The media landscape is shifting in ways that make it increasingly challenging for brands, leaders, and organizations to command attention. 

One shift is the ongoing fracturing of American media intake, as data shows that modes of news consumption vary widely by age group, with television and social media moving in opposite directions. 

Another shift is the consolidation of media organizations, which has been evident for years. In fact, the matter came to a head recently through one of Baltimore’s own legacy publications.

So what do these shifts mean in practice? They mean that for current and aspiring Thought Leaders, it is worth exploring less conventional approaches that will break through and secure coverage.

Paid contributed Thought Leader memberships are an emerging solution from media organizations. These fee-based programs can be an efficient tool to deepen their SME credentials, and stake one’s place in their desired conversation.

How they work

Reputable news organizations offer a fee-based package for qualified Thought Leaders to join the conversation, build credibility, and reach new audiences. These programs are considered “invitation-only,” with memberships generally reserved for Thought Leaders at the C-level.

These programs afford the expert the ability to craft content that reflects their unique voice and perspective, and receive feedback from professional editors. Once edits are incorporated into the final draft, completed articles are published online under the banner of whichever news organization hosts the membership program. 

This differs from traditional advertorials, or other sponsored content designed to mimic editorial content in the pages of our favorite outlets. 

The membership component is paid, but invitation and eventual admittance into these platforms requires deep industry expertise, a unique perspective, and well presented information that readers are interested in. 

How to make them work for you

The most efficient paid contributed Thought Leadership programs operate at a rhythm of one article per month. To meet this pace, consider planning topic options months in advance, limiting time spent searching for an angle during the month of publication. 

Be sure to work promptly with staff editors at each step. If any points in the submitted draft require clarification or further sourcing, make sure to address those concerns without delay. If editors seek input on title or subheading names, keep those asks from lingering. Needless delays in answering editors can cause frustrating roadblocks in the publication process, especially since this is an area where the author has greater editorial ownership.

Note that editorial guidelines will typically prohibit authors from promoting their companies products or services. Try not to view monthly columns as a testimonial for one businesses’ greatness anyway. We know that’s not what thought leadership is about. 

Paid memberships offer experts the use of credible platforms with robust reach and high SEO value. 

Eager for Earned, yet Pursuing Paid Media

In the public relations world, there’s a reluctance to abandon the pursuit of earned media placements, even for temporary periods of time. In its best form, earned media offers the reach of paid membership programs without the upfront expense. 

The reality is that earned media coverage is made especially challenging by the fracturing and consolidation of media. 

The case for paid Thought Leadership platforms doesn’t call for dropping earned media outreach from the existing PR strategy. Far from it! Rather, a program with paid Thought Leadership creates a steady stream of content for your social media team to promote, the sales team to share, and/or a boost in SEO through direct linking and incorporating keywords.  

Leading with a Team

Also referred to a byline, the content is published under the expert’s name as a contributing author! But any executive weighing their participation in contributing expert articles should remember that they can leverage team support—it should be a collaborative effort. Your PR team is well poised to manage such programs providing editorial management, topic ideas, and support with copywriting/editing. The key is for content to remain in the voice of the expert, aligned with their goals and unique to their expertise. 

When joining the conversation feels especially challenging, consider the merits of Contributed Thought Leadership programs, and develop a plan to command more attention.