The op-ed, which was originally abbreviated as opposite the editorial page (remember that thing called a newspaper?) and later opinion editorial, is one of the main pillars of media relations. Why? Because unlike a press release, it gives a voice to the leaders behind a company. In addition to being a soap box on which to voice your opinion, an op-ed can also position you - and your company - as a thought leader and expert in your space.
But too often, a poorly written op-ed can simply fade away into the editorial darkness without making the slightest bit of impact. If you’ve chosen to take the time to carefully craft a piece, it’s important to make sure it’s one that your intended audience will read. Here are a few ways you can make that happen:
1. Know who you’re speaking to
It happens all the time: a client hands me an article intended for a general consumer audience, and it’s so technical and full of jargon that I can’t even understand what I’m reading. To that I say, know your audience!
Take time to consider the readership of the publication you’re aiming to publish your piece. Are they mostly millennials? Then connect with them by infusing a sense of purpose and passion into your words. Or if you’re writing to a group of industry executives, dig deeper into your topic to make sure it’s not too high-level — otherwise they’ll get bored after the first paragraph.
Every online publication should have a Media Kit available on their website which breaks down their readership by demographic. Take some time to understand who you’re writing to - it will not only increase your chances of getting published, but will make it a lot easier to find your voice.
2. Be editorial - not advertorial
Have you ever started reading an article and then quickly realized it had a hidden agenda to push a particular product? This is called native advertising and has a completely different purpose than an op-ed. When you’re writing an opinion piece, you’re a subject expert first - company executive second.
Reporters oftentimes won’t even accept a piece that includes the name of your company - they’d rather sell you an ad. So, focus first and foremost on getting your message across. If you resonate with your audience and include your company name in the byline, the reader will take it upon themselves to look you up.
3. Give a call to action
An op-ed shouldn’t just leave its readers hanging - it should provide a directive for them to learn more or take action. Let’s say you’re passionate about the importance of small business contingency planning. Don’t just discuss the issue, give your readers a set of steps they can take to prepare and make sure their business and livelihoods aren’t negatively affected by unforeseen circumstances.
Providing a call to action is also a good way to increase the virality of your article. If you include clear directives and useful resources, readers are likely to share with their colleagues, friends or loved ones.
You have a lot of value to put out into the world — be intentional, be genuine, and be a leader. Your readers will thank you.