Writing an Op-Ed in Six Steps

3 min read · 7 years ago


Writing an op ed in six stepsYou know when you have that extremely compelling pitch that has you beaming ear to ear as you hit send because it’s bound to be a winner?

It’s exciting, especially when an interested reporter responds within an hour.

That was me a couple of weeks ago. I had a golden pitch, some hard figures to back it up, and a reporter hooked one hour after sending.

But then, as too many media opportunities do, it went into PR purgatory.

Other things came up for the reporter. She was still “interested” in the piece, but wouldn’t be able to cover it for weeks, and even then, she couldn’t promise anything (raise your hand if you’ve heard that one before!).

Like most legacy outlets nationwide, this paper is extremely understaffed, and reporters are forced to choose stories based on expected clicks, shares, etc., in addition to pure news value.

So, instead of waiting for another round of purgatory, our team took an alternate route:

The op-ed.

Since journalists are beyond pressed for time, sometimes the best way to place a client’s story is to write it yourself. And that’s exactly what we did – with major success.

A journalism professor once told me the opinions page is the most read section of the newspaper because readers want to see what their peers are thinking. And, with op-eds, you can control the message (as long as it’s not overly promotional, of course).

So, when it comes down to it, the op-ed is really a win-win – if you do it right.

The ideal op-ed model

Of course, the best way to determine how to write your op-ed is to read the paper’s current op-eds. Are they typically 500 words? Do they use subheads? Do they include any promotional language?

Most publications have their own submission guidelines (here’s an example from the Washington Post), and usually you’ll need the full piece written ahead of time, so the more you follow their model, the better off you’ll be.

But, if you’re looking for some tips for structuring your piece, here’s a six-step op-ed model from my former Boston U professor Larry Bean.

  1. Identify the issue: Yes, this one’s as simple as it sounds. Know what you’re writing about before you start to stay on track. Usually society-specific issues, such as Alzheimer’s awareness or controlling local deer populations, for example, fare best, so think of what causes your client can logically have an opinion on.
  2. Identify your stance: What unique opinion does your company have on this issue? You’ll want to confirm this with the client ahead of time, because the best op-eds introduce a little controversy, and you’ll want client sign-off on the chosen stance before you spend time writing a 600-word piece.
  3. Support your opinion: This is where your research will come into play. Illustrate your point with statistics, testimonials or quotes from non-biased industry thought leaders.
  4. State the opposition: To be fair and more credible, explain the other side of the coin. This won’t dilute your stance or message; it will make it more believable, especially when you…
  5. Refute the opposition: This is your chance to pinpoint why the opposition is wrong, and just like step two, use statistics and research to prove your point. Don’t rely on saying it’s wrong – show it.
  6. Provide a call to action: And now, the part all CEOs and execs care about: the ask. What do you want the readers to do now that they’ve read this piece? Be cautious here; you don’t want overt promotion to jeopardize your chances of getting published. Instead, if you’re following the cause route, share how readers can help. They can donate to your company’s charity, perhaps, or help a local nonprofit your brand supports.

The changing media world isn’t slowing down any time soon, and legacy reporters will only get busier in the years to come. If you do the heavy lifting (er, writing), your clients will continue to see those legacy media successes that build awareness and further business goals.

This post originally appeared on PR State of Mind.

This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: Writing an Op-Ed in Six Steps

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