Many business professional firms publish content such as articles and white papers in their own profession’s magazines, journals and online publications. Engineers, for example write for engineering media such as ENR. It’s within their comfort zone, and they may have been asked by the editor to write an article. But is it a good use of their time and effort? Maybe yes … but probably no.
To see how this works, let’s consider a hypothetical wildlife biologist we’ll call Mustapha, who focuses on helping people and urban wildlife co-exist in public parks. He helps to create safe spaces for wildlife to live and raise their young, while also protecting people
(and their dogs) from animals such as coyotes, raccoons and “coyolves,” a new element in my part of the world, a blend of wolf and coyote.
Furthering the cause of human knowledge
It’s a beautiful fact that business professionals like Mustapha want to share their knowledge and experience with others. And I can understand that. Mustapha learns from colleagues perhaps half a world away, and he’s glad to share what he’s learned. I do this too, in articles in the Society for Marketing Professionals publication “Marketer” and others.
I think it’s a good thing -- provided that it doesn’t take undue time away from the rest of Mustapha’s work, and that it’s being done consciously, with a purpose.
The warm adulation of peers
Mustapha likely enjoys professional “attaboys” as much as anyone, and being recognized at his professional conferences is personally rewarding. A firm that supports members’ efforts to publish professionally can have an “edge” in retaining senior thought-leaders. So, you might want to support Mustapha through coaching him through the writing, and providing proof-reading and editing services.
While much of my work involves ghost-writing articles for business professionals in business magazines, professional publishing seems different. It doesn’t pass the ethical “smell test” (if it smells wrong, it probably is) to ghost-write professional papers.
Supporting a merger or a key hire
If Mustapha is a recent key hire, you can help him make sure he made the right decision, by supporting him for professional publication.
It’s the same if Mustapha came in via a merger. In many cases, that involves a smaller firm being swallowed up by a larger firm. Sometimes the people in the smaller firm find out that they don’t like the big-firm vibe, and start to look elsewhere. If the Marketing team can help the “merged-in” people build their professional careers through publishing, those people are more likely to want to stay around.
Demonstrating credibility helps business professionals stand out
While a publication like “The Journal of Urban Wildlife Biology” may be tiny in terms of circulation, listing published papers on Mustapha’s CV and LinkedIn profile is important. It demonstrates credibility and the fact that he keeps up with his knowledge, and this provides reassurance to potential clients.
If Mustapha is being positioned as a senior, experienced professional, having some published papers is important for credibility, and marketing departments should help with this.
It’s extremely unlikely that clients are going to read these publications, so if the purpose of publishing is around getting Mustapha’s ideas in front of potential clients, other options (see below) are better.
If referral work is a big part of your firm’s success
Some firms depend heavily on referral work from people in their own profession.
Law firms, for example get substantial work from other lawyers, either those who work as in-house counsel for corporations, or who work for law firms that lack a particular specialty. Many engineering firms get work from other engineers who are, likewise, on the payroll of potential clients.
If referral work from similar professionals is important, then getting published in your profession’s journals, magazines, websites, blogs and other media is important. But if it isn’t a big part of your firm’s work flow, within-the-profession publishing is less likely to result in workflow.
Recruiting: “Come work for us and do fun, challenging work”
Articles such as case studies, published in the profession’s own media, can be an excellent recruiting tool -- provided they are done with this in mind. Mustapha could talk about a particularly challenging situation -- for example, helping wildlife such as deer to survive the winter (in part, to increase menu choices for those coyolves …). Case studies like this show the sort of work that the firm does, with the added message, “Work for us, and your career will thrive.”
As with the possibilities above, this works IF it is done consciously -- working with the firm’s HR people to see what skills are particularly needed by the firm, and whether there are fun, challenging projects that can be talked about.
If not … look for media that are read by potential clients
If none of these reasons (or not enough of them) relate to the “Mustapha” in your life, your work with him should focus on getting his ideas in front of potential clients.
This includes publishing his ideas in business and trade magazines, on the websites of associations to which prospective clients belong, guest posts on client-read blogs, and other such initiatives.