Feature Articles

Extra planning and effort expand your credibility

With competition becoming more aggressive, the necessity for promotion continues to rise. At the same time, promotional budgets seem to get tighter. Additionally, the cost of a sales call continues to rise, sometimes to more than $500 per call.

Marketing has to find ways to increase the visibility of the company and its products while maintaining the efficiency of their budgets.

A very effective way to add to your credibility, increase your visibility and maximize your budgets is to place technical, application and user articles in the press. Through these articles, your products or services receive mention in a positive, credible manner, making prospects more receptive to your messages. As a result, you have a very cost-effective method of telling your story at considerable length. Your products, your services and your company get extensive third-party endorsement that can't be achieved in any other manner in the form of editorial coverage.

Once the articles are published, you have some of the best sales literature available—reprints.

You Need Help

To develop such articles, work with your sales staff and marketing representatives. They should be constantly checking with customers to make certain that the customer is happy with the product, and also to locate customers who have achieved outstanding results or are using the product in a unique application.

When you want to develop a feature article, define the audience you want to reach, get all the facts from the customer and their liaison company and decide what slant the article should take.

Just the Facts

Getting the facts requires asking the right questions. If you're writing a user article—a news article where the user discusses his or her application of your product—make the user feel he or she is an important part of the story. Ask them about their job, how long have they been doing that particular task and other work they have done in the past.

After you've gathered all of the facts, consider what types of organizations, and what people within those organizations, will be interested in the material you have assembled. Once this is determined, study the various magazines in that market area to decide which ones best reach those individuals. This will help you tailor the article not only to the specific audience, but also to the specific publication or publications.

Before you begin creating your article, prepare an outline. This will aid you in establishing your priorities. It will also help you to keep the central theme of the article in mind and make the transitions between thoughts smoother and easier to follow.

Structure

The beginning of the article should give some introduction to the concepts you are presenting, a background on the subject, and an explanation of the problem or situation.  Next, explain how your product or service provided the solution to the problem. Finally, close the article with some projection as to what is going to happen in the future.

Once you've written your first draft of the article, set it aside. After a few days, reread it as impartially as possible to make certain it isn't a puff piece for your company, but really has a message and value for the readers. If it doesn't, start over.

Once you have determined that it is good and informative, edit it for length and clarity. Once this is complete, circulate the article through your technical staff to make certain that all of the facts are accurate. Finally, send it to the organization using the product that is being featured and obtain written approvals from the company to use the article.

Not Free Advertising

Feature articles, no matter what their type, are a lot more than simply product publicity or "free advertising." By providing editors with good material for their readers, the editors learn more about your company and its position in the industry. You also present your organization and products in a very positive manner.

Everyone wins with your feature articles.  You get valuable exposure, publications provide an educational and informational service to their readers, and the marketplace receives information they can use in their day-to-day operations.

G. A. "Andy" Marken is president of Marken Communications, Inc. Marken can be reached at andy@markencom.com.

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