“Advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for.”
Many a business owner dreams of the exposure that comes with media mentions and feature articles on their organization, knowing that it can be — as the saying above suggests — an answer to their prayers. The right piece of press can lead to a spike in sales, an increase in awareness and may significantly move the needle on business development efforts.
Even with that knowledge, it’s not so simple to convince a member of the media to cover your news. There is a documented decrease in the number of reporters these days and current Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data project a continued drop. Through 2024, newspaper reporter positions are projected to decline by 28 percent and editor jobs by 34 percent from their 2014 level. This means businesses are competing for attention among a shrinking pool of reporters and struggling to differentiate from one another.
However, there are still ample opportunities to share pertinent news and viewpoints. Good content is hard to find, and professionally written, nonpromotional articles remain in high demand. Should a company leader have an impassioned point of view to share or a trend to shed light on, taking a proactive stance can lead to great success. No need to wait (or pray) for it to happen. Executives can consider authoring an op-ed, an opinion-based editorial on a timely issue of interest to a community or industry sector; or a bylined article, like this one, to share tips, counsel or unearth trends of note.
The benefits of submitted articles are sizable — and quantifiable. A guest column can educate, inform or inspire a target client or customer; deepen relationships; credential the author as a thought leader and establish familiarity and trust, both of which are essential to nurturing leads and converting them into long-term relationships. Another plus is that these efforts can bring about an impressive return on investment, such as a nonprofit securing grant funding or capital campaign contributions, or a private business directly landing clients. I’ve seen these scenarios play out with clients over the years, many times over.
Executive thought leadership — the formal term my industry uses to describe such efforts — isn’t a passing fad. If strategically led by a PR or communications firm or an internal advocate with the time, effort and energy carefully applied, results will happen over time and they will be measurable.
Should an executive wish to take a stand on an issue or write about his or her area of expertise, there are a few best practices to consider:
Do your homework. Carefully research what publications — newspapers, magazines, business journals or digital news outlets — accept guest columns and/or op-eds and note how submissions are considered, including the correct point of contact for proposed pieces.
Beware word count. Follow editorial guidelines on length, style and tone to increase the odds that the submission will be accepted.
Proofread…and then proofread again. Guest columns need to be as well-written as the rest of the publication’s content. Edit for clarity and consistency and check grammar, punctuation and spelling. Ideally, have another well-versed professional read the article before it’s sent along. The outside perspective will be invaluable in ensuring the content is clear and typo-free.
Ask what’s in it for the reader. This question can guide the content and ensure its integrity to the person who matters most, the reader you are hoping to reach. Edit like you mean it; after the article is complete pose this question — what will the reader get out of it? — and edit once more.
Create a clear call to action. Consider what next steps the reader will likely take and make certain you point them in that direction. If it fits with the style of the publication, include a brief bio at the end — this can vary from a single sentence to a 100-word blurb, depending on the news outlet — so readers will know how to get in touch if they have questions or want to learn more.
Merchandise the material. Having a story placed in a news outlet is wonderful, but it’s what is done afterward that matters most. Ensure your target audience sees the placement by sharing it on your social media platforms, tagging the news outlet and hash-tagging key terms to widen the reach. Post the news to your website or blog, link to the story in your company’s next e-newsletter, email the piece directly to your network and proudly display your op-ed or guest column in the office so visitors can see the coverage.
One last tip for those trying this tactic on for size: Show gratitude. It’s a privilege to be invited to share your expertise with a news outlet’s readers, so be sure to thank the editor with an email or tag when you post the news to social media. After all, great public relations outreach is all about relationships.
Filomena Fanelli is the CEO and founder of Impact PR & Communications Ltd. (prwithimpact.com), an award-winning public relations firm based in the Hudson Valley region and serving clients throughout the tristate area. Fanelli can be reached at 845-462-4979 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.