Executives: Avoid these 5 mistakes when you write articles for business news sites - man in a suit standing on sidewalk

Major business news sites love to tap executives for guest articles for a reason: Those articles get a lot of attention from readers.

It’s a good thing for the news sites — and it can be a great thing for your career.

Guest articles can improve your authority and credibility.

They can bring attention to your company, your organization or your cause.

What most executives ultimately discover, however, is that these guest articles also provide them with a ready outlet for their ideas — and a medium for getting feedback on those ideas.

When you do it right.

You of all people have little time to mess around. So when you do write that guest article, avoid these five mistakes — so your first draft is your published draft.

Mistake #1: Being Foggy on the Value

You probably have a very good reason for wanting to write that guest article. The prestige of it. The attention you’ll bring to yourself and your company. That’s a great place to start — but to really engage readers, you have to take that a step further and consider what value you’re providing your audience.

Wanting to establish yourself as a thought leader isn’t a good enough reason for readers to care about your content. You do, however, have immense value to bring to the table — and that’s what your articles must center around.

  • Ronesha Byng writes articles with the purpose of breaking down the barrier for the next generation of women.
  • Brian de Haaff writes to bring attention to his products, his company, and his passion for wilderness adventure.
  • Sally Hogshead writes articles to help people bring their personal strengths to the workplace.
  • Tim Eisenhauer writes to bring attention to the importance of employee engagement, and seeks to educate leaders on how to make the workplace happier and more rewarding for their employees.

As an executive, you are in the position of having to look at the business or organization from 10,000 feet. Leadership, trends, organizational alignment, goalsetting — you live and breathe these big-picture topics.

To readers, however, your thoughts on these topics are novel ideas. They’re likely where the reader wants to go, but not necessarily where they are right now.

To write an article that the news outlet eagerly publishes and that readers really enjoy, think about how you can help readers using your unique knowledge and experience.

Make that value the centerpiece of every article you write.

Mistake #2: Forgetting the Facts

Seasoned execs usually have great stories to tell. And that’s a good thing.

However, stories and anecdotes only take you so far when you’re writing for major business news sites.

Readers need facts, too, to feel like the article author has authority.

You don’t have to be heavy-hitter — but you do have to bring the research.

For example, Brian de Haaff uses a light touch in this article. He references a recent study that shows people who have emotional responses tend to achieve more.

I personally tend to be a heavy-hitter when it comes to research. When I ghostwrite for executives, I add many studies, stats and reports to back up the point of the article. I find this lends more credence to the piece, garners more respect for my client (who is publicly the author), and gives more opportunities for others to link to and reference the article.

The amount of research you use can be a personal style choice if the news site doesn’t give you specific direction on it. But no matter what, plan to do some further investigation into your chosen topic.

Mistake #3: Writing “Brain-dump Style”

You have ideas and stories to share, and that’s a great thing. If you were speaking in front of an audience, though, you wouldn’t just go up on stage, tell a bunch of random stories, and walk off, would you?

The format of your presentation matters.

For example, long, unbroken paragraphs look like walls of text to today’s readers. Few people will try to climb that wall.

Your guest article is not a journal entry. If you’re not well-versed in how online content is formatted and structured, it’s time to study up.

It’s fine to do a brain-dump when you first sit down to write, but consider that a very rough draft and spend time structuring it, formatting it and generally polishing it up. Make sure to follow the style guide of the publication you’re writing for — but here are some additional tips for formatting and structuring your article for the best presentation.

  • Write an enticing introduction and a brief conclusion.
  • Keep paragraph length to one or two sentences. Maximum three sentences.
  • Break up the text and help guide the reader down the article with subheadlines. The subheaders themselves should tell the story of the post. If a reader skims your subheaders alone, they should understand the overall point of your article.
  • Use bullet points and numbered lists where appropriate.
  • Don’t be afraid to use blockquote formatting to call out an interesting quote … even if it’s a quote from you. Not only does this break up blocks of text and create some visual interest, but quotes are prime for social media sharing.

Mistake #4: Using Big Words and/or Jargon

Contrary to popular belief, big words and jargon do not make you sound smarter. They simply confuse a large percentage of your audience.

In the enterprise world, especially, people regularly use industry jargon and company jargon to communicate with one another. It’s like shorthand. Those you work with will understand what you’re saying … but outsiders won’t.

Your best bet is to have someone outside the company read your article before you submit it. Because you live and breathe your company culture, it can be difficult to spot jargon yourself. You’re simply too close to it.

As for big words, be judicious with those as well. A strategically placed “vocabulary-test” word can make an impact, and even teach the reader something. But if you’re consulting your thesaurus on every sentence, the only impact you’re making is a negative one.

To sum it up: With few exceptions, use the words your audience uses.

Mistake #5: Ignoring Submission Rules

Even if the news outlet has extended the invitation to you unprompted — and even if an individual editor has requested that you send the article straight to them — make sure you take a good look at their submission rules.

Submission rules include information not only about how to submit an article, but how to format it for publication, as well. Often the news site’s style guide is right there in the submission guidelines.

Don’t just hope that your article is publication-ready — be sure by checking the submission rules page.

Not only is this a sign of professionalism, but it will help ensure that your article doesn’t get sent back to you with a note that says, “Sorry, we can’t publish this.”

Invited to Write an Article for a News Site? Congratulations! Now Here’s How to Manage the Time Commitment

As a busy executive, you might hesitate to write articles because of the time commitment.

Maybe someone told you that you must write consistently to be taken seriously. Well, yes and no. It’s okay to write occasionally, as long as these two things hold true:

  1. You haven’t promised readers that they’ll hear from you more frequently.
  2. When you do write, you provide enormous value to the reader.

Still worried about the time commitment? Hiring an executive ghostwriter might be the answer.

An experienced executive ghostwriter can write an article on your behalf that captures your voice and illustrates your point of view quite authentically.

The key, though, is to use an experienced, well-qualified ghostwriter — not some random, amateur writer you found on Fiverr. Yes, you’re going to spend more money hiring an experienced professional, but isn’t your reputation worth it?

With or without the help of a ghostwriter, if you want to write your own articles for business news sites, you absolutely should. It’s a great opportunity to put your best face forward, share your ideas, and gain attention for the things that matter to you.

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