Ten questions are answered on how to be successful with contributed articles in tech media.
American tech media offer plenty of opportunities for contributed thought leadership pieces, but sometimes the rules of engagement can be confusing for those who are new to writing and submitting contributed content. From all the questions I regularly receive from clients and prospects, I selected the following ten to help clarify some basic written and unwritten rules of the game.
What is the ideal length of a contributed article?
There is no ideal length per se, most of the time the outlet will communicate what it expects to receive in its guidelines. Contributed articles will most often be between 750 and 1,250 words long. If there is no length defined in the guidelines, just take a look at the length of the last few contributed articles that were published and go off of that.
Can I link to my site in a contributed article?
Most outlets (not all) will provide you with a bio box that will contain the name of the company you represent and a link to your website. The link in the bio-box is not always a do-follow link. When it is not a do-follow link, the link will not help improve your website rankings as much as do-follow link would (see more on how contributed articles can contribute to website rankings in this article).
Some outlets will not only allow for a link in the bio-box but will also grant links in the body text. These links are called “contextual links.” From an SEO perspective, it does not get any better than that since the contextual link allows for the use of anchor text that is keyword optimized. Guidelines will often clarify which linking practices are allowed for and where such is not made explicit, as always, it is recommended to survey a sample of previously published articles.
Can I republish a contributed article I wrote?
The guidelines will provide instructions on which republishing practices are allowed. Major media titles will often not be very concerned with republishing, since they are sure to outrank you in the search results. If nothing is said on republishing, it is recommended to ask the editor beforehand for his or her permission if you wish to do so.
Can I share a published contributed article online?
Of course you can (and should) share your published contributed articles online. You can link to the article in the newsroom from your website, tweet the link, share the link on LinkedIn, put a link in your newsletter, and I even have clients who link to their articles in their email signatures. There are plenty of ways through which authors can promote the fruit of their labor.
Can I promote my products or services in a contributed article?
Contributed articles are thought leadership pieces of content that are meant to be vendor neutral, so authors are not supposed to include anything self-serving in their copy. So, if you are selling red paint, you should not write a piece on why your red paint is the best in town. Whether you should also be category-neutral and can’t write a piece on why red paint is preferable over blue paint, is a question that will receive different answers from different editors. A look at the editorial guidelines and previous contributed articles will help you discover what is and what is not accepted.
Can I have a ghostwriter write my contributed article?
Many companies have either in-house PR staff or an outside agency write the contributed articles that are then submitted on behalf of their leadership. There is nothing impractical or unethical about this approach. Of course, certain criteria will have to be met for the output to be of sufficient high quality. You will need a ghostwriter who has sufficient experience with the subject matter. This writer will have to be briefed sufficiently on the narrative of the piece at hand (key argumentation and proof points) and will also have to have made him- or herself familiar with the style of the executive for which the piece is being ghostwritten.
The choice on whose name should be put under a ghostwritten contributed article, is one that needs to be in sync with the overall choices that have been made on the casting of the company’s spokespeople. CEOs should probably not put their name under pieces that address less than strategic concerns and product managers should not write about the state of the industry. Also, take care to not overuse the CEO – he or she is best used for pieces that are premium, so even when talking about more strategic issues in a contributed article for a tier 2 outlet, it can make sense to have not the CEO, but for example the director of marketing sign the piece.
Do tech media charge for contributed articles?
Submitting a contributed is almost always completely free of charge . Some outlets, such as Forbes (through its Councils) and Entrepreneur (which recently launched its Entrepreneur Leadership Network) have paid programs. The value of these programs is hotly debated among PR consultants; I consider them to be worth the expense at their current price points (I will come back to this in a later article).
What quality criteria should my contributed articles adhere to?
How much time and effort should be put in a contributed article? As companies discover the SEO benefits of contributed articles, they might be inclined to have their effort be completely driven by back-linking concerns and choose quantity over quality. While ranking potential might and even should be a major concern to any company (can you come up with buyer journeys that have no search in them?), care for the brand should always trump search optimization.
When judging whether you allowed quantity to take over from quality, simply ask yourself, when in doubt over any given piece: would I feel comfortable sharing this article through my most popular corporate social media channels? If the answer to that questions is ‘no,’ you should reconsider the content of the article that is under investigation.
How do I pitch contributed articles to tech media?
How exactly to pitch contributed articles, will depend on the outlet at hand. Some media will prefer to receive an outline first where you explain what you want to write about, others will only consider finished articles, and some will allow for both. Almost all tech media who allow for contributed articles, will give guidance on the process for writing and submitting articles on their website.
The person to submit the (proposal for a) contributed article to, is almost always a different one than the journalist who writes the news pieces on your industry. So, look for the dedicated editor who manages the contributed articles to make sure you don’t send your application to the wrong email.
How can I integrate our blogging with our contributed articles program?
A unified media room approach will allow you to plan your content production in an integrated fashion. If you know, for example, that certain outlets in which you would like to publish will only consider finished articles and that these articles need to meet criteria X, Y and Z (be at least 1,000 words long, etc.), then you can decide to simply include in your editorial planning the production of articles that will be suitable for both the outlets you want to target with your contributed articles and your own blog.
If that article that you wanted to publish in Fast Company is not accepted (this will happen more often than not, outlets receive a lot of articles), then you can still publish it on your own blog or even pitch it to another outlet.
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