You've written successful white papers and business plans.
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Maybe you've even published a contributed article or two. Unfortunately, none of your previous writing experience will prepare you to write an effective op-ed.
Op-ed pieces are unique. Unlike most of the other tools in your PR arsenal, op-ed pieces are designed to be opinionated. Readers and editors expect an op-ed piece to try to persuade them to a specific viewpoint and ultimately prescribe a course of action.
While you can't blatantly promote your company or your products in an op-ed piece, you can attempt to influence readers about issues that are important to you and your organization. Here's how to do it :
- Pay attention to length. Op-ed pieces are shorter than other PR materials. Weekday op-eds only run about 700 words, so you will need to carefully observe each publication's length requirements.
- Be direct. Due to space restrictions, every word counts in an op-ed piece. Don't waste words by being overly descriptive or by including extraneous content that has no direct bearing on your message to the readers.
- Stick to one point. Contributed articles have latitude in the number of points they make. Op-eds only make one point – and they do it over and over throughout the piece.
- Be persuasive. The goal of an op-ed is to persuade readers to a specific point of view. Editors expect the tone of an op-ed to be persuasive, but respectful. If your op-ed attempts to advance your perspectives through personal attacks or mean-spiritedness, it won't be published.
- Offer a solution. We've all read op-eds that go on and on about how bad something is, but never offer any suggestions about how to fix it. Don't make the same mistake. It's okay to repeatedly identify shortcomings, but sooner or later (usually in the second half of the op-ed) you have to be willing to prescribe a solution.
- Include a bio. Don't forget to include a short bio (not a full resume) with your submission. Editors usually include a brief paragraph about the writer at the end of each op-ed.
- Avoid simultaneous submissions. Legally, a newspaper can't publish an op-ed that has already been published somewhere else. That can be a problem if you've submitted your op-ed to multiple publications. As soon as you learn that your op-ed has been accepted for publication, withdraw it from consideration everywhere else.