Let’s cut to the chase. Not every founder believes in the power of byline articles. In fact, not every founder knows what a byline article is.
Byline articles are pieces of thought leadership content that are published in a media outlet under your name. They are sometimes referred to as guest posts, op-eds, or as we like to call them – Founder Insights.
For example, here’s a piece that the infamous VC Marc Andreessen wrote and published in the New York Times. This post isn’t selling you on his firm, it’s selling you on his insights and opinions and that’s what quality byline content is all about.
While the awareness around byline content continues to increase every day, there’s still a good amount of companies who don’t know what this content collateral is and how it can help them achieve business goals.
For example, every founder wants to get more customers. However, not every founder knows that 70% of customers prefer to learn about a business through an article over any kind of advertisement.
Leo Widrich, co-founder of BufferApp, did know this. To attract customers, Widrich and his team published relevant byline articles in various outlets and acquired 100,000 customers in the first 9 months of launching their product. That’s a perfect example of how byline content can help a business owner achieve big business goals.
Another example centers around email lists. Every founder knows how important it is to have a large email list with engaged contacts who are looking for relevant updates. But growing an email list is tough work, and it’s even harder to maintain a large one when people are unsubscribing every day.
Companies today have to continuously make it a goal to grow their email list — but they don’t know one of the best tactics to use: byline articles. Help Scout, a help desk software company, grew their email list to 36,733 subscribers in 9 weeks just publishing byline articles on industry blogs. While the company still might have a few unsubscribers, at least the founder knows how to get more.
These are just a couple of examples that showcase the power byline content. But hopefully these are enough to start helping founders understand why they should write and publish byline articles on a consistent basis. With the right content and an outlet that speaks to the company’s target audience, founders can accomplish any major business goal.
The Many Benefits of Byline Content
Byline content has unique benefits to it. While it accomplishes the more obvious business goals that founders have, byline articles also play a role in achieving goals business owners might not readily think about.That’s why this 101 guide hits on everything.
To ensure that founders understand all that byline content can accomplish, this first section will explain a few different reasons why byline articles are not just important, but a must in today’s competitive business environment.
Today, companies have to be top of mind. In a sea of startups and company giants, founders can’t afford to be forgotten among their target audience. But how can byline content prevent that? It’s simple. Byline content places in front of their audience.
By publishing articles in outlets that speak to the right people, founders can guarantee that their content is getting in front of the right eyeballs. Remember, 70 percent of customers want to learn about businesses by reading articles. If founders do their job to consistently publish content, then their target audience is going to look for it.
When founders showcase their expertise and knowledge through non-promotional content such byline articles, reporters in the industry take notice. Every business is looking for more media coverage within their industry, but it’s hard to secure that when business owners don’t have any name recognition or credibility to back them up.
That’s where byline content comes into play. When founders consistently put their expertise out there, industry journalists will reach out to them. It doesn’t always have to be the other way around where founders and their marketing teams spend hours chasing media coverage. With regularly published byline articles that demonstrate a founder’s knowledge and unique opinions, journalists will already know who to go to for a quote or good news story.
This is also true about podcast hosts and event planners who are looking for guest speakers. These people would love to know the best founders to call for a podcast interview or speaking engagement. If they can spend less time sifting through the hundreds of pitches that flood their inboxes every day, they’ll do it. Founders just have to make their presence known through byline content, so industry journalists and event planners know who to contact.
Editors at Inc., Fast Company, VentureBeat, and other top-tier outlets that most founders want columns in require writing samples. Byline content (not promotional case studies put together by founders) is usually what editors at major outlets are looking for.
Editors want to know that a founders genuinely has unique expertise, opinions, strategies, and knowledge that their other contributors can’t offer. And the best way for founders and founders to prove they have these characteristics is by having byline content to point back to.
However, there is a caveat. The byline article must be current. If a business owner submits an article that was written more than a few months ago, their contributor application at any top-tier outlet will get rejected. Even if the old article was published in another top-tier outlet, it won’t matter. There are two reasons why:
If a founder can’t consistently publish byline content, how can editors trust that he’ll maintain a column when an outlet like Inc. requires four published articles a month?
If a founder submits an article from a year ago, does that mean he doesn’t have any more unique opinions? Surely something interesting has happened in his industry. But why take a chance and invite the unknown? Hard pass.
To prevent editors from being put in these situations, founders shouldn’t just have byline content. They should have current and consistent byline content to point back to. That is how they’ll secure a column at top-tier outlets.
Every founder dreams of being covered in The Wall Street Journal. Even if it’s just a small mention, it can have a massive impact on sales and employee morale. But unless you’re Apple or Google, it’s tough for any business owner to secure coverage in The Wall Street Journal or any other national media outlet.
But, again, byline content can help accomplish this goal. If founders have created a bank of byline articles, become industry resources, and secured columns at top-tier outlets, then they’ve built the credibility and authority needed to garner national media coverage. It all starts with byline content, though. Neither The Wall Street Journal nor CNBC will cover a founder who’s never published content or done so on a consistent basis.
