The decision to write an op-ed shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Opinion pieces can help propel an organization’s mission, but you should invest time, resources and energy into an op-ed only if you have a unique, decisive take on a timely issue in the news.
Here are three things to consider once you decide to move forward:
1. Understand the outlet, and weigh your chances.
Research is a key component of pitching your op-ed.
Knowing the outlet’s publishing schedule and content needs is one place to start. For example, The Hill publishes upward of 25 op-eds per day, and Axios may post 25 in a week. Consider whether a publication pulls opinion pieces from other outlets in its network. For example, USA Today picks up articles from over 100 local papers within their network and are likely to place those op-eds over yours.
Another key aspect is audience. Does your voice and content align with the typical audience the outlet aims to reach? Also ask yourself what type of opinion content they push out. Do they utilize video like NowThis or publish longer form personal essays like HuffPost and Vox?
This can help you come up with creative strategies to make your op-ed stand out.
2. Evaluate your experts and your content.
Who is your expert? Why should the outlet care what this person says? Is s/he taking a strong stance on the issue?
Evaluate who your experts are and what they are best suited to talk about. Consider when it’s appropriate for the head of an organization versus someone with recent experience in the field to take the byline.
Offering a “big name byline” might increase your submission’s chances, but an expert who knows their issue and has a timely opinion should not be overlooked. If your writer is not as well-known, a good pitch is your chance to explain why they are the expert and why the publication should care.
It is also essential to assess the strength of your content. For example, your organization’s new research could be a hook if it can be connected to current news. It’s important for the piece to take a strong stance on an issue. Pick a side, and back it up.
Finally, make sure you have something unique and timely to say. If something similar has been published already, it is unlikely for an outlet to even consider your piece. Do your homework and show that you’ve researched the outlet.
You don’t want to come across as lazy when trying to build a relationship with an editor.
3. Be prepared, and don’t wait for news to break.
Speed is essential when it comes to placing op-eds. If there’s an issue brewing in the news in the realm of your expertise, don’t wait for news to break. If you know of upcoming dates, like congressional hearings, events or observance days around your cause, reach out to outlets ahead of time so they can put your piece in the queue for the proper time frame.
Part of being prepared is also having a shortlist of well researched outlets you would like to reach. If your No. 1 passes, are you ready to hit send to No. 2?
Op-eds can be tricky, and the current news cycle does not always work in your favor, but by researching your outlets, you’ll be better prepared when evaluating whether or not an op-ed is the right strategy.