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Friday, March 15th, 2013

So, You’re Writing a Byline…Now What?!

By Shannon Watterson and Cassidy Lawson

Public relations is all about putting the right message in front of the right people at the right time.  Traditional media is one of the main channels we use to drive our clients’ messages, but, while a great tool, articles can often dilute the clients’ messages.

Enter the byline.  Byline articles, guest columns and op-eds are great ways to get your clients’ messages directly to their audiences without any third party interference.  Bylines are a great tool for PR, but they can also be stressful for practitioners who may not have a journalism writing background. By following a few simple tips you can successfully write and place a byline and position your client as a leader in their field.

1.    Have a target in mind

Choose a publication before you draft anything.  The outlet will help drive the content of the byline, while providing guidelines for length and style.  If you don’t decide where you want to place a story before you write it, it may end up collecting dust rather than reaching your audience.

2.   You aren’t the expert – your client is

Tap into your clients’ expertise for bylines.  Hop on a call to chat about the subject, email them questions to pick their brains or include prompts in a draft of the piece.  This will improve the byline’s content and lessen the chance of massive edits on the client’s end.

3.   Be mindful of length

One of the first things a paper’s editor will tell you is the word length.  Pay attention to it.  You can say a lot more with 1,500 words than you can with 500, so knowing from the beginning will help you get your points in without going over the limit.  Also, save room for your client, who may add 100-200 words during the editing process.

4.   Don’t be afraid to censor the client

While the client is the expert on the topic, you are the expert on the media, so don’t be afraid to share your opinions.  If something doesn’t fit in the byline, say so, but be sure to offer an alternative solution, such as a blog post or video on the new topic.

5.   Do your research

Make your byline as timely as possible by connecting it to breaking news, current events or holidays.  This will make your piece more interesting to your target audience and up the chances of them reading the byline.

Once you’ve written and placed a byline, the work isn’t quite over!  To get the most bang for your buck, make sure you’re sharing the placement through all of the client’s social media channels, writing a blog post on the topic, exploring other outlets for additional coverage or recording a video of the client discussing the topic.  This placement is your opportunity to get the right message across to the right audience – so make sure you’re getting the word out there!

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