6 tips for writing and placing op-eds

What you write is only a part of the process. Before you do anything, you’ve got to perfect your pitch.

Whatever you think about old media or the death of print, op-ed articles published under a client’s byline have value if done right. They’re a great way to position a person/firm as a thought leader.

It had been a while since I’d done this, but I just finished writing something for a client when some old tricks came back to me.

Here are six things to remember about writing and placing op-ed pieces:

1. Before you write a word, have a sound idea of what your target outlets are. Think this through, because the tone of the piece and the information you reference might change, depending on the target. For example, what and how I write for the Globe and Mail will be different from what and how I write for the Edmonton Sun.

2. Most op-ed pieces make three or four actual points. The rest is filler or setup. If you want to make 20 points, write a white paper. To keep these clear and in the front of my mind, I usually scribble down the key points down before I start writing the text.

3. Keep your piece under 600 words. You can probably get away with more, but aiming for 600 words will ensure you are succinct. If you come in above 800 words and your article is not amazing, you’re liable to fail.

4. Tie the piece to news or something timely. Pretty simple. Getting this right greatly increases your chances of success.

5. The lede is crucial. It needs to be short and punchy. Academics, giant egos, and other assorted jackasses have so much trouble with this one. Your lede must be short and declarative—not a giant, unwieldy comma splice. Comprende?

6. Much is in the pitching. Figure out which person at a target outlet receives and reviews submissions. Send your text to them, using their name in the subject line. Offer exclusives, and mention that the offer will expire in X amount of time.

A version of this story first appeared on Proper Propaganda’s blog.

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