An online marketing campaign, like its traditional media counterparts, is a branding strategy meant to generate sales. Ever since Al Gore invented the Internet, these campaigns have included such elements as corporate and promotional websites, pay-per-click and banner advertising, and email newsletters, but one strategy frequently overlooked by marketing executives is publishing bylined articles.

Why Include Article Publication in Your Online Marketing Campaign?

Though companies and their public relations firms have embraced this branding strategy in traditional print media, there is a tendency to neglect Internet media outlets. This practice is contrary to studies of consumer behavior and overlooks a vital part of an online marketing campaign. In fact, the Veronis Suhler Stevenson Communications Industry Forecast reports that as of 2003, the time spent reading magazines had decreased to 121 hours annually, while Internet usage had increased to 176 hours. The study also predicted that this trend would continue for the foreseeable future.

The other reasons your company should include Internet publications in its online marketing campaign follow the same branding strategy and rationale as publishing articles in traditional media. These publications give the company greater customer visibility online, help build its reputation, increase brand awareness, create links to the company's website, and are viewed more favorably by customers than advertisements or content on a company's website.

How to Develop an Article Branding Strategy

When creating an article branding strategy, the first step is to determine the topics that the articles will analyze. A brainstorming session may be in order here, but potential topics can include an analysis of current trends in the industry or controversial issues, tips, and simple tutorials.

The next step in developing articles for your online marketing campaign is to choose an expert on the subject. This person will probably be a company executive, a product designer, or a sales representative. If this person is knowledgeable on the subject, a good writer, and has a few hours to spare to write the article – you are is in luck. However, chances are you might need a ghostwriter to write the article based on input from the expert.

When the writer is developing the article, there are a few stylistic guidelines he or she should follow to make the article branding strategy more effective:

Keep the article length between 800 to 1200 words
Use headings throughout the article
Keep the content objective, and avoid sales copy or discussion of specific products or services
Include a biography of the author at the end of the article with a link to the company website

Once the article is complete, format it in several different ways (i.e. Word, PDF, HTML, plain text), so it can be sent to the publication(s) in the formats they specify as well as published on the company's website.

Publications

The next step in producing articles for your online marketing campaign is to find publications. Before you search for publications, you must make several decisions regarding the types of publications you will target as part of your article branding strategy.

The first characteristic to consider in an online marketing campaign is exclusivity. An exclusive publication works with a writer to develop an original article. In exchange, the author agrees that the article will only be published in that particular publication. In contrast, non-exclusive publications don't restrict where authors can publish an article. A company's article branding strategy can include one or both types of publications.

There isn't necessarily a correct answer for which type of publication a company should use; however, the experience (or perceived experience, if a ghostwriter is used) of the author and the time the author has available to develop articles are often the two most influential factors in the decision.

A second consideration for any online marketing campaign is the advertising that will surround a company's articles once they are published. When researching an online publication, you should check for pop-up ads, banner ads, and contextual ads (in the text of the articles or in the margins) and make sure the ads don't contain objectionable content with respect to your company's branding strategy.

Another factor to consider when developing your article branding strategy is whether you are willing to pay to have an article published. Several sites, including TechTarget (formerly Bitpipe), Knowledge Storm, and CNET, charge companies to feature white papers. These companies usually syndicate the content to a network of sites and send the company leads in exchange for a monthly sponsorship fee. Exercising this option can reduce the amount of work required to find publications significantly, but it also reduces the reader's perception that the article is objective, trustworthy content.

In an online marketing campaign, the other sites where a publication is syndicated may also be a concern for your company. To check the sites where headlines or full text articles are syndicated, find an article on the potential publication's site that is one to two weeks old. Then, perform a quoted search of the article's title in Google or Yahoo. Browse through the results to see which ones are associated with the potential publication and evaluate each one with respect to the company's branding strategy.

Once you have developed the criteria you will use to evaluate publications, you can develop a list of outlets to approach with an article idea or an abstract of a completed article. A good place to start is the industry associations where your company is a member. Many association websites have article libraries that publish content for members. You can also search the websites of popular industry publications for their online editorial policies. Finally, you can search for publications to include in your company's online marketing campaign by entering popular industry terms in a search engine.

Once you have a publication list, contact the publications in accordance with their editorial policies and work with them to publish the company's articles. This process will require documentation and follow up on your part, so record any interactions you have with the publications to avoid problems with this part of your online marketing campaign.

Conclusion

An article branding strategy is an essential part of any online marketing campaign because of the shift away from traditional media to the Internet and the opportunity for additional company exposure online. As your company develops an article branding strategy, you should consider several criteria, including topics, company authors or ghostwriters, and the style in which the article will be written. In addition, there are several issues to bear in mind when finding publications, including exclusivity, advertising, whether to pay for publication, and syndication.

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February 26, 2007





Brian Cooper is the director of online public relations at Medium Blue, where he promotes the company’s clients on the Internet. He has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Georgia State University where he graduated summa cum laude. Medium Blue Search Engine Marketing was recently named the number one search engine optimization firm in the world by PromotionWorld. Visit www.mediumblue.com to request a custom guarantee based on your goals and your data.





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