By Drew Albee – SMG Boulder
From shrinking newsrooms to changes in both the types and the ways in which people consume media, the media landscape is constantly evolving.
Employment at print publications is dwindling, and outlets across the industry are reducing their resources or creating an increased amount of digital content in order to compete with shifts in media consumption. Additionally, in many cases, publications are shifting to more of a paid model, and opportunities to contribute are being diminished — unless you’re willing to cough up large sums of cash.
In this volatile environment, it remains a challenge to tell your company’s story to the people who matter without a significant investment. A declining number of journalists means less news is being reported on fewer pages, and as a result, getting the word out about your company has become increasingly difficult.
Because consumers often dismiss what organizations are saying about themselves, getting an established, well-respected journalist to cover your story tends to garner greater reception among your target audience. But in the face of shrinking newsrooms and an evolving media landscape, oftentimes the best way to get your message out to the right people is in your own words.
Enter contributed content.
What is it?
A longtime staple of effective public relations, contributed articles (or bylined articles) are drafted by your company or agency — not written by a journalist — to complement an outlet’s editorial offerings. As such, they are not an advertisement for your organization, they should be relevant to an outlet’s audience and offer them something of value. Contributed content illustrates your expertise and is another method of getting your organization’s name out into the world. And as earned media, the only cost for a contributed content placement is time spent drafting the piece.
Not only do contributed articles provide organizations access to new and larger audiences with whom they can share their ideas, opinions and expertise as thought leaders in their specific industry, they also position the organization, or the bylined executive, as an expert authority on a specific topic or across the industry.
As PR professionals, proactively pitching clients into earned media opportunities and getting a reporter to bite is exciting, but the value of contributed content cannot be overlooked. You get to tell your story in your own words, and with that level of control over the message being communicated, your message shouldn’t miss its mark.
Even better, by receiving exposure to an outlet’s broader audience, your contributed placement effectively receives third-party validation from a respected or industry-specific source. As such, that publication’s audience is likely to resonate with the message you’re communicating and connect with you. Adding to the value, publications that publish contributed pieces tend to have elevated expectations for such content, which underscores the utility any piece of contributed content must provide to audiences.
When you don’t have any actual news to announce, contributed content also offers the opportunity to receive “coverage” and ensure your organization remains at the top of your audience’s collective mind — without paying for advertising space.
Understanding the true value of your contributed content can involve a multitude of layers. From referral traffic, organic search traffic and direct traffic to social shares, comments and online interaction, there are myriad metrics that can help determine the value of guest-contributed content, but sharing your ideas, advice and tips to a new, wider audience that should be receptive to your message is valuable in its own right. Best of all, you can use your contributed placement to promote your products or services through social media, your website and a variety of other potential channels.
As newsrooms continue to get smaller and the competition for website visitors increases, the demand for thoughtful, well-written and consumable content has intensified — and contributed articles help fill that content void in editorial calendars while also adding fresh, new voices to varied publications. When those pieces of content are relevant and only need very little fact-checking and minor copy edits, that makes an editor’s job easier — and increases the likelihood they’ll tap your expertise again down the line.
At SMG, writing contributed articles enables us the opportunity to show off our creativity and flex our writing muscles while simultaneously embedding ourselves into the diverse issues impacting our clients’ various industries. From articles touting the benefits of lidar in the wind energy industry and how the internet of things (IoT) impacts telecommunications companies to pieces discussing pain points in parental leave management and explaining the benefits of a layered approach to physical security, we have drafted hundreds of contributed articles on a broad range of topics for a multitude of top-tier and industry-specific publications.