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Op-Ed Articles Express Your Firm's Point of View

By: Andy Marken

In his nearly 25 years in the advertising/public relations field, Andy has been involved with a broad range of corporate and marketing activities. Prior to forming Marken Communications in mid-1977, Andy was vice president of Bozell & Jacobs and its predecessor agencies. During his 12 years with these agencies, he developed and coordinated a wide variety of highly visible and successful promotional campaigns and activities for clients. A graduate of Iowa State University, Andy received his Bachelor's Degree with majors in Radio & Television and Journalism. Widely published in the industry and trade press, he is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

Executives are increasingly turning to the opinion-editorial (op-ed) pages to state their points of view regarding their industry and their community. The challenge is to create op-eds that will get published.

At one time, op-eds were relatively short pieces (300 - 500 words) and style was more important than substance. A provocative or witty op-ed usually was placed fairly quickly. Today because of the seriousness of the economy, the political climate and the interrelationship of business to our communities, op-eds have become somewhat longer and more substantive. In many instances there is little difference between them and a news article, except that op-eds usually focus on one subject and express one point of view.

Increase the Odds

When it comes to placing an op-ed, luck is sometimes involved. However, there are ways to increase the odds that your op-ed piece will get into print.
  • See what's selling -- Op-eds, are like any other communications effort. They change in format and style with the times. Monitor those changes. Determine what "formula" current op-eds are using and follow it.

  • Tailor the perspective to the target audience -- When writing the op-ed, have a particular audience in mind. If you can't place your piece with your target publications, rewrite it for another audience.

  • Be contrary -- a contrary point of view gets attention. When downsizing was first a trend, op-eds that cited its pitfalls got into print. If it's the age of the entrepreneur, focus on the advantages of being a full-time employee in a large organization or the importance of getting just the right talent by loosening up and getting people who will telecommute.

  • Be timely -- If possible, it is always good to tie your piece to current events. Make the tie explicit in your introduction.
    For example, if a potential law locally, regionally or nationally is being debated; an op-ed on the issue has a good chance of catching the editor's eye.
  • Provide added value -- Your unique expertise and perspective on an issue should offer information that readers couldn't have obtained on their own -- at least without considerable research. Its okay to include familiar information about a subject but your piece should go beyond general knowledge and media clichés.

  • Market a point of view -- Your first sales job is to get the editor to take the time to consider your proposal or read your submission. Express your expertise, what's different about your approach and the readers' benefits.

    Editors receive hundreds of op-eds weekly. While they will probably choose their own title, a catchy headline might entice them to read your piece.

  • Keep trying -- Before an op-ed we wrote on an environmental issue was published in Newsweek, it was rejected by The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. All a rejection means is that a particular editor didn't want the piece. It's important to monitor publications because one of the rejections may be that they recently did a piece on the topic.

    If you get a rejection, make a new copy of the piece and new cover letter to your secondary target. A well written, well-researched op-ed will find a home but not necessarily in your most prestigious target publication.

    Start at the "top" and work your way down. The key is to research your subject, have a strong and effective point of view, a well-written piece and perseverance. There are hundreds and thousands of newspapers and magazines that take op-eds. No one hits a home run every time he or she steps up to bat.

  • Recycle your pieces -- once a piece has been published, obtain reprint rights from the publication. Then reprint it and distribute copies to employees, shareholders, customers and opinion leaders. It's a powerful way to show that your organization and you have depth and substance and have opinions that are given notice by the press.
Like almost any other business activity, getting an op-ed published is somewhat of a game of chance. Luck counts. But so do strategy and tactics. The more experience you have at playing the game, the more proficient and effective you'll become.

© Copyright 1999, G.A.Marken, Marken Communications

Other Articles by Andy Marken

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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