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Writing for healthcare news media: a journalistic approach to bylines

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Bylines are an excellent tool for establishing thought leadership. Writing articles for publication in news media allows the author to retain ownership of key messages while reaching target audiences. Like the opinion column in newspapers, a byline gives the author the opportunity to share her personal take on a topic that is already garnering media coverage or shine a spotlight on an issue that deserves more attention. Particularly when targeting an audience of industry peers, a byline provides a unique channel for a subject matter expert to showcase and explain her viewpoint in an in-depth manner.

The best bylines are eloquent, well-reasoned, non-promotional articles between 600-1,000 words and offer background, insights, and possible solutions to a critical industry issue. Here are some additional best practices for writing bylines:

Don’t self-promote (aka be vendor-neutral). A byline article is not an advertisement. A byline promotes thoughts, actions, and ideas, not products, services, or companies. The intent is to establish thought leadership and gain exposure for your company without overtly pitching it to readers.

Be a voice, not an echo. Don’t recap news, instead, provide an opinion on it. You need to take a stand, offer a unique perspective, share insights, or otherwise say something others aren’t.

Be conversational. It’s easy to lapse into industry-speak when writing about complicated concepts. Avoid this trap. A byline should be written like a news article, not an instruction manual.

Develop a strong thesis early. Make the main point that you want your readers to remember from your article in the first five sentences. A good rule of thumb: You have 8 seconds to capture your reader's attention and entice them to keep reading.

Use subheadings. Subheadings can go a long way toward clarifying the main point. On average, readers will spend approximately 3 to 8 minutes reading a professional article. Using short phrases that summarize important messages every few paragraphs will make your article scannable and easy to read.

Include quality data. Statistics from reputable sources are a great way to strengthen your statements. Backing up claims with information that is well-sourced adds credibility to the article.

Always follow editorial guidelines. Most bylines are between 600-1000 words. Overtly promotional language must be removed. These are examples of common instructions publications outline in editorial guidelines. Follow all editorial guidelines of the publication for which you’re writing.

Exclusivity is a requirement. News outlets only publish exclusive articles and will not accept bylines that have already been published on a company website or by another media outlet. While company blogs can be a great source of inspiration for a byline, this type of content is not media-ready and often requires significant revisions or rewrites.

No take backsies. Once a byline is submitted to the editor, changes will only be made to correct an inaccuracy in content. For example, updating stats to reflect the most recent data. Grammatical errors or sentence structure are final once the article is submitted to the editor.

Editors ALWAYS have the final word. Literally. Once a byline is submitted, an editor reserves the right to make minor changes to meet the publication’s purposes and editorial guidelines.


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