Bylines are strings of text featuring the writer’s name either at the beginning or end of the content. This attribution indicates who the writer is for that piece and sometimes includes the writer’s contact information, a headshot, and brief biography.
Despite knowing what a byline is, that still leaves many wondering – are bylines important? When asked that in a poll with 55 participants, respondents favored bylines by 60%. However, another 31% said that it depends.
“As a writer, I love a byline. But as a content marketer, I think it depends. If you want the writer’s expertise to add to the piece’s credibility, a byline is important. The same goes if you’re writing more journalistic or reported content, it’s great for readers to see that a journalist is behind the work. It gives a more editorial flavor to a content campaign.” – Jess Shanahan
Benefits of Bylines
Thinking about that 60% who favor bylines, let’s look at some of the benefits of having them.
Bylines give credit to writers, and if you’re writing for a newspaper, your byline signals that you’ve crossed into professional journalism. Bylines also position writers as subject matter experts or authority on specific topics or target audiences.
Writers can also use bylines to contribute to their identity or branding. However, adding bylines also depends on the piece’s goals.
“It all depends on the end goal of the piece. To establish credibility, there’s nothing that does the job better than a byline. A byline isn’t always necessary, though, to establish credibility. For example, if the content is written to support or represent a brand, I believe a byline could do more harm than good.” – Katherine Tsoukalas
Because some focus specifically on ghostwriting, the challenge lies in creating portfolios showcasing their highest quality work. That’s especially true when writers must sign an NDA and don’t receive permission to show work to others in the form of a clip or sample.
“I spent most of my freelance career as a ghostwriter for a specific industry, which was fine with me. The one drawback is visibility for your work, but I overcame that with my blogs.” – Cathy Miller
Specific benefits of bylines include:
- Providing verifiable clips writers can add to their portfolios
- Helping writers brand themselves in a niche or industry
- Lending credibility to a company’s posts
How Bylines Lend Credibility to Your Posts
Companies leverage content marketing campaigns to market themselves and help set their business apart from the competition. Content serves as an excellent tool for reaching target audiences in the sales funnel no matter where they are.
For example, when companies use their CEO’s byline (or anyone else in a high-ranking position), that lends credibility to your posts because these professionals share their expertise and knowledge about products, services, or issues.
“I think if it’s an article or blog post, a byline does make people feel like a real human wrote it and that it wasn’t written by committee or supplied by an ad agency or whatever. Those ‘Company team’ bylines, to me, are spooky. Whose authority are you building with that? Nobody’s.” – Carol Tice
Adding a writer’s professional information to the content helps lend credibility to that piece. If a company works with several writers, adding bylines is an excellent way of providing transparency to readers. However, that doesn’t mean ghostwriting isn’t appropriate.
“I think it depends on a bunch of different factors, including who the writer is, what type of content it is if the byline adds or detracts from the credibility, and more.” – Jenn Landers
Bylines provide credibility; removing them makes no sense
Let’s see what other writers and marketers have to say about whether companies should include bylines or not. For the sake of transparency, you’ll find the results from the LinkedIn poll mentioned earlier in this piece below:
“I think it drives quality and ensures accountability.” – Chuck Paone
“When sending writing samples, I have used non-bylined articles as clips, but I don’t attach them as work to my LI profile. If I were to write a long feature for a print publication or piece for a top website, I would want a byline, though. And having a byline does lend credibility to any story, in general.” – Melissa Ezarik
“If you mean real articles that take copious amounts of research, actual interviews, and are wholly original, then I’d say writers deserve bylines—unless they’re ghostwriters (and compensated accordingly).” – Paula Henderickson
No, they don’t matter.
“I have bigger clients that I’m happy to work with, so it doesn’t really matter. I’m just happy to get the experience! The byline often is an afterthought, with some just putting it on there without mention or others posting it as their own. At the end of the day, they pay for the content – if they’re happy with it, that’s what matters.” – Katherine Major
“I’m more concerned with building a business and putting out quality for my clients than getting credit for it. And not having a ton of bylines (recently) has not hampered my business one bit.” – Lori Widmer
“As long as you get a testimonial from your client, you don’t really need a byline on that kind of work.” – Angie Mansfield
“For me, the only time I’m either hesitant to or won’t write content for someone else without my byline is when it competes with my own ‘thought leadership.'” – Linda Pophal
“It totally depends on the purpose of the piece and the goals of the writer. Generally speaking, I’m pro-byline. And if you’re paying me but I’m not getting a byline, you’re paying more.” – Kristen King
“It depends. If you’re creating content that will be used for PR, then no, it’s not. However, articles in most pubs should have a byline, especially if these are part of an online portfolio.” – Bryan Kirk
Bylines: Using a Byline as part of a PR Campaign
Now that we know how writers and marketers feel about bylines, to a degree, let’s look at how using bylines as part of a PR campaign is beneficial.
Boosting Brand Visibility
Content marketers do much more than send out company announcements and press releases. They also task themselves with finding writers who can create well-crafted content, including articles, blog posts, case studies, infographic copy, whitepapers, and more. While some of that lends itself well to bylines, other content forms (like infographic copy, emails, and the like) don’t work with a byline.
Boosting brand visibility involves publishing high-quality content from company executives. Working with ghostwriters is beneficial if they don’t have the bandwidth to tackle such projects.
Many businesses promote thought leadership pieces to brand their company as an expert in a specific industry or niche. Presenting this information is another example of how its executives use a byline as part of their PR campaign. It’s also another example of where ghostwriters are a value add. The company’s audience can access this information and, in doing so, develop trust while the business simultaneously positions itself as an expert.
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What is a Byline Article, and Should You Write One?
A bylined article is one where readers can see who wrote the content. Sometimes the byline features the name of a thought leader, subject matter expert, or high-level executive, but the content is ghostwritten. It’s beneficial for writers to have a byline because:
- It helps writers establish credibility in a niche or industry
- It helps writers build their portfolio and establish relationships with clients or publications
Why did stories not have bylines?
Some publications and websites choose not to feature bylines because they feel that the platform (publication, website, and the like) is more important than naming the person who wrote the content.