I’m happy to welcome guest blogger, Margot Friedman, principal of Dupont Circle Communications. Margot is an expert trainer on writing and placing opinion editorials. Please like Op Ed Talk with Margot on Facebook to share op-ed tips and strategies.
At the end of the 1990s, I worked for an advocacy organization that had – more or less – dropped opinion editorials from their communications strategies. It was just too hard to get op eds placed. That may have been the right decision 10 years ago, but it is the wrong decision today.
At one time, there was limited space in the newspaper. Op ed placement was fiercely competitive. Today, there is unlimited space on the Internet. Nonprofit leaders should take advantage of these expanded opportunities and use op eds to:
- shine a light on problems that are not being addressed;
- offer thoughtful solutions; and
- move policymakers, funders, opinion leaders, and others to action.
If you are unsure of whether op eds are worth your organization’s time and effort, consider some examples where they had a powerful impact:
- Elizabeth Warren’s idea for a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was first hatched as an opinion piece. She led with an accessible metaphor, noting that there were laws on the books to make toasters safe, but no laws to make credit cards and mortgages safe.
- Two doctors at Boston’s Children’s Hospital published an op ed proposing that obese children be taken from their parents and placed in foster care. The op ed received media attention from The Associated Press and more than 300 outlets.
- When Caroline Kennedy decided to make a pivotal endorsement of Barack Obama in the Democratic primary, she delivered the message in an op ed. This gave her the chance to make her case without being interrupted or misquoted at a press conference.
When a journalist writes a news story about your issue, she usually gets a quote from the other side. There’s rarely a 100 percent positive news article. When you write an op ed, however, you have the opportunity to present your views exactly the way you want to … in an unfiltered fashion. Op eds can be a great way to move a new idea – YOUR idea – from concept to action.
In the coming months, I’ll be addressing your questions about writing and placing opinion editorials. What challenges have you faced? What successes have you had? Please share your experiences here!
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