This is the strategy: Get company executives or yourself published in an editorial context for significantly greater marketing credibility than self-publishing another whitepaper that just sits on your website.
Applying that publicity strategy adheres to the currently booming demand for content-based marketing—i.e., providing the information customers want before they engage with a brand.
But instead of publishing privately, go public. Use media outlets that deliver many times the traffic of most company websites and offer more credibility than any brand marketer can typically expect.
The following example shows how surprisingly well that strategy can work.
Case History: How Contributed Articles Made a Difference
As the market for digital cameras began exploding, startup Sierra Imaging in Scotts Valley, California, needed to break through and become known as the only "one-stop digital-camera design shop."
Targeting companies such as Agfa, Epson, Sony, Kodak, and others, Sierra could deliver everything the giant brands needed to get to market with their next-generation digital cameras faster than designing the cameras themselves.
With its agency's help, Sierra crafted a sharply differentiated communications strategy that guided all marketing tactics for the company and its products. Those tactics included a series of contributed viewpoint and technical feature articles in key engineering trade journals and consumer electronics publications.
With public-relations strategies such as acting as if you are already the company you expect to become and putting a human face on the company, results quickly paid off. Combined with a round of consumer-electronics market-research analyst engagements, Sierra was perceived—in less than a year—as an outspoken source on digital-camera technical trends.
As the campaign evolved, Sierra attributed its successful sales engagement and subsequent digital-camera design contract with Kodak specifically to a customer's having read the published, contributed articles. At one meeting, in fact, the customer showed Sierra's business-development manager the article that had spurred company interest.
Why Contributed Articles Make Sense
Going the route of contributing articles versus self-publishing offers much value to marketing programs. Most important, getting your story published in a recognized media outlet reaches more eyeballs with higher acceptance than doing it yourself.
Unless your website is getting far more visits than the publications read by your potential customers, engaging with key editors on an editorial contribution makes a lot of sense. It's a cost-effective way of reaching more people via public media.
Moreover, your story can reinforce your brand's competitive differentiation. Repeated regularly, your market position and what your brand stands for will become clear to your customers. In markets where expertise can be an effective differentiator, demonstrating that wisdom via contributed articles goes a long way toward setting you apart from the mob.
Some service and tech marketers already know that and have created and enhanced their reputations with contributed articles for decades. The strategy is still viable but often ignored because whitepapers have become so habitual.
If your competitors are stuck on self-publishing whitepapers, you can gain a particular advantage from contributing articles.
Publishing under someone's byline puts a face on the company and humanizes the brand. It demonstrates to the market that your team has expertise and is willing to share it, that you're aware of trends and changes, and that you're engaged well beyond just pushing products or services.
Other benefits of working with editors and getting your contributed story published:
- Achieving search-engine optimization via links from the published articles to your site, helping trigger inquiries
- Creating offline printed collateral as leave-behinds at prospect engagements
- Applying a strategy that your competitors may not be using
- Increasing brand share of voice and share of mind
- Delivering broad national promotional effects at a fraction of the cost of other media forms
- Gaining far greater credibility than via most other forms of promotion
- Providing the opportunity to direct current customers and prospects to published articles (e.g., "Please see our article in [publication's name]").
Creating perceptions of expertise are priceless for influencing customers, marketing partners, and competitors. Customer buying decisions often hinge on expertise, whether someone is choosing a doctor or a software supplier.
Publish professionally and come to be viewed as an expert.
Things to Know About Contributing Editorial Content
Ideas come first. The ideas for contributed articles must be interesting to your customers and prospects, not just to you or your company.
When you plan writing and contributing articles to established publications, an essential principle is to look at everything from the reader's point of view.
That principle is basic and simple, yet it's rarely done thoroughly. For some marketers and publicists, it's difficult to get out of "promotional mode" and into think like customers... and publication editors.
With a few good ideas in mind, flesh them out in a brief abstract that can be used to explain or sell the story to editors. End the abstract with the words "What readers will learn from this article is..."
Next, research which publications reach the people you want to influence and then check which of those accept contributed articles. Not all do. If an editor likes your ideas, agree with the editor on manuscript length and deadline.
Remember, the editor is in charge. Deliver what's been agreed to on deadline. Missed deadlines are the perfect way to end the relationship.
Although contributing articles isn't all a company needs for an effective publicity effort, it's a key tactic in markets where perceptions of expertise and thought leadership can affect customer perceptions.
Similarly, executive speaking engagements, blogging, whitepapers, and other forms of market engagement can all move a company toward success.
Engaging with established media via editorial contributions can deliver powerful influence and longer reach than only self-publishing tactics. Using contributed articles to hitch a ride with established publications is among the most effective ways to cost-effectively connect with large numbers of customers.