Get Your Message Out With an Op-Ed

Lori Halley 07 July 2011 0 comments

Has your organization considered getting your message across through an Op-Ed? If you have a compelling message and a subject matter expert with unique insight and authority, an Op-Ed piece might be just what you need to make an impactful statement and even form or change opinions.

What is an Op-Ed?

The term Op-Ed is actually an abbreviation of “opposite the editorial page.” But the “Op” also stands for opinion, since these are editorials that express an informed point of view on a specific topic, which is supported by facts, statistics and anecdotes to make the case.

To create an effective Op-Ed piece, you need to frame your idea briefly and succinctly, then back-up your argument or statement with factual evidence. You don't simply submit your Op-Ed as you would a letter to the editor - it is written specifically for and pitched to a targeted publication. If you offer a well thought-out, newsworthy and even controversial piece, you may get the interest of the section editor, and if not, you can revise it and submit it to another publication. 

Creating Op-Eds That Change Minds

In a recent article, “Five Steps to Op-Eds that Change Minds,” Nancy Schwartz (GettingAttention.org) suggested that “opinion journalism (a.k.a. op-eds) is an unmatched opportunity for your organization to speak through the news media directly to policy makers, your constituents and other target audiences.”

But if you are new to Op-Eds and need some help in getting started, Nancy has some of the great tips and advice  offered in her article that she agreed to let us share:  

1. Identify your expertise and stick to it

Carefully think through the issue areas or topics in which your organization’s experts (program staff, leadership or volunteers) shine. You can cover several issue arenas but have to be able to clearly assert why that expert is an expert in a specific topic.

2. Stay informed

It’s a must that you follow the general news as well as news related to your organization’s focus or issue arena to understand all points of view. If you write about women’s health, read the medical and alternative medicine press and online content. If you write about Libya, read regional media.

Bonus: As you read news for context, you’re likely to find relevant news hooks (stories you can piggyback on) for your op-eds and other content.

3. Pinpoint your message

Be focused and clear. What is your goal? Do you want legislators to do something or increase public understanding of an issue? Regardless of the goal, you need to be able to state your opinion in one concise sentence.

4. Back it up with facts

When your organization conveys that opinion, back it up with facts.For example, if your message is that legislators should not cut family planning services from the health care budget because it will be detrimental to women's health, then you need to supply examples. How many women use those services in your region/community now? 

5. Write for the reader

The standard way to make an argument is to state your main point, present evidence to support that opinion, and then offer a recommendation or conclusion. The more direct, clear and conversational you can make the writing, the better.

Explain why your position is better than the opposition. You’re the expert, not your reader, so you’ll need to capture his attention and convince him of your argument. 

Check out Nancy's full article – which includes recommendations about Op-Ed structure; how to pitch to media outlets; as well as examples of Op-Eds that have changed minds –  here: http://gettingattention.org/articles/2556/media-relations-press/nonprofit-op-ed.html.

Has your organization had success with Op-Eds?  Let us know in the comments section below.

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Thursday, 07 July 2011 at 9:00 AM

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