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To Separate Your Clients from the Pack, Get Them to Write and Publish Articles!

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In good times and bad, the trick for PR professionals is always to find a way to help their firms stand out from the crowd. Though most action plans will include news releases, newsletters, e-letters, and website dazzle, many smart publicists (and their clients) have latched onto an underutilized technique for winning more attention: writing and publishing articles.

Why adopt this strategy? For one thing, it's far less expensive than even a modest ad campaign, and clients often like that. For another, writing and publishing earn double benefits for the author/client by promoting products and services and at the same time educating target markets about the existence and expertise of the company. Publishing articles thus converts companies and their executives, sales reps, customer service reps, and, well, the whole team into "thought leaders—i.e., proven "experts" in their particular field. This means the firm's core values can be articulated clearly, confidently, and persuasively.

I know what you're thinking: "How would I get the process started for my client, and even so, how could I get my client to actually sit down and write anything?" The truth is many executives respond enthusiastically to this idea, leaping at the opportunity to see their names in "lights," or, rather, print. And though they'll need some help with editing and shaping their drafts, in the end they usually do a pretty good job of getting the core message of the article down so that you, the PR expert, can then get it out (and published!).

The way to begin, once your client is on board, is not by starting to write an article. Instead, formulate a list of good article ideas and compile a target publications list based on readerships that match your client's target market. Then pitch an idea or two to a few editors with the aim of obtaining a "go-ahead."

To accomplish this successfully, clarify in advance which business objectives your client would want each article to advance. This ensures that the process is strategic and doesn't just get swept up in the heady mania of the chance for your client to become a mini celebrity. One client of mine, for example, a manufacturer of data storage systems, wanted its insurance-firm prospects to know how easy to use its recently developed system could be. Its VP of sales then wrote an article called "Storage Must be Flexible" which we got published in a major insurance trade journal. The article could then be used as a marketing tool in the firm's PR kit and on its website and as a sales tool during the sales force's prospecting and negotiations.

What's the best approach these days for getting an editor's attention? I find that emailing editors with a few short article blurbs and then calling a few days later (if I haven't heard from them) works really well. Most times, I never have to make the call; the editor quickly responds with a go-ahead and a deadline and word count. Then my client and I are off and running!

If at all possible, I require my clients to do their actual first drafts. With an editor waiting, they usually hop right to it and appreciate the opportunity to be so personally invested in the project as opposed to having everything done for them (as with ghostwriting). A few, however, freeze up and don't know where or how to begin, victims of what I call "writer's fright." When this happens, I simply advise them to think of their articles as memos or long emails and just bang away. This typically thaws them out, and within hours, voila! A first draft magically appears.

After a first article appears, your client may never look back. The feedback and even adulation an executive/author receives often causes him or her to view marketing and media in a whole new light. At that point, the thought-leader approach starts taking precedence over less aggressive, more traditional methods. Before long, your client starts encountering prospective customers who light up when they hear his or her name or the company's name. They say, "I've learned a lot from reading your articles. Please tell me more about your products/service...I'm all ears!" Your client's articles have effectively begun pre-selling to prospects the company would otherwise never even have known existed.

About the Author:

Ken Lizotte, CMC, is the chief imaginative officer of emerson consulting group, inc. (Concord MA), which transforms companies, executives, consultants, and other experts into "thought leaders."

Phone: 978-371-0442
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