How to Brainstorm Epic Byline Content
Byline content should be the foundation for any founder’s goals. Without consistently publishing articles, it becomes a lot harder to achieve anything business owners put their mind to. So instead of founders attacking their dreams in a traditional and outdated way, implement byline content. It will be a
Once founders are convinced about the power of byline, they’ve made a huge step in the right direction! And to ensure that business owners continue down the right path, it’s time to learn how to create epic byline articles.
The first step is understanding how to brainstorm great topic ideas. While there are a lot of ways to do this, there are three main strategies founders should implement first:
Research trending topics: Before business owners crank out content, they need to understand what kind of topics their target audience already finds valuable. There’s nothing worse than creating a byline article that doesn’t garner any interest because it wasn’t a good fit for the company’s target audience in the first place. So to avoid writing an unpopular byline, founders have to figure out what content is already trending in their industry. Tools such as BuzzSumo, EpicBeat, and Oktopost can help.
Learn your target audience’s pain points: Founders can also brainstorm epic content by talking to their sales teams. These employees are on the front lines communicating with the business’s customers and prospects every day. And if founders ask their sales team what questions or concerns typically come up in the sales cycle, this feedback will inform the type of content they should create.
Understand what industry outlets are publishing: Another good way founders can brainstorm great content is to check out the topics that are being published in their industry’s outlets. This can help business owners understand what kind of byline articles publication editors find valuable and want to receive — and it can also shed insight into what topics the founder’s target audience is reading every day.
Brainstorming epic byline content comes down to one thing: understanding the company’s target audience and the topics they enjoy learning about. If founders make it a priority to learn this information, then not only will it be easier to brainstorm byline articles, but it’ll also lead to top-performing content.
How to Develop Your Epic Byline Content
Once founders have brainstormed and nailed down a good idea, it’s time to develop it. This step can be a little more time intensive because there are multiple parts that need to be followed.
However, if done correctly, founders can develop personalized, authoritative, and unique byline content that appeals to their target audience. Here are 4 steps that business owners should follow:
Pick a primary publication: Before founders start writing any content, they need to figure out where it’s going to go. Whether it’s a blog, niche industry outlet, or top-tier publication, different media companies have different guidelines. And to ensure that a byline article is accepted, founders must tailor their content to the primary publication they’re targeting. Otherwise, they could create a 1,000-word “future of” article when an outlet only accepts actionable content that’s around 800 words.
Choose a content theme: The next step business owners should take is nailing down the type of article they want to develop. There are various types of content that founders can create. The most popular options are how-to articles, “future of” pieces, op-eds, top trends, and in-depth analysis. Each one has its own unique perks. But before making a decision, founders should look at their primary publication’s guidelines to see what types of content the editorial team accepts. Then business owners can make a more informed decision from there.
Create an outline: There’s nothing worse than staring at a blank page and trying to figure out what words should fill it up. Before founders try to write an epic byline article, they should make it easy on themselves and create an outline that provides clarity and guidance. Not only will an outline help business owners understand what specific content — examples, unique insights, research, timely hooks, quotes, etc. — will make up their article, but an outline will also help them attack their article quickly and correctly.
Sit down and start writing: This is a straightforward step. Once the outline has been created, it’s time to start writing an epic byline article. During this process, it’s crucial for founders to go into it with an open mind. They shouldn’t judge or question themselves to the point that they hinder their creative process and flow. Besides, they will (or at least should) have an editor or colleague review their article before it’s submitted. An outside opinion will help edit the content, ensure it has focus, and give feedback to make the article a more engaging read.
While developing epic byline content is a time-consuming process, it has its benefits. Founders just have to commit to the process and consistently create and publish byline articles. Then the hard work will be worth it.
How to Distribute and Maximize Epic Byline Content
Creating an epic byline article doesn’t matter unless founders know how to get eyes on it. After writing a great piece, the last two steps are simple: distribute and maximize the content. Founders should already know who the contact is at the primary publication they’re targeting. Now they just have to reach out.
Editors at niche and top-tier outlets get hundred of submissions each day, so just sending a lousy email won’t work. Even with a great piece of content attached, editors won’t open an email that sounds generic or like something that should be in their junk mail.
Founders must capture an editor’s attention by delivering a unique email that has a great pitch. Typically, the best emails and pitches include:
If all these elements are included, then business owners not only have a better chance of getting their email opened, but they’re also more likely to have their article reviewed.
However, if the editor decides to publish the content, the founder’s work isn’t over. The founder still has to maximize his content. While publishing an epic byline article in an industry or top-tier outlet is great, business owners shouldn’t inadvertently limit the content’s visibility by assuming that it will find readers on its own.
To get the most out of their byline article, founders need to share it on their company’s social media channels. And then they should redistribute the article on Medium and LinkedIn Pulse. By posting the article on as many relevant platforms as possible, founders will stay top of mind among their customers and have more prospects show interest as well.
It All Comes Down to Byline Content
This 101 guide provided insight into the power of byline content. And while there are many important aspects of generating byline content, there are two major takeaways that founders should walk away with:
Founders have no more excuses to pass on byline content. The power it holds and the trust that it builds will garner more results than what business owners without byline content see. Founders just have to be committed and consistent. The results will follow.