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The Art of the Bylined Article

Do you have what it takes to be published? If so, this PR tactic can really help your business.

Have you read a magazine or online article and thought to yourself, "I could write an article just like this," but soon came to the realization that you're not a reporter and probably never will be? If you have, you're not alone.

But you don't have to be a reporter to get an article published. There are plenty of opportunities for you to put pen to paper and see your name in bold type. The trick is knowing where to look, then understanding how to write an article people want to read.

Authored or bylined articles are more common than you might think. Many media outlets accept and publish such articles as a way to add perspective and "in the know" expertise to their publications. In fact, this very article is one such example. I'm not a reporter with Entrepreneur.com. As the bio at the end of this article attests, I have a day job, which I fully intend to keep.

So how, you may ask, do you go about getting published? And why, other than a boost to your ego, would you want to spend time writing an article for somebody else to print?

The Benefits of Bylines
A bylined article is one of the most effective tools available for establishing credibility with a target audience because it showcases you as a thought leader in your field. And in doing so, the article draws attention to the stature and strength of your company and helps differentiate it from competitors.

Bylined articles are also useful for drawing attention to issues important to your company. For instance, a company that offers a more efficient method for submitting insurance claims could write an article about the difficulties physicians have in recouping money due to laborious paperwork.

Placing Your Article
Once you've decided a bylined article is a good PR strategy for your company, the next step is identifying your target publications. Very often, finding target publications for your bylined article is as easy as flipping through your favorite magazines and websites.

Once you've identified possible opportunities, call or e-mail the editor to confirm the writing policies, potential opportunities and specifications for the article. Most publications will have a set of simple rules about what should and shouldn't be included in an article. Word count, style and format, use of source materials and attribution will all be spelled out.

The vast majority of byline opportunities will stipulate that you not reference your company or product in the article. Overt promotion is frowned upon and could result in your article being dismissed or severely edited. To avoid such penalties, it's best to err on the side of caution.

Writing the Article
Before an editor accepts your pitch, he or she will likely ask you to submit an outline and a one-paragraph abstract summarizing your proposal. Even if such materials aren't required, it's good practice to prepare an outline before you get started.

The subject of your article will be largely determined by the publication you're targeting. Some editors may even assign a specific topic. A common theme of bylined articles is proposing a problem and providing a solution. While you may not be able to directly cite your company in the article, a well-written byline will present the reader with a problem and a recommended solution--a solution your company just happens to provide.

Another favorite theme for bylined articles is the lesson learned. This approach involves using actual examples from your career or your company's history to illustrate instances of overcoming obstacles. The benefit of this style is it lets you directly discuss your company and its products. However, the catch is you must be candid about situations when you and your company experienced difficulties, or perhaps failure.

Case studies that involve your clients, with their permission, are also excellent for offering an impartial, third-party viewpoint. An additional benefit of using a client case study is it'll serve to further showcase the value of your company.

Promoting Your Business With Your Byline
In your byline, if the editor allows it, include a web address and contact details. Make a note of when the article will be published and ensure you'll be available to answer inquiries.

Usually, once your article is published, it becomes the copyrighted material of the publication, so you must adhere to its copyright rules. However, you'll likely have a chance to buy reprints. These can be used in customer mailings, at trade shows or as part of a press kit. Some publications offer electronic versions for online posting.

So do you think you're up to the challenge? Though bylined articles take time and effort, the rewards of becoming a thought leader in your industry can be immense.

Rachel Meranus is vice president of communications at PR Newswire, an online press release distribution network based in New York. Get more information about PR Newswire and public relations with their PR Toolkit for small businesses.

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