If thought leadership is on your list of priorities, you’re living in the right time. Never before have individuals (and the companies they represent) had easier, more open access to broad audiences.
Given the right mix of content strategy, creation and distribution, you can share your message with a theoretically unlimited number of people. There are no gatekeepers blocking your way onto Medium, LinkedIn, SlideShare, Quora and many other platforms, including your own personal or corporate blog.
But, is it still worth your time to write articles for more traditional publications, whether they appear in print or online?
As with most questions worth digging into, the answer is, “It depends.”
Here’s the thing about those “gatekeepers” I mentioned above: at reputable publications, the standards enforced by editors, staffers and freelancers insure the quality of the overall product, and thus its clout with readers.
When your byline appears above a TechCrunch, Entrepreneur or Forbes article, for example, it carries weight that is harder to lift via more open-to-everyone venues.
First of all, someone in charge read your thoughts and deemed them relevant and interesting enough to present to their audience. And second, you get the benefit of that audience, which is, more often than not, larger than the one following you on social media or likely to find your writing via search.
Contributed articles should be part of your thought leadership plans. But does that mean you should jump at every chance to write for every publication?
Not by a long shot.
When it comes to marketing, particularly content marketing, there is no end to the number of things you could do. But knocking yourself out (or driving your team around the clock) doesn’t guarantee better results. To the contrary – the less you can focus on the quality of any one project, the more your overall results suffer.
Don’t do more.
Start by interrogating every contributed article opportunity based on your thought leadership goals:
Will an article in this publication grow awareness for me or my company?
If your main goal for sharing your point of view or expertise is to boost your executive visibility or the visibility of your company, this question is for you.
Use a media database, like Cision, or the publication’s own circulation numbers to determine the size of its readership and the makeup of its target audience.
Beyond the publication’s direct readership, how often are its articles shared, and by whom? A tool like Buzzsumo lets you look at individual articles, how many shares they get on the most popular social media channels, and how many links point to them from around the web.
Will an article in this publication put me in good company?
Be discerning about the kind of folks you’ll be associated with if you contribute an article.
This is about more than name recognition. Whether or not you recognize any of the people who have already authored articles, you can learn something about them and whether you want to join their “club.”
Are their experience levels similar to yours? Do you admire the companies they work for? Are their articles thoughtful, persuasive, compelling and…well…smart?
Will an article in this publication send traffic to my personal or corporate website?
Some of the most prestigious publications in the country – the ones your significant other will clip and post on the fridge when your name appears in them – drive little to no traffic to company websites.
If you’re planning to measure the value of your activity in terms of website traffic, this is something to keep in mind.
This is not to say you shouldn’t aim for these outlets, but you should determine upfront how you’ll measure the value of appearing them. Readership, social sharing and share of voice might deliver positive metrics, even when traffic metrics fail to wow you or your boss.
Will an article in this publication influence my target decision-maker?
If your primary target is the prospect you hope to make a customer, poll your existing customers. What do they read? What do their teams read? If you featured them in a case study or news announcement, where would they most like to see themselves? The answers to those questions can influence the publications worthy of your thought leadership efforts.
If your target decision-maker is someone else – maybe a partner or an investor – check out where their executives have been featured and which publications they cite in their own content efforts and share on their social channels.
Do I have time to meet this publication’s guidelines?
After considering all of the above, get pragmatic. Most publications will give you a target word count, and sometimes other parameters. Do you want to toil over a 2,500-word article and create unique screenshots or charts for a publication with a narrow readership, which has never driven a single visitor to your website? Maybe not.
Your thought leadership strategy should include contributed articles, but make that effort count by pitching and writing for the publications most likely to help you reach your strategic goals.
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