Turn Your Opinion Into New Biz:
How to Get Your Op-Ed Published
By Pam Lontos
While there are
many ways to appear in the media, writing an op-ed piece is
an excellent way to make yourself known and establish yourself as an
authority with the public.
Like letters to the editor, op-ed pieces should put forth a
point of view – but the op-ed piece is longer than a letter and
generally gets better play.
Op-ed stands for “opposite editorial,” referring to the page
facing the editorial page – the page on which the newspaper
publishes its own institutional statement of opinion. When it comes
to choosing an op-ed topic, the
more controversial the better. An op-ed piece isn’t a research
treatise or a summary of information. Rather, it’s an
argument, a strong statement of position, and the promotion of a
point of view. And you will develop your argument in a short
The opinion pages are considered the most prestigious real
estate in the newspaper, so you must ask yourself, “Why should the
reader care?” As with a news release or a story pitch, the reason
your topic is important right now should be made crystal
clear. The first few sentences must enlighten the reader as to why
your topic is relevant and pressing.
For instance, here are some op-ed
headlines from some of the nation’s leading newspapers:
“Health Care Can’t
Wait” – Washington Post.
When Imus Returns” – Providence Journal.
“Why Women Need
Katie Couric to Succeed” – Chicago Sun Times.
“The Phantom Tax
Cuts” – Palm Beach Post.
scientists and researchers have a tendency to save their juiciest
conclusions for the end of the piece (mostly because that is the
structure expected in an article submitted to peer-reviewed
journals). The structure of the op-ed piece is the complete
opposite. The conclusion or most compelling fact
come first. Well-crafted arguments should follow, making a clear
case and concluding with a call to action.
to write an op-ed piece, read several of them in local and national
newspapers to gain a feel for how they are done. At large
organizations, it’s not unusual for the op-ed piece to be
ghostwritten by a staff member or freelancer, then submitted to the
newspaper under the byline of the CEO (or other relevant expert). If
you don’t have the time to pen your own op-ed piece, you should be
able to easily find someone in your local public relations community
who can be hired to draft the piece for you.
Your op-ed piece
will hit home with
editors if you can combine a gutsy, passionate approach with logical
analysis of a situation. As with any other form of writing submitted
to the news media, language must be clear, punchy and direct.
Editors will read for clarity. They will screen out any piece that
lacks appeal to the average reader. They are looking for plain
English, an argument stated simply, complete with concrete imagery
that helps the reader comprehend.
A brief bio-note
be added to the end of the piece to save the opinion editor from the
work of tracking that information down. Editors are often likely to
be most receptive to pieces written by someone within the local
community, so be sure to submit to your hometown newspaper as well
as to all the newspapers in your state.
However, don't limit yourself to simply a local or state
marketplace for your ideas. True, some large newspapers will demand
that you submit to them exclusively. (You can ask the editor’s
preference when you submit your piece.) But many opinion-page
editors understand that op-ed pieces are distributed to newspapers
throughout the country.
If you have expertise on a particular topic or have written a
book on the subject, be sure to mention it. Experts have an edge on
the op-ed page. For instance, the opinion editor of the
Charleston Gazette in West Virginia was happy to
receive a piece on the dangers of secondhand smoke written by the
dean of the nursing school and the director of the cancer center at
West Virginia University.
Both the dean and the cancer center chief, a medical doctor,
were able to write authoritatively – and not only because they knew
about the latest research on secondhand smoke. They also had
personally seen patients who suffered from cancer and other lung
diseases as a result of secondhand-smoke exposure. This gave them
credibility with readers and also made their piece attractive to the
paper's opinion-page editor.
Here are some tips to keep in mind
when crafting an op-ed piece:
Try to say something current. For example, tie your subject into a
natural disaster or social trend or the consumer news of the day.
facts and statistics. Explain why you have come to the conclusions
you are drawing.
Write about ideas
you feel strongly, even passionately about. Tie your argument into your own experiences. The most effective op-ed
pieces have arguments based on values and emotions, not simply dry
reasoning. While the op-ed pieces take a more complex approach to a
subject than a letter to the editor does, the ordinary reader still
needs to be able to relate to the piece.
Keep these ideas
in mind and you will have no problem developing op-ed pieces editors
will value and publish.
Read other articles and learn more about
[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis.
Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and