Building Credibility Through Bylined Articles

As if making sure your company runs smoothly on an operational level isn't responsibility enough, as a business owner, you're probably overseeing all aspects of your company's public relations program, as well.

PR can keep a company above water when times are tough and help the business soar during a fair-weather economy. It's a matter of knowing how to put PR to use that makes sticking with it-through good times and bad-worthwhile.

Most people think of PR as the practice of sending out press releases to as many media outlets as possible in the hopes that something will "stick." Although it's commonly practiced, it's not the most strategic approach. A much more effective approach is to position your expertise through bylined articles.

Think about it: An article that's written under your name (or byline) is 100% message and will reach the audience you're seeking. It's not an ad, because it appears in the editorial pages of a publication you've targeted and thus, carries a different (and valuable) sort of credibility. To help you tap into their power, here are the five Ws of bylined articles.

What they are Bylined articles are essentially articles written under your name and are a vehicle for you to flex your industry-knowledge muscles. The material in these articles should be presented in a way that demonstrates discreetly what makes you an expert in your particular field. Three of the most common types are Op-Ed contributions, trend articles, and "how-to" pieces.

Op-Ed pieces: These are so named because they appear "opposite" the "editorial" page. Op-Ed pieces position the author's point of view on an issue or trend.

Trend articles: This type of article is typically a discussion of a current or burgeoning trend with the potential to affect either the public or a specified field. These are generally more informational and less opinionated than an Op-Ed piece.

How-to pieces: Somewhat self-explanatory, this type of article offers the reader information on "how-to" perform a task, achieve a goal, etc.

Who benefits from creating such articles Anyone who aims to be positioned as an expert in his or her field can utilize this approach. Keep in mind most publications don't accept bylined articles submitted by vendors because of their tendency to "sell" rather than inform. To overcome this obstacle, the sales message must be discreet, if in the article at all.

Why they are important Bylined articles are an excellent way to showcase the knowledge and expertise that make you stand out in your field. The fact that the publication thinks enough about your message to run it on the editorial side gives your article third-party credibility.

Another consideration is their long-term power as marketing tools. Article placements can be incorporated into your marketing materials and posted on your website for visitors to browse, or even e-mailed to prospects.

Where they are accepted Many consumer dailies accept Op-Ed pieces, particularly by well-known authorities (academics or authors, for example). Other media outlets, like the professional or trade press, often solicit informational or instructional bylined articles, and opinion pieces, as well. The latter category is also an excellent option because they can be targeted by their reading audiences ? who are your buying audiences.

When they are appropriate Bylined articles will almost always find a home, particularly if they are rounded out with current examples and offer a perspective that advances what's already been written on the topic. However, for articles responding to a current issue or trend, timeliness is critical.

Using bylined articles as a public relations tool is rising in acceptance as a more strategic and focused approach to help build a brand over the long term. It takes time to put this sort of program in place yet the return on investment will prove this out as a viable adjunct to the more commonly practiced forms of public relations.

Sally Saville Hodge is president of Hodge Communications, Inc., specializing in strategic public relations and marketing communications for businesses, entrepreneurs and professional associations. Formerly an award-winning financial journalist, she brings over 30 years experience to client engagements. Subscribe today to [email protected]! our free bimonthly e-newsletter and get a free special report: "Using Buzz To Create a Groundswell For Your Business." Visit http://www.hodgecommunications.com

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