Writing op-eds is one of the most underrated tools in PR. A well-written op-ed piece can not only help you share your knowledge and research with the public, but it can also help you establish or build credibility as a leader and influencer in your field or community.
Op-ed space is valuable, meaning it’s difficult to secure. Doing an op-ed right requires offering an argument or position editors want, and writing it in a way that appeals to the audience, combining your opinion with solid research and backing.
So, before you spend the time to write and pitch something something that’s better suited to a Facebook or blog post, here are 9 things you should consider:
- Provide a unique insight. If you want people to see you as an expert and a thought leader, you need to provide them with insights they can’t get anywhere else. So before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), do some research to check whether anyone has shared your idea before. Don’t just regurgitate someone else’s argument. Have some original thoughts.
- Have a clear stance. An op-ed is not a place for sitting on the fence. You must have a clear point of view, and stand your ground right from the beginning. Make your case or major point in the first paragraph, and use the rest of the op-ed to support it and flesh out your argument. While you can identify a counterargument, make sure you refute it with facts.
- Support your argument. Knowing how to merge your opinion with facts is an important part of writing op-ed pieces. Support your opinion with factual information, and make sure to check your facts to verify their accuracy.
- Acknowledge the reader. Recognise that your average reader is not an expert in your topic, but at the same time, never underestimate his or her intelligence. It is up to you to capture your reader’s attention by presenting a compelling argument.
- Avoid technical jargon and acronyms when possible. While jargon certainly has its purpose, it is rarely used in public debate and can make your op-ed difficult for readers to understand. Use jargon only if it is brief and the meaning is absolutely clear. If not, get rid of it completely and speak to your readers in straight talk.
- Adhere to your writing style. Be yourself. People can tell if you’re faking it.
- Know that your opinions will be public. By all means by timely and controversial, but not outrageous. Be careful not to write anything that jeopardises your reputation or that of your organisation.
- Follow the publication’s guidelines. Each publication has its own guidelines for op-ed pieces, highlighting characteristics such as word limits and type of language allowed. Make sure you read these guidelines and follow them to give yourself the best chance of getting published.
- Include a bio. Include a brief (no more than a short paragraph) bio with your op-ed, along with your email address, website URL, and phone number for the editor.