4 Tips for Writing a Successful Op-ed
An op-ed, (originally short for “opposite the editorial page” because it featured opinion pieces that ran in print across from the editorial content), is another great PR opportunity we encourage our clients to take advantage of. Now taken to stand for “opinion editorial”, op-eds can be found in both the print and online versions of a publication. They are typically between 300-800 words and allow the author to share an opinion on a relevant, timely topic. Crafting an op-ed, rather than speaking directly with a reporter, also gives you the opportunity to better control your message and be the sole expert and voice on the given subject. But what makes an op-ed successful?
Here are four things to keep in mind when you begin writing:
1. Write for the Outlet and Its Audience
Every outlet is different; some publications cover local news for a specific region while others report on news within a specific industry. Readers of a local Virginia newspaper aren’t necessarily going to care about your opinions on a new industry being launched in Maryland. Take the time to gear your message toward the outlet and its readers. We worked with one of our clients to craft an op-ed that brought a national discussion of manufacturing jobs to a discussion about how this will affect the Maryland manufacturing job force and secured placement in a top Maryland-based media outlets. By taking a hot nation-wide conversation and highlighting how it impacts people in your region, you will better resonate with the outlet’s readers and successfully position yourself as an expert.
2. Formulate a Clear Opinion
Sounds easy right? I mean it’s in the name of the article. But when ideas start flowing and you begin to write down all of your thoughts, sometimes you can get off track and lose the true reason for writing in the first place. A great way to make sure that you are not losing your opinion in the process is to start with an outline. Think of it as a checklist to reference when writing the full article and ensure that you are staying on message.
While op-eds are a great tactic to incorporate into your media relations strategy, there’s a time and a place for them. For example, if you want to get publicity around this topic but you’re unable to take a strong stance on it (perhaps because it’s a controversial issue or because your stance could offend some of your clients or stakeholders), then an op-ed may not be the right way to get the message out about this particular issue. Talk with your agency about alternative solutions to keep your company in the public eye.
3. Back Up Your Opinion
Everyone has an opinion on everything, so why should someone listen to or agree with you? Because you can back up your claim with facts. Showing the readers that you have taken the time to research the topic and found examples that support your claim positions you as a trustworthy resource. Most editors feel this way too. To protect the reputation and credibility of their publication they will ensure that any opinions shared in an op-ed are substantiated claims that have been backed up by fact. So if you have access to a database, have conducted verifiable research yourself or can find a few facts that make your case stronger, make sure they are included.
4. Keep it Concise
Readers don’t want to read a textbook of information. Publications have a word count on the op-eds for a reason: you can get your point across, include facts and close your argument all in a quick, easy and compelling read. Plus, if you submit an article to an editor that is over the word count because you had to include everything, you are giving them extra work by having to try and cut it down. And now, they have the control over your message and may remove something that weakens your argument — or worse yet, they may decide not to run it altogether. Talk with your agency about the publication’s word count and other editorial requirements before you start writing.
Want help writing your next op-ed? Contact us today!