Know who is who: What are bylines?

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I’ve long been a fan and advocate of having blog bylines of actual people that work at the company. Not “staff” or some unrelated person. And even Google says blog bylines help with trust.

Bylines can maybe even humanize content. Hey, look, a real person wrote this. Not some Committee or News Service or whatever. You can maybe even click on the name and find out more about them. Bylines indicate that it also wasn’t written by AI.

Whomever is the subject matter expert should get the byline if they wrote it or if it’s ghostwritten for them. They should also be the ones providing the information and then use their own expertise to build that community of potential customers. Even if they use a ghostwriter to get their thoughts on paper.

Internal content strategists can also get the byline. For example when I write an article based on podcast interviews. Sometimes I sprinkle in personal stories.

Read next: Worth mastering: What are marketing challenges?

What are bylines?

Bylines simply state publicly who wrote the content or who is behind it. It can be okay to work with a ghostwriter who interviewed you – the subject matter expert.

Bylines are typically on the top of content. Here’s how they show on my blog.

What are bylines examples

Clicking on the byline will give more details about the author and also show previously published content.

Author category on WordPress

Bylines when working with a ghostwriter

Some of us can can write and some of us can write in a way that people actually want to read.

Most everyone is an expert at something. And some of us are the thought-after experts in topics of business interest.

The thing is that being an expert doesn’t necessarily equal being a good storyteller. And to be able to connect to target audiences (aka interested communities) we need to share good stories that are relevant and easily understood by our readers.

Sometimes that means that we need a ghostwriter. Somebody who can help the experts translate expert-speak into consumer-speak.

Usually expert-speak can be quite complicated. Think doctors speaking to each other. Experts use words the rest of us didn’t even know existed. Don’t ask us to spell them! Ha.

Ghostwriters can help the experts share their stories and expertise in the most consumable way.

This process does not impact the expert’s authenticity – as long as the writer captures their voice and story in an authentic way.

Do I use a ghostwriter right this second? No. Would I consider it? Yes. I do enjoy the process of blogging quite a bit actually, so it would likely be hard to turn that over to a ghostwriter.

But, I would consider doing it and it would not hurt my authenticity at all. It would still be in my voice and who knows it might make my story delivery a lot better. Ha.

Now, if the ghostwriter isn’t very good, spins a marketing message versus an authentic story, that could be a problem. But that’s not the fault of this process. That’s an issue with an individual writer’s skill set.

Read next: Jump Start Your Influence with an Amazon Book Series

What if experts  are not easy to work with?

Figure out what their business pain points are and figure out how this project can help them!

It’s by far the easiest way to get them to love content projects. And explain that it’s a marathon not a sprint. Keep going on a schedule.

What if they leave the company?

How many people still stay with the same company for decades until retirement? It’s certainly a question to discuss but not to fret or overthink! Dear Marketing Workflow Overthinkers, trust me, it’s not a big deal. People will move from company to company during their careers. It’s life. And it’s really no different from using people’s names in news releases. When they leave those news releases become old news. Well, older news. They became old news a day after they were published most likely. 🙂

Related: Why it’s okay to stop (over)vetting stories!

But nonethless, there are some things to consider when you recruit your experts to attach their names  to their and also your organizational blog posts:

Get their permission that their name will be in the byline for now and even after they leave (if you choose to leave their name with the article – which I recommend). Did I mention that I recommend this? Ha.

Explain that this is done because you value their expertise now and also want to make sure they get the credit later if the article remains on the site. Some of you attentive readers may have spotted the if there. Why is there an if? “If the content remains on the site?” For the most part, I don’t see too many reasons to delete old articles on here or on most blogs. In fact, I just took a look at my top posts earlier this week on one day. And the top 9 were all older articles. Many published months ago. About 80 percent of that day’s traffic came from search engines. People are searching for topics that those old articles covered.Most blog posts should be written in a way to keep them relevant for a while – as long as the information doesn’t change.

Often, experts are ready to go NOW. They don’t want to talk about about when they leave. Or even if they leave. The whole point they agreed to participate is because they see the value to their services in the present. So, maybe don’t make this a congressional hearing but do make sure you have permission to use their name, byline, etc. publicly.

The one negative I see with leaving somebody’s byline up after they leave is that a reader might see it and call or email to reach that person specifically.

But on the other hand, it seems strange to me when brands were riding a subject matter expert’s brand until they leave and then they wipe off their bylines.

And after they leave…

Once somebody leaves a company, don’t delete their names from bylines, but redirect the profile links to whomever took their place. Most readers won’t notice that it’s now going to another person’s profile. I read an article somewhere once (maybe in print) and it talked about how an agency replaced all account managers with strategists. They didn’t even tell the clients. They just slowly substituted them in meetings. Clients reportedly barely noticed. And when they did it was simply explained: So and so left OR we are now giving you access to the strategist directly. “Oh great.”

I know we want to delete the names. Erase them from the memory and search on our site. This like deleting old girlfriend (or boyfriend) photos on Facebook. But by deleting people’s pictures or bylines that doesn’t make them go away. And it also doesn’t erase the history.

In summary…

I highly recommend using people in your content marketing strategies and for your blog posts. Real people. Not those always-smiling stock art people, but your actual experts.

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