All about bylines: strategic contributed content best practices
May 11, 2021 Sara Shaughnessy
As the Content Manager at Inkhouse, I’ve had the chance to work with executives on dozens of bylines ranging in topic from thoughts on the latest data breach to advice for leading a company through a challenging year. Bylined articles provide an outlet for thought leaders to contribute stories and perspectives to industry conversation and elevate their profiles while staying in control of the message. By elevating executives' profiles, you can also drive brand awareness and increase engagement with their organizations.
Our content team fields many questions about what goes into a strategic byline that can work for business, tech, or trade publications and how bylines fit into a broader PR strategy. Here are some of our top takeaways.
Personal stories are key.
With so many authors contributing bylines on timely topics, yours needs to stand out. Compelling bylines usually include plenty of personal anecdotes unique to the author that set it apart from others and establish the author as a credible source on the topic. In the case of leadership bylines, think stories from the early days of founding the company or examples of regretting a course of action that showcase a lesson learned.
Sometimes the best byline ideas are right in front of you.
Up against writer’s block? The best ideas can come from media or speaking opportunities executives have already participated in like podcasts, keynote presentations, or interviews. This is where the media and content teams can collaborate; the media team can point content to existing resources that can inform a compelling byline. Often, the idea-generation stage is already (at least partially) complete — you just need to know where to look.
Stay away from self-serving.
Most publications require that authors refrain from mentioning their company’s product or tying back to offerings in any way. Save the product mentions for blog posts or other internal content marketing materials and keep byline content as vendor-neutral as possible.
Keep on top of new content guidelines.
Contributed content guidelines change by the day, especially as many publications shift to paid column options. Our content team recently conducted a content audit to find out what types of bylines top-tier business and tech publications accept. Unsurprisingly, we found the bar is high for new executive contributors, who are up against industry researchers and academics who regularly contribute to top-tier publications. We also found standard word count ranges vary pretty significantly across outlets (from ~350 to as high as ~2,400 words). Double check guidelines and adhere to the editor’s unique preferences for formatting and sharing the content for review.
Once the byline publishes, the social team gets involved. Executives can share across their social media platforms and company social handles should share it too. There’s also an opportunity to republish the content on the executive’s LinkedIn or Medium page, depending on contributed content republication requirements (which vary by publication but usually ask the author to wait a few weeks before republishing and include a link back to the original source).
And finally, think about maintaining a steady cadence of thought leadership to further establish an executive’s brand. Many publications offer paid content opportunities for leaders to contribute on an ongoing basis (like Fast Company’s Exec Board, CNBC’s Tech Exec Council, Forbes Tech Council, etc.), and writing for one of those is an excellent way to maintain the thought leadership momentum.