Vendors Can Be Useful Editorial Content Contributors
Do editors who allow vendors to publish bylined content court trouble? Perhaps. But there are benefits to backing a policy that allows editorial contributions from vendors. This controversial topic was addressed briefly during “How to Manage and Improve Your Contributed Content,” an ASBPE-sponsored webinar held on October 13, 2020. Panelists included Beth Mirza, online news director, Society for Human Resource Management; Risk & Insurance Magazine editor-in-chief Dan Reynolds; and ASBPE panel moderator JD Solomon. If you missed the workshop, a recording of the proceedings will be available shortly.
Whenever the question of vendor participation arises, publishers worry that allowing it for one advertiser could result in competitors demanding equal time. But it is often worth the risk: Especially in high-tech fields, vendor personnel may know much more about the industry than editorial staff members. So allowing exposure for such companies could be viewed as a reader benefit.
Concerned editorial managers address this issue by creating guidelines covering article acceptance. Such guidelines also may apply to other outside contributors. Consultants, associations and PR firms are included in this category.
How to begin a search
The rest of this brief article is directed to editors who have relied entirely on staff-written content but may find it necessary to seek outside sources to plug a new content gap. An obvious approach would be to seek freelance assistance. On the other hand, your field may include several industry authorities who are seeking the visibility that regular appearance in an industry journal would provide. There also are syndicated sources that provide regular columns covering management issues such as accounting, personnel practices and other administrative categories.
One approach to picking a strong outside contributor often begins by becoming acquainted with prominent conference speakers. You should have been doing this all along anyway. Arrange one or more interviews with prospective columnists. If the relationship is going well, it’s time to sound out the individual on becoming a regular columnist. A fee may or may not be required to close the deal.
During my pre-consulting career, at one small company we lined up an excellent security consultant seeking visibility. When I joined a multi-publishing firm where I spent the next 21 years, several magazines had at least three well-known consultants lined up for each issue. Having these known authorities consistently connected with us impressed many advertising prospects.
At several larger B2B publishers, recruiting contributing authors is considered an important assignment. In some cases, the recruiter is responsible for upgrading content quality submitted by authors who may be tops in their field but lack writing skills.
Last but not least on the subject of vendor content contributions, these folks can deliver great interviews if you ask the right questions. Of course, there are many fields where important news is dominated by product developments. In these cases, interviewing top sources and allowing them to talk about their product lines makes sense.