Whether you’re looking to raise your profile as a thought-leader or simply have a story you believe should be shared with the world, an op-ed provides a tremendous opportunity to reach a target audience across a trusted platform.
What exactly is an op-ed? An op-ed is a contributed article or story that you write for a publication. And it isn’t always called an “op-ed”. In fact, The New York Times recently announced it is retiring the term “op-ed” and replacing it with “guest essay”. