Bylined Articles

Position You as an Expert

Bylined articles, also called byliners, are my favorite marketing tactic for professionals. They play a critical role in positioning you as an expert in your field in the eyes of your local community.

A glance through a newspaper will quickly clarify what a byliner is. Once you start to look for them, you will notice they are actually very common. It is simply an article that appears in any publication with the author’s name (called a byline) attached to it, either at the beginning or end.

Sometimes called a contributed article, a byliner provides an opportunity for you to share your expertise without promoting yourself. Thus, your knowledge is demonstrated and your image is established based on what you say about your topic, not what you say about yourself. If you have provided valuable information, then readers will note your name as the author and contact you if they need your service. It is also a means of distinguishing yourself from others who provide your service.

Byliners are usually focused in one of the following ways:

  • An opinion piece, stating your opinion on a current issue in your profession
  • A how-to or other informational piece, such as your advice about how to solve or prevent a common problem faced by your patients or clients
  • A trend or visionary article, providing your perspective on what readers should expect in the future

What Does a Byline Look Like?

The byline is the author's name, plus title and/or affiliation. It may look something like this:

Understanding Your Blood Pressure Numbers
by Dr. James Q. Heart, M.D. of Affiliated Physicians, Inc., Eugene, Oregon

A byline can also offer a more detailed explanation of the expertise of the writer, so it may look similar to this:

In “Predicting Interest Rates: Should You Refinance Your ARM or Let It Float?” financial expert Stephen A. Banker, manager of West Valley Community Bank, advises this may be a good time to lock in a 30-year fixed rate.

Sometimes, publications will include a more detailed bio of the writer, usually at the end, such as:

The Difference Between Arbitration and Mediation

TEXT

Joan M. Lawyer, J.D. is a licensed attorney specializing in business law. She practices in Lakewood, Colorado and is the author of Resolving Our Differences, a book for small business owners.

Benefits of Bylined Articles

Byliners are a great way to position both the professional and the practice as leaders in their field. They add credibility with both clients and potential clients by showcasing your expertise and raising your profile.

Another benefit is the opportunity to raise awareness of issues that affect your practice and profession. For example, a lawyer may write on the local angle of national legal issues. A health practitioner might write about the implications of a national health care bill on local medical care.

From the perspective of a newspaper editor, a good, reliable writer of contributed articles is a great addition to their publication. They are always looking to provide their readers with well-written, forward looking, accurate and useful information. The key is writing in a style that will match their publication.

Getting Your Byliner in Print

Having decided that byliners are a good idea for you, there are a few simple steps for getting into print.

  • Decide on your preferred publications. This is best achieved by looking through newspapers, magazines, trade publications and websites to establish which would best suit your needs. Which publications have readers that are most like whom you want to have as clients or patients?
  • Email or call the editor to establish their policies on accepting articles or opinion pieces. Policies will include what can and cannot be included, an appropriate word count, style, format and how to attribute source materials.
  • When proposing an article to a publication—called a pitch—you will need to provide a short summary paragraph of what you plan to write. Think about what the core benefit of the information will be to readers and focus the first sentence around that. You should also provide a sentence or short paragraph establishing your credentials or expertise.

Hints and Tips for Writing a Bylined Article

  • The author named should be an appropriate individual within the practice. Usually this will be you or one of your professional associates; it should not be a staff person, even if they were the one to do the writing.
  • If you currently undertake advertising in newspapers or magazines, these should be the first to contact. A byliner in the same publication as an advertisement adds value to your paid advertising; however, do not mention to an editor that you are an advertiser as this is offensive.
  • If you are an expert but struggle to write about your subject, consider employing a professional writer. It is common in the PR industry for “ghost writers” to write on behalf of a “named author.” They can add value by ensuring an appropriate writing style and can be great time savers.
  • Keep to the word count requested; if it is longer, editors will often not print it.
  • Here are a few ways to approach a contributed article:

    - Outline a problem and propose a solution. Even without referencing your practice by name, readers will infer that your practice can provide the solution to the problem outlined.
           
    - Write about a “lesson learned,” outlining an issue and perhaps including a client example; your client's quotes will add even more credibility. This can provide a welcome opportunity for your client to gain visibility for their business too, which may lead to a stronger relationship and further work from that client.

    - Consider expressing your opinion on a professional topic or current issue. Since readers don’t often see strong opinions expressed in print, they find these articles more interesting and you appear knowledgeable because you have an opinion.
  • Once a byliner is in print, it becomes copyrighted by the publication. You must adhere to copyright rules. Many publications offer the chance to buy further reprints that can be used in combination with additional PR tactics.
  • If your byliner is published online, consider the opportunity to email a link to clients as part of your PR strategy.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

  • Do not overtly advertize your practice, products or services. A byline with your name, company and a line about your expertise is sufficient. Remember, it is not an ad.
  • Watch your language. Take care not to use industry buzzwords, jargon and exaggeration.
  • Don’t criticize your competition or any other individual or company. The best approach is to be positive and focus on problem solving, trends or timely advice and information.

Establishing yourself as an expert in your profession helps people trust you before they have even met you. Bylined articles are, in my opinion, the best way to establish this trust and position you and your practice as the most qualified provider in your community.


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