Thought leadership and subject matter expertise are essential to an effective marketing strategy. Positioning company leaders as industry experts helps the brand express a point of view, vision, knowledge, and experience. Great thought leadership will help your audience gain a greater understanding about relevant issue and trends that affects them—and they’re learning about them from you and your company.
Jennifer Kutz, Communications and Public Affairs for Google, shares her insights on why and how publication bylines should be part of your marketing strategy.
An executive can always post their expertise and thought leadership on sites like LinkedIn or a company blog. But, contributed content in key media outlets provides deeper benefits. These include faster and deeper trust, as well as credibility, based on the idea that you know something of value that others don’t. Since the audience views those publications as reliable resources for information, attaching your name to that publication extends that credibility to you.
Public relations tactics have shifted from only increasing an executive’s visibility or getting them quoted to getting full executive bylined articles. The publications provide high-quality, relevant content for their readers. Meanwhile, executives and companies enjoy exposure in a reputable publication. Because of the mutual benefit, bylined articles and guest blog opportunities have gained in popularity. But, marketing isn’t the only thing that benefits from bylines.
“Often, company executives can raise the company’s profile, which goes a long way toward establishing a reason for potential investors to invest in that company,” Kutz says. “Having a bylined presence can be a deciding factor that sways those investors toward putting their money (and trust) in that company.”
Once you have a byline, you can get more traction by going back to LinkedIn, your company blog, and all other channels with a clip or link to that published article. If you stay with a direct-to-social media or direct-to-company blog approach, then you only have one pass at getting it in front of your audience.
Here are some strategic steps to start getting these executive bylines.
Their audience is your target audience. For example, let’s say your company makes software that drives energy efficiency. Seek publications that target topics related to energy efficiency. There are many industry publications that cover that space.
Yet, Kutz says it’s important to go deeper with your targeted publication list. “You want to look for broader startup or tech publications that touch on sustainability and topics related to energy efficiency. If you are looking to attract the attention of investors, there are publications like VentureBeat that cater to venture capitalists.”
If you have never had experience identifying the most appropriate publications and journalists, then the best strategy is to hire a PR consultant or PR agency. These have this experience and have already developed media relationships.
Work with your comms team to create and review a spreadsheet that will help understand these publications and effectively pitch for greater publication success. You cannot take shortcuts for this process. The only way to shorten the time to a certain degree is to again work with a PR expert.
As Kutz explains, “You can’t send a blanket email to an email address like firstname.lastname@example.org or to whatever publication you are trying to get your article in. You need to put in the time to explore the media website to see if you can find a contributor section. For example, is there a thought leadership section? Is there a perspective section? If you see that they accept executive bylined articles, then you can kind of look for a contact address, reach out, and gauge their interest.”
Also, go beyond the publication website to get this information. Many publications rely on social media, including Twitter and LinkedIn, to encourage interaction. On these channels, you can learn more about contributor content, bylines, relevant topics and key contacts. You can also use Google search engines to learn more about how to place executive bylines.
Use spreadsheets to track topics, subjects, and related areas that align with each publication’s focus and purpose. Match your unique perspective with these topics and publication angles. Doing so helps you achieve relevance and value for your intended audience.
You can use blog posts, conference speaker materials, podcasts, videos, and other quality content. You can also include statistics about followers, likes, and shares. Get involved in industry groups to further your subject expertise and following. If you haven’t done much in this area, then expand these content areas first.
While it helps to have published content, you can also start from scratch. Kutz adds, “You don’t need extensive writing experience. What’s more important is what you are talking about, your story, and what you want to say. Where startup founders or business executives go wrong is thinking that a byline is a place to sell their product. Instead, it’s about defining and sharing your unique perspective.”
This is also a way to highlight your values and differentiating qualities, knowledge, and experience. Be persistent with sharing content samples and expertise.
It can be difficult because roles change and reporters move around. Yet, if you connect with journalists on social media, you can maintain these relationships across publications. Throughout moves and changes, the most important lesson is to always engage like a human being rather than just asking for a byline.
“Think about what you can do to help this person. Make sure you are familiar with their work before you approach them before pitching them any ideas,” adds Kutz. “You can find this out by looking at their Twitter feeds and seeing what type of content they are sharing.”
Kutz also suggests doing something a little different. Pitch article ideas to reporters that may have nothing to do with what you do. This shows the reporter you want to help them even when there’s no direct benefit for you. Then, you may be more likely to come to mind when they have a topic that does have something to do with your industry.
Getting an executive byline published doesn’t happen overnight. Think of it as a slow-building process. As part of your “long game,” creating successful thought leadership pieces involves nurturing content, relationships and connections in a targeted, thoughtful way. In time, you can see a big return that enhances your marketing and branding efforts.
Social sharing goes hand in hand with creating content. For a complete executive guide on building social influence, read our ebook, filled with recent examples of business leaders who are engaging their audience through original, meaningful content.