Contributed articles are an avenue to consider if you’re looking to add more earned media coverage to your PR program, as many B2B companies are.
Maybe you’ve wondered about contributed articles – what are they? And how do they work?
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions I’ve fielded about pitching and placing contributed content for clients, along with my answers.
Most Commonly Asked Questions About Contributed Content
1) What is a contributed article?
Unlike an article written by a reporter about a company or its products, contributed articles are authored by a thought leader at the company and are meant to lend a vendor-neutral perspective on topics relevant to a publication’s readers[i].
You may also hear this referred to as a bylined article.
2) What are the benefits of contributed articles for you and your company?
- Position you as a thought leader
- Help you be seen as the expert
- Increase your visibility
- Lead to other opportunities – speaking, writing more articles, being quoted in roundups and so on
In one survey, 65% of buyers say thought leadership significantly changed their perception of a company for the better, while 64% said an organization’s thought leadership content is a more trustworthy basis for assessing its capabilities and competency than its marketing materials.
3) How do contributed articles work?
Editors are on the lookout for good content that’s a fit for their audience. Sometimes, trade publications are short-staffed and looking for ready-to-publish content. If you can provide that, it’s a win-win.
If you can offer up an article or customer case study with visuals, like photos or video, you make it easy for them to plug it in to fill any existing gaps.
4) What do we need to prepare before we pitch contributed articles? What should we have ready to send?
If you’re working on a contributed article program for your B2B company or client, don’t overlook the details. Have these things ready:
- Author bio: Prepare both briefer and longer versions. You can use these when you submit thought leaders for speaking opportunities, too.
- Author headshot: This should be a professionally taken photo. It can be used for other initiatives, as well (speaking opportunities, social media and so forth).
- Preferred byline – How would the author like their name to appear? Is there a particular title that should be used?
- Photos to accompany articles: These should be high resolution for print (300 dpi or higher) as some publications still publish print versions. Most media outlets also want to include a photo credit with any photos they publish, so be ready to send that along. Some media outlets may ask you to sign a photo release.
- Photo captions: Be sure to include captions for your photos that explain what’s been captured. Captions offer yet another opportunity to message and brand the company.
- Logo: Including a high-resolution company logo is also a good idea.
- Video: If you have video that can accompany articles you may be pitching, keep that ready to send, as well.
Store these assets on a Google Drive or in a Dropbox folder to be easily accessible and shareable.
And, a quick note about the importance of including visuals with your articles. Doing this can make a difference in whether an editor accepts your articles. They’ve shared that when a pitch or article is accompanied by strong visuals, that can help them decide whether to publish it.
5) How do I find media outlets that will accept contributed articles?
Start by making a list of the publications you want to be seen in. Trade publications are usually the best fit for contributed articles.
Make a list of five or 10 publications you know your audience follows, then look at their sites to see if they accept contributed articles. Where do you look for this? Check at the bottom of the page under “About Us” or “Contact Us.” Some may even have an option like “Contributed content” or “Editorial guidelines.”
6) Do we need to follow a publication’s guidelines for contributions?
Once you’ve decided which publications you want to pitch a story to, be sure to follow their guidelines as closely as possible. Do they want you to send an abstract first? Do they want you to include photos or other visual assets when you submit the article? The closer you can stick to what they are asking for, the better your chances of securing a placement.
Keep in mind that they often have choices as to what articles to accept and which to decline. Making it easy for them by including everything they’ve asked for will give you an advantage over others who may not. Some editors are much pickier about the guidelines than others, but if you do your best to include what they’ve requested, you’ll cover most of the bases. In other words, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
7) What should we do first? Write the article? Or find a home for it?
I usually suggest that a company find a media outlet that will agree to publish an article before writing it. Why? That way, you’ll be able to write it with the publication’s guidelines in mind. And, if you run the idea for the article by the publication before you write it, you’ll know that the editor approves of the topic.
What sort of guidelines might a publication have? For example, they may have a suggested word count range or give you an idea of lead time. In addition, most publications include instructions in their guidelines that articles should be vendor-neutral. If you know these points, you can write an article that’s more likely to fit, meaning the editor will have less work to do and fewer changes to make.
This is important because not only may that make them more likely to work with you again in the future (because you were able to follow directions), but the piece will also be closer to your original vision.
On the other hand, if you submit an article that doesn’t follow the publication’s guidelines, they’ll have to make a lot of changes to publish it. They could even reject it if they feel you’ve blatantly disregarded their guidelines.
8) Can I submit an article I’ve already published on my site/blog?
Sometimes, yes. If you check a publication’s contributed article guidelines, they’ll often tell you whether they accept previously published material.
If they don’t, that doesn’t mean you can’t repurpose a piece you’ve already published on your site. You may have to rewrite it. And yes, they often will check to ensure the piece is original before they accept it. Particularly now, as brands churn out unoriginal content using tools like ChatGPT, editors are sensitive to plagiarized articles.
9) Can a contributed article be ghostwritten?
Yes. What if a thought leader at your company wants to publish a contributed article in a trade journal, but they don’t have time to write it? In that case, having someone ghostwrite the article on their behalf may be a good idea. There are various ways to approach this:
- The thought leader can jot down their ideas or a rough outline that the ghostwriter can use to write the actual article
- The ghostwriter can interview the thought leader, then write the article for them to review
- The ghostwrite can use other material the company has produced along with conducting research to create an article that the thought leader can review and add their insight to
Whichever way you approach this, it’s always wise to get the “author” to review and sign off on the article, as their name will appear on the byline.
10) Can I repurpose a contributed article once it’s been published by a publication?
Sometimes, yes. Every media outlet has its own parameters around this. Some are OK with it. Some are OK with it after you wait a certain period. Yet others will say it can’t be repurposed.
11) Can I share a contributed article on social media, on our site, or in our newsletter once it’s been published?
Yes. In fact, it’s good form to do so. Share it on social media, especially LinkedIn for B2B companies. Be sure to tag the publication when you do so.
Just like any media coverage your brand earns, you can also share a published contributed article on your site or in your newsletter, with a link back to publication.
Contributed Articles Are an Effective Way to Bolster Your B2B PR Efforts
Contributed content can be a robust part of an effective B2B public relations program.
- Determine which publications your audience is reading
- Have your supporting materials ready
- Follow the publications guidelines
- Write original content
You’re on your way to success with this thought leadership initiative.
What other questions do you have about contributed articles?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer, so if you have questions about your unique situation, let me know.
I often work with B2B PR clients on these opportunities, so get in touch if you need help.
Looking for a public relations consulting firm to help with your PR planning? If you’re a B2B company looking to launch or expand your PR program in 2024, let’s chat. Learn more about my PR consulting services here.
About the author: Michelle Garrett is a B2B PR consultant, writer, and speaker who helps B2B companies create content, earn media coverage, and position themselves as thought leaders in their industry. Michelle’s articles have been featured in Entrepreneur, Muck Rack and Ragan’s PR Daily, among others. She’s the founder and host of #FreelanceChat on Twitter and a frequent speaker on public relations and content. Michelle has been repeatedly ranked among the top ten most influential PR professionals.
100% of this blog post was written by me, the human.