Vendor-submitted articles

Publications, whether online or print, are more likely now than ever to accept a contributed article (one that is provided free of charge by you). There are two main reasons for this:

  • The traditional publishing model is failing. For years publications have been funded by advertising revenue, either in whole or in part. But now most publishers are receiving less advertising revenue than ever before; and they can consequently employ fewer of their own writers, whether that’s in-house staff or contract freelancers.

  • Vendors have realised that they occupy a position of strength. While I would not suggest that vendors blatantly ‘sell’ their marketing budget for column inches, nor yet would I suggest that editors will ‘buy’ their adverts with copy; nevertheless, well, draw your own conclusions.

This is an opportunity that can be exploited, but it is also an opportunity that can be wasted. Editors will balk at being used. Their loyalty and duty is to their readers and not to you. So there is a balance to be reached. If you help get useful information to the readers, then the editor will be happy for you to get some benefit: a decent byline or company description or contact information. That’s only fair. But if you use the editor as a conduit for blatant and free advertising, then it will be your last contributed article. Be subtle and not pushy: don’t kill the Golden Goose.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on what to do:

  • Think about the business problems you solve. Is there a specific area of that problem that you solve better than anyone else?

  • Think about how that problem, unsolved, impacts on your potential customers.

  • Formulate an article synopsis that is designed to educate readers on the problem and its effects, and therefore why that problem needs to be remediated. Include in the synopsis the steps necessary, at a conceptual level, to remediate that problem.

  • Approach relevant editors with your synopsis. Ask them if they would be interested in a free article along these lines. Stress that it does not hard sell your company or products, but seeks ‘to educate the market’ – in fact, it doesn’t even mention your company and products. I find phrases like ‘it is company and product agnostic – it is written at a conceptual level’ to be useful.

  • Seriously consider using an independent professional writer/journalist to write the article. Being able to tell the editor that the proposed article will be written by an independent professional journalist will also help your cause. Ask the editor if he is happy with the article being attributed to you or a senior member of staff (but make it technical and not marketing; remember, editors have a resistance to marketing) even if it is ghosted by a professional writer.

  • Agree and religiously stick to a delivery timescale. Nothing gives an editor more problems, nor leaves a worse taste, than promised copy failing to arrive when expected.

  • At some point after the synopsis is accepted, but before the article is delivered, ask and discuss what sort of byline you will get with the article. Does the editor want a brief biography of the attributed author? Offer a photograph. Will the byline include your company details? Try to ensure that your website is included. Remember that if you did the planning right (see above) the article will inevitably lead the reader to your company as the only one able to adequately solve the problems you have discussed.

Finally, use a professional writer to ensure the reader actually reads the entire article, and is led inexorably to your byline and contact details. Contact me: kevtownsend@googlemail.com


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