted the wrong decision maker.
Stick to the Guidelines
Now this seems simple, but as an agency, following editorial guidelines is often where we spend a lot of time going back and forth with clients during the editing process. First and foremost, most publications provide contributors with a word count; for online articles, editors might want all of their stories to adhere to certain read time and, for print, it’s usually a simple space constraint. So, if the editor says the article needs to be 800 words or less, it needs to be 800 words or less, not 1,000 words or less. And remember how we said that bylines should focus on thought leadership, not a product promotion? This isn’t a suggestion on our part, but a requirement set out by the publications that contributed content should be vendor and product neutral. For example, if you sell printers and your article details how great printers are, even if you don’t mention your brand, it can still be considered “promotional.”
Utilize Great Writers
We all know that C-suite leaders and top executives have their plates full; the last thing they have time to do is write an 800-word article. And, to be honest, that’s probably not their cup of tea; if it was, they’d already be doing it! Instead, utilize a great writer on your team or hire a partner to help you write thought-provoking bylines that editors will publish and your target audience will read. Done right, contributed byline articles will position both the author and the company as trusted experts with the potential to help navigate the unique requirements of your business area.
*Please note that due to the promotional nature of this content, it would not be considered “vendor-neutral” by an editor. However, this is our company blog, and as we said above “there is a time and a place” to be promotional, and this is it.