Contributed articles are a by far one the handiest tools in the client’s arsenal. Among other things, they’re a way for clients to position themselves as industry experts and thought leaders, achieve credibility among peers, reach desired audiences and truly get their message across exactly the way they want.
These days, it’s becoming increasingly easier to get contributed articles placed – even in top tier publications. Major technology shifts in the media industry have driven numerous publications to cut costs by slashing reporting staffs, and force media outlets to do more with less. That means now more than ever, editors are relying on – and even soliciting – contributed content from industry experts to fill in the gaps.
For clients, it’s an enormous and growing opportunity. However, editors still have pretty tough editorial standards for the written material that appears on their pages. And no doubt competition for that real estate is only going to become more fierce between industry peers.
So what makes for a great contributed article – one that will stand out yet satisfy even the most scrutinizing of editors? Here are five top guidelines:
Keep it (Vendor) Neutral
This is usually a pre-requisite for any publication that accepts contributed content – largely because they cannot openly promote one vendor’s products or services above another. That means, depending on the publication, you might not be able to even mention your genre of technology, let alone your product.
That said, your article can speak volumes about your company, your vision and your position in the market without ever specifically mentioning a product or what you do. Contributed articles provide fertile ground to develop thought leadership, analyze trends or discuss relevant issues. If you have a next-generation security solution, talk about threats and new malware that your product addresses. Launching a networking product? Discuss the causes of latency and bottlenecks that are driving organizations to find new ways to accelerate productivity and avoid disruptions.
Being seen as industry experts and market leaders for your ideas will go a lot farther to raise awareness and establish credibility with desired audiences than openly promoting your product.
Take a Stand
It’s natural to err on the side of caution, especially when trying not to step on customers’ toes or say anything that could be deemed controversial. However, the most compelling and interesting content often takes a stand on a topic – even if it’s to assert why you think that subject is important.
For example, you might think that some industries are inherently bad about adhering to and enforcing compliance regulations. Or that the industry push for organizations to adopt AI and machine learning technologies lacks focus and direction. Good content also provokes discussion, even if it means that some might disagree.
And that’s a good thing. Industry thought leaders – by definition – incite new ways of thinking. They often defy convention. They introduce new ideas – many of which are rejected, resisted or haven’t even been considered. That is, until they become accepted.
So – as long as your assertions can be backed up with facts – don’t be afraid to be bold and take a few risks.
Put Ideas in a Broader Context
In your role as thought leader, you see the big picture. While talking about a new technology or concept can be exciting, both your audience and editors alike need to see what it will ultimately mean for them. A new ransomware attack? A perfect opportunity to discuss how cybercriminals are changing their tactics and how organizations need will need to change their defenses. New cloud storage technology? A great segue into how and why data storage capacities are changing and what organizations can do to rein in their data.
Placing new ideas into the context of a broader trend not only highlights your expertise, but it shows foresight and big-picture thinking, as well as your comprehensive understanding of the entire industry. And, of course, it goes a long way with editors.
Clean, Concise Writing is Key
With contributed articles, few things can compensate for good writing. If the most exciting and innovative technology concepts are poorly written, you’ll lose your audience (not to mention your editor if it even gets accepted in the first place). Conversely, strong writing can compensate for topics that have the potential to be very dry or uninteresting.
Grammar and spelling, of course, need to be solid. However, strong pieces of writing also need to articulate concepts and ideas cleanly. Ideas need to be broken down and organized in way that is digestible to readers – especially if the article is technologically dense. Avoid clichés. And while use of industry terms is expected to some degree, try to use buzz words and jargon sparingly (really, a little goes a long way).
Create a Visual
Safe to say that many contributed articles contain a lot of concepts – some of which are pretty abstract.
With the exception of the most tech-savvy audiences, relying too heavily on abstractions without introducing a concrete use case will ultimately lose the very people you’re trying to reach. Good articles illustrate these concepts with a real-world visual. This could be as simple as writing an anecdote showcasing an adaptive marketing technology that tailors personal ads to you on airport billboards or a vulnerability in connected IoT home devices that people use every day.
In short, readers like to know how technology applies to them – how it makes their lives easier, better and more efficient. Because ultimately, that’s why they read.
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