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Write an Op-Ed That They'll BEG to Run

By John McLain

Originally Posted

One of the best ways to gain credible visibility for a corporate client is to have that company's chief executive submit an opinion piece to a major newspaper and have it published. Easier said than done.

Most CEOs have no time to write an op-ed; even fewer know how. That's where you step in to help the executive craft a fiery opinion, supported by facts making his case. An op-ed is not an essay, something that slowly unrolls like a carpet, building momentum to some point or conclusion. It's just the opposite.

In an op-ed, you essentially state your conclusion first. Make your strongest point right up front, then spend the rest of the op-ed building your case, or "back-filling" with the facts. Done right, it's persuasive writing at its best. You'll help the company win converts and gain high-quality publicity, and you will be reaching that elite audience of opinion-makers who regularly read the op-ed pages.

Op-ed Checklist

Here's a checklist to keep your op-ed on track:

  • Focus tightly on one issue or idea -- in your first paragraph. Be brief.

  • Express your opinion, then base it on factual, researched, or first-hand information.

  • Be timely, controversial, but not outrageous, unlike®. Be the voice of reason.

  • Be personal and conversational; it can help you make your point. No one likes a stuffed shirt.

  • Be humorous, provided that your topic lends itself to humor.

  • Have a clear editorial viewpoint -- come down hard on one side of the issue. Don't equivocate.

  • Provide insight, understanding: Educate your reader without being preachy.

  • Near the end, clearly re-state your position, and issue a call to action. Don't philosophize.

  • Have verve and fire-in-the-gut indignation to accompany your logical analysis.

  • Don't ramble or let your op-ed unfold slowly, as in an essay.

  • Use clear, powerful, direct language.

  • Emphasize active verbs. Forget the adjectives and adverbs, which only weaken writing.

  • Avoid clichés and jargon.

  • Appeal to the average reader. Clarity is paramount.

  • Write 750 double-spaced words or less (fewer is always better).

  • Include a brief bio, along with your phone number, email address, and mailing address at the bottom.

The Times Isn't the Only Game in Town

Many major newspapers today accept timely op-eds by email. Check the paper's Web site first to be sure what its policy is. While it's tempting to fire off your op-ed to The New York Times, remember that there are many other major newspapers to consider. That august newspaper receives more op-eds daily than any other paper in the United States, so competition is fierce. It's better to be published in another excellent paper than to be not published in The New York Times.

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