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Bylined articles are a great way to showcase the deep knowledge and insight of your lawyers, but are they always used in the right way? Articles represent a considerable time investment for your lawyers so it is important to approach them mindfully. And, once targeted, what is the most efficient way to secure them?

Here at Commspromise, we pitch for bylined articles for a range of legal sector clients across publications covering many sectors. Here are our top tips for an effective, strategic approach.

  • Identify potential authors. Not every lawyer will want to write articles so search out those who do. Try to concentrate on lawyers operating in your firm's main target areas initially. Depending on your PR resource, you may need to avoid devoting large portions of time to areas of secondary focus according to your firm strategy.

  • Ask authors to send you short article ideas for pitching - a short summary of a maximum of three sentences describing the topic, length and style of the article is enough. Three of the most common article types are Op-Ed works, trend articles, and "how-to" pieces, as well as articles examining a particular deal, regulation or case.

  • Discourage authors from writing articles 'on spec' as there is no guarantee that an article idea will be commissioned and PR works hard to make sure lawyers' time is spent wisely. Every publication has specific requirements for word count, style and tone. Therefore, it is important to consult with the marketing and PR team to ensure articles are written according to the publications' specifications and that they are on topic.

  • Agree a pitching list with the author. Pitch to each publication in the agreed order. Always wait for a response from the publication before approaching the next as most publications require exclusivity.

  • Feed back on the results of your pitching to the author. This feedback will help to manage their expectations and to hone future article ideas. For any commissions, make sure you communicate the word count, deadline and any pointers for the tone or content.

  • Give an internal deadline for any articles commissioned. That way, you have time to review the article and you can ensure it is sent across on time.

  • Send the article on time! Need we say more?

If used wisely, bylined articles are a powerful PR tool ensuring almost complete control of the message and harnessing the third-party endorsement of the publication - we have even seen examples of firms gaining work directly as a result of an article! But beware. At their worst, bylined articles can represent a huge waste of time for authors and PR functions and a diversion from more valuable PR activity.

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