Bylines 101

Make ghostwriting less spooky 👻


As a thought leader in all things media, Inkhouse issues a weekly newsletter to share our time-tested wisdom. The title of our newsletter is also a call to action: rethINK PR.

The series has earned such success that we’ve decided to archive our best editions online. Keep reading to learn more about drafting bylined articles in this digital day and age. And fill out the nearby form to receive fresh rethINK PR newsletters in your inbox each week! 📬



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Learn how to write a killer byline for thought leadership:

🤔 What’s the real difference between an Op-ed and a bylined article? It depends on the nuances of the target publication.

📰 Op-eds typically share more of a clear, resounding opinion related to something timely, whereas a bylined article might be more evergreen and focused on providing advice.

💡At Inkhouse, we call all contributed content “bylines.” Probably because we mostly work on thought leadership articles.

💯 But publications have lots of names for contributed content.

💬 ICYMI: The New York Times just dropped the term “Op-ed” and rebranded opinion pieces as “Guest Essays” — similar to “Ideas” by The Boston Globe and “Commentary” by Fortune.

💰And now there are paid content opportunities for business leaders to contribute on an ongoing basis, like Fast Company’s Exec Board, CNBC’s Tech Exec Council and Forbes Tech Council to name a few.

👻 Ghostwriting any type of content for an executive can be daunting.

🎙️ Why do we love bylined articles? Because it’s another PR tool to build thought leadership. The best part: it’s a platform for an executive to add their perspective to an industry conversation while staying in control of the message.

🔪 Here’s how to write a killer byline (that won’t bore people):

📰 Decide on the topic. Ask yourself, “Would the editor’s eyes light up?” It can’t be a standard story idea covered by the staff reporters; it needs to be special. And it should add value to the publication’s readers — would they benefit from hearing this perspective? Bylined articles need to be useful, yet thought-provoking. If you can tie it to current news, do it (but it’s not necessary).

❤️ 💔 Get personal. Include a personal anecdote to make it really unique to the executive. In the case of leadership articles, think about stories from the early days of founding the company or examples of a course of action that came with a lesson learned. This will help establish credibility.

💬 Hone the tone. Watch past keynotes. Read their social posts. Learn the executive’s “voice” so you can mirror it in your writing. Don’t be preachy; sound like a human and keep the tone relatable.

🔆 Stay neutral. Bylines are published as contributed editorial; they need to be objective. Save the product mentions for blog posts and keep byline content as vendor-neutral as possible. Most publications require that authors refrain from mentioning their company’s product or tying back to offerings in any way. The author’s bio should be the only mention of the company (with some exceptions).

❗Get to the point. Make an outline, but don’t try to cram everything in. Make sure the article includes a clear call to action — focus on providing practical insights or tips for readers.

📊Support the point with data. Find a strong relevant stat to use in the intro graph. Analyst firms like Gartner, McKinsey and Deloitte are always a safe bet.

✍️ Break up text. Use bolded subheads to highlight your key points. It keeps the readers’ attention but it also forces you to cut the superfluous stuff.

👀 Don’t overlook the headline. Make it catchy. And you can even provide a few options to the editor. Note: the editorial team has full discretion to change it.

🔤 Focus on good grammar. Use active voice. Don’t lean on adverbs. Replace overused verbs. Put descriptions close to what they describe. And don’t forget: long sentences bury the point.

✔️ Stick to the guidelines. Contributed content guidelines change by the day, especially as many publications shift to paid column options. Aim for 1,000 words, but always check the publication’s editorial guidelines for direction on length and other stylistic requirements.

⏰ Build in time to proof, add links. Triple check for typos, insert all hyperlinks and confirm data sources.


🏠 You wrote the bylined article, now what? Find it a home.

✍️ Tailor the pitch to explain why the piece is a fit for not only the publication, but the specific section you’re pitching. For example, Fast Company staffers may write about election security, but never in the Work Life section. In fact, we got the inside scoop from Fast Co’s Assistant Editor Diana Shi to better understand what it takes to land a bylined article these days. (Hint: she’s tired of vanilla business advice!)


↗️ All About Bylines: Strategic Contributed Content Best Practices
↗️ How To Place A Contributed Article: Fast Company’s Diana Shi Shares Her Top Four Tips
↗️ 8 Key Elements Of Thought Leadership
↗️ Media Relations 101
↗️ How newsworthy is your story?


What PR, marketing or editorial advice do you want to hear next? Drop us a note by emailing And if you know someone that would be interested in this newsletter, tell them to sign up on the form above.

Quote of the Day:

“If your story is too packaged, there isn’t a shred of danger in there. You need to start from the place that you’re scared.”

—Stuart Horwitz, founder of Book Architecture and dear friend of Inkhouse