The business case for writing for high-visibility publications

Before undertaking any authority-building tactic, such as writing articles for high-visibility publications, speaking, starting a podcast, or writing a book, you must clearly identify the business case for doing so. As is true for every authority-building tactic, you are unlikely to be paid to write for high-visibility publications. (Indeed, you should expect to invest your time and possibly your money.) You need a reason to engage in authority-building that goes deeper than financial compensation.

Your contributions are crucial to most publications’ business models.

Business magazines profit from your expertise whether you are interviewed by one of their writers to serve as a subject-matter expert for an article or you write for the publication as a contributing expert.

The opportunity to write for publications as a contributing expert arose to satisfy a specific need.

Business magazines rely heavily on advertising revenue. Today, a great deal of that advertising happens online. Online advertising revenue is driven by website traffic. The more traffic the business publication’s website gets, the more advertising revenue it earns. Website traffic relies on search engine optimization (SEO), which is driven by a steady influx of original, high-quality content.

The magazine’s need for content far outpaces its capacity to produce that content.

We may be moving into a post-SEO world. If that is the case, original, high-quality content will be even more important.

The articles you write as a contributing expert help the publication reach its advertising revenue goals, which helps pay for the freelance writers, staff writers, editors, and countless other staff who keep the publication running. But more importantly, your articles help the publication serve its readers.

Today, readers can read articles written by professional writers who incorporate independent research and the perspectives of several subject-matter experts and articles written by working consultants with boots-on-the-ground experience. That’s a potent combination.

You receive real value in exchange for your expertise.

The value you provide to these publications is significant. The value you receive is equally significant — provided you use it wisely.

By writing for a high-visibility publication, you can build your authority and stand out from your peers. Writing for these publications lets you present your ideas and perspective to a well-established, targeted audience interested in your area of expertise. Other authority-building tactics, like writing a book or hosting a podcast, require you to build your own audience.

Writing for high-visibility publications also allows you to enjoy the imprimatur of the publication — their editorial team vetted you, and by publishing your work, they are signaling to their audience that you are an authority in your field. You are effectively borrowing the publication’s reputation and relationship with its audience and using that social proof to build your own reputation and relationships.

If you treat your articles as appreciating assets, you can translate the intangible benefits of reputation and relationships into tangible benefits to your business.

Chloé Nwangwu is the founder of NobiWorks. She has done extensive research on visibility biases and coined the term “underrecognized.” A graduate of my Pathway to Publication program, she published “Why We Should Stop Saying ‘Underrepresented’” in Harvard Business Review in April 2023. As a result of this article and her ongoing promotion thereof, she has been invited to speak at conferences and summits and serve as a guest expert on podcasts. She uses the article to expand her network and start conversations with prospective clients and partners.

Fair compensation is a value-for-value exchange.

A value-for-value exchange only works when both parties value what is being exchanged. The value exchange you engage in when you write for a high-visibility publication is quite different from the value exchange freelance writers engage in when they write for a publication.

Freelance writers provide a different type of value to high-visibility publications than contributing experts. Their ability to find a good story, identify all the angles of that story, conduct interviews, and craft that story so the reader understands every nuanced detail is a valuable skill. They also have the freedom to present a variety of perspectives in one article. They dive deep into the nuances, are skilled at sniffing out misinformation (and disinformation), and don’t shy away from asking difficult questions. They are exceptional researchers and interviewers. And, of course, they are excellent writers.

Freelance writers write about a variety of topics. Writing for a publication isn’t about building authority or connecting with a specific audience. It’s their job.

Freelance writers don’t write to support their business; writing is their business.

It is the craft they have dedicated years of their lives to learning and improving. Unlike consultants and other expert contributors, however, freelance writers only need to know who the audience is to ensure their piece is relevant to that audience. But they write for several publications, which means they write for several different audiences. Access to a well-established and well-defined audience isn’t valuable for freelance writers.

As a consultant, you undoubtedly write a lot. But writing isn’t your profession — it is a tool that helps you convey your ideas to your audience, differentiate yourself from your peers, and build your authority.

Only two authority-building tactics give you access to a tailor-made audience interested in your perspective: writing for high-visibility publications and speaking, whether at industry events, as a guest on a podcast, or at another gathering.

You’re not writing articles to get published; you’re getting published to achieve specific business goals. Whether you are looking to secure more speaking engagements, connect with fellow leaders in your industry, or get more meetings with the right prospects on the books, being invited to engage with an already-established, well-defined audience is significantly more valuable than the small sum offered by the few publications that pay their expert contributors.

Before investing your time in any authority-building tactic, make sure you have a clear and compelling business case for doing so.