Wednesday, July 28, 2004

When Bylines are Bygones

In slower times on the PR front, an enterprising firm thinks of ways to get their clients in print without the benefit of “hard” news. Many things can be done, such as proactive pitching for trend stories, announcing company milestones, etc. Creativity is king is such situations.

One of the most successful, tried-and-true ways to keep momentum alive is to craft a compelling byline article about the space in which your client plies its trade. Now, in an ideal world, the PR firm knows enough about the company’s market to write a thought-provoking piece worthy of placement in targeted pubs. Or at least they know enough to be able to come up with a solid skeleton – an outline of the piece.

However, it doesn’t always work out that way. First, some firms are given to charge extra for original byline writing (and just about everything else, for that matter). Second, many clients prefer to actually think for themselves. And that’s a good thing.

What’s not so good is that some clients have difficulty writing stories absent of shameless advertising for their own companies. Unfortunately, the publishing world universally agrees that advertising is something you have to pay for. It’s like a conspiracy in which publishers have banded together and made a pact to actually make money. Disguise an ad as a story and you may as well use it to ignite fireplace kindling.

But there are ways to get your company’s message across without repeatedly inserting its name in bold face in your “story.” You can get your point across by using simple devices such as: “According to industry analysts, companies that embrace the hosted model realize the benefits of …”

In the above example, the author didn’t name a specific company. Instead, the company’s “hosted model” is validated by analysts who discuss the many “benefits” of offerings like yours. This broad brush on the industry, backed by the views of a respected third-party, lends credibility to the messenger, and is therefore more palatable to editors with an aversion to self-promotion.

Bonus tip: a good byline article can be sliced and diced for many different purposes after it’s published. Pare it down and use it in an email pitch, for example. Reconfigure it and use it for an award submission or a speaking opportunity.

Creativity is key, as mentioned above. But equally important is tactfulness. As a rule of thumb, if you read the story you wrote and feel proud of your company, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Instead, you should feel excited about the industry in which you ply your trade.

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