Curtis SparrerCurtis Sparrer

Contributed content plays a very important role in the world of tech PR.

Written by non-journalist authors, “contributed content” is developed to provide media outlets and their readers with fresh content, new ideas, opinions and perspectives. These pieces help articulate a unique point of view and represent a key element of the PESO—paid, earned, shared and owned—content model that helps drive company and brand awareness.

Contributed content can take a number of forms, but there are some discrete differences between the types of material you can contribute, and they’re worth clarifying:

  • A bylined article explicitly provides the name of the author, for attribution. Obviously, bylines aren’t anonymous, and they represent the views of the specific author. They can be prescriptive, exploring a problem and its potential solution, or they can be built around a specific opinion and written to advance the author’s side of an issue.
  • An op-ed comes from the world of newspapers, where opinions were literally laid out “opposite of the editorial” page. Op-eds are perspectives from individuals or organizations—like trade associations—that aren’t affiliated with a publication’s editorial board. They might rebut or support a piece published by the editorial board and relevant examples can be found in national and local papers every day.

For PR purposes, most of these articles are ghostwritten, which simply means that the actual work of writing the article is done by a communications professional.

This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Nov. '22 Technology PR Magazine
(view PDF version)

Why we do it

If you’re wondering why we pursue contributed content opportunities as PR people, ask yourself this question: Who in this economy doesn’t need some additional thought leadership positioning and executive visibility?

Placing contributed content helps organizations and individual executives gain visibility and can be key elements in advocacy campaigns around specific issues, such as legislative and political conditions that might impact a company, industry or society.

Placing contributed content is an important tactic when it comes to getting an organization’s vision “out there” in the marketplace of ideas, and it’s very useful as a method of speaking to customers, prospects and partners while staking out a thought leadership position. It’s also effective because it illustrates the views and vision of top management, helping to build credibility and close deals by allowing potential customers and partners to vet your company. Once published, contributed content can also serve as useful sales support and collateral material, giving sales teams an opportunity to follow up with prospects by sharing the article.

What’s more, contributed content serves as a data point, showing that your company is speaking with the most important media outlets about specific technologies and/or issues. Contributed content also helps drive new ideas, serving to build interest across the media about certain topics. Editors are always monitoring what their competitors publish, so an op-ed or a byline can easily initiate a news cycle.

Contributed content also creates a virtuous circle. As much as editors might not want to admit it —and perhaps might even cultivate the idea that they have an extensive staff, cranking out their own journalism in a nonstop fashion—publications need content. The editorial product that supports advertising isn’t cheap or easy to develop, so sourcing quality content and viewpoints from the PR community makes sense.

Publishing a wide range of opinions, as well as providing executives and thought leaders with a platform to discuss the issues of the day, helps publications to serve all of their readership. Further, it allows media outlets to cast a wider net when it comes to advertising and growing circulation and online visibility.

Contributed content and tech PR

Contributed content is especially impactful in tech PR. As with other businesses and industries, it allows control of the messaging and narrative through your published pieces. It also facilitates the communication of complex technical topics and assists in the introduction of new concepts and technologies. As a case in point, my team has written numerous articles on major technological trends like AI and machine learning, agile development and blockchain. And we’re currently introducing emerging concepts with each new article we write.

Publishing contributed content is also especially helpful for startups that have little or no brand recognition because it not only functions as publicity, but it also serves as a way to reach influencers. Leveraging contributed content can position your company as a thought leader while helping to seed the market and thereby quietly nurturing sales efforts.

The executive challenge: time to write

By far the biggest challenge when it comes to contributed content is the fact that most executives simply don’t have the time to write their own articles. While they may be subject matter experts, writing to the standards of a given publication is best done by a communications pro. This is because as “hired guns,” professional writers can effectively articulate complex ideas and simultaneously work under the deadlines and other constraints that publications operate under.

Working with a third-party organization that offers ghostwriting services is the perfect solution. Agencies and authors-for-hire do most of the work, and the pieces written by content professionals are far more likely to be accepted and published.

In the end

Bylines and op-eds enable control of the message while empowering companies to speak to key audiences in the most direct and unfiltered way possible. For tech PR pros who want to help clients communicate their best and most important ideas, there’s very little that is more effective than contributed content.


Curtis Sparrer is Co-Founder and Principal at Bospar.