Our clients love op-eds. It is true that our specialization (education and non-profit) lends itself particularly well to this form of expert opinion.
It is equally true that an op-ed that offers fresh insights, suggests solutions, looks at an idea in a broad context, and stimulates our thinking and touches our hearts in the process, is a platform like no other. My best op-eds efforts have been truly collaborative, when the client and I work off the same Google drive, making notes, editing and challenging each other (if this is taking place after regular office hours, a glass of wine may be involved).
While we have successfully found a home for our clients’ op-eds in outlets ranging from the Christian Science Monitor to the Huffington Post, we have also seen a fair number turned down. Sometimes it’s the content; more often than not, it’s timing. By the time all the I’s are dotted and approvals gathered, the topic has slipped from public consciousness. Here are a few things we’ve learned along the way:
- Plan ahead. By that I mean a few months or more. Early in 2012, we wrote an op-ed timed to that year’s spring-summer Republican primaries. The op-ed was ready and approved by client well in advance of the primary season. We then localized it with information specific to several primary markets and pitched these opinion pieces two weeks before each state’s primary. Three of the five op-eds we developed ran in local media.
- Write it like you mean it. Marketing speak kills op-eds. Follow the golden rule: insist that the client’s brand be mentioned only once (or not at all; a mention in the signature is sufficient). Gather proof points and statistics to support the argument. Most importantly, make sure that the op-ed puts forth a strong point of view to persuade the editor – and the reader.
- Scale back. If the content is thin (you just know it won’t capture an op-ed editor’s imagination), suggest a different strategy to client. What about a letter to the editor or a comment in the comments section? Can you post excerpts from the draft on Facebook and/or share on Twitter or LinkedIn? All of these avenues offer an opportunity to develop ideas and sharpen your client’s ‘opinion voice’.