Since February 2017, our team has placed nearly 40 commentary pieces primarily in education trades, blogs, and digital news sites including EdSource, The74, SmartBrief, GettingSmart, The Edvocate, and EdScoop. In the next few months, we expect to see three more placements, two of which are on the tip-top of our target list (I dare not reveal the names for fear of jinxing the outcome).
Why is our small firm so successful in this regard? We have an uber-talented group of freelance writers who work closely with the authors who have the byline. Our writers help the author craft the commentaries, helping them hone the important messages and discard the unnecessary. Back-and-forth collaborative work can be a little time consuming, but it’s well worth the effort. It is critical that the commentary appeal to the publication’s readership, which is difficult for company executives, academic researchers, educators and administrators. They are too close to their story to be able to strip out nonessentials and see the story from another angle. This is THE KEY. Commentaries cannot simply restate a company’s key messages. A problem-solution story also rarely works. Editors don’t care about products. They care about people so commentaries have to address something bigger than the product.
Where does product fit into commentaries? It is true that our clients are seeking visibility for their products but in many commentaries, the product doesn’t get mentioned. If it does get included, it must be material to the story line and not wrapped around self-promotional marketing-speak. A few outlets are willing to include mentions of a product providing it is relevant, but most top-tier publications are looking for more significant statements. Commentaries about social issues or interpretations of data, for example, are far more interesting to editors and more likely to get picked up.
Can you make value from a commentary without product mention? Usually the “about the author” section can include the company name and a URL, but there are several other ways commentaries are valuable without a product mention. At the onset, the primary goal should always be to build positive relations between the media and the client company. If a commentary piece is submitted to an editor and it does not abuse the opportunity to self-promote, the editor may develop a favorable impression of the company and the author. Furthermore, they might consider the author as a source for a future story.
If a product is not mentioned anywhere (and even if it is), the company can circulate and share the commentary. Editors appreciate when their content is shared in social channels or included in email campaigns (just be careful to respect copyright, don’t make claims beyond what is printed, and use the correct attribution). To connect to your product, give kudos to the highlighted school district or explain the backstory. Don’t overlook the simple value of having drawn attention to your users, engaging in public discourse, or in sharing your expertise in interpreting some research or data.
I’ve also recently discovered Snip.ly which adds a call-to-action link to direct readers of the commentary piece (or any content item) to your website. This is a great way to connect a relevant page on your client’s website to a commentary, especially when there is no mention in the piece itself.
Of the pieces we’ve recently placed, here are a few of our favorites. When our other pieces go to press, you can be sure we’ll share the good news.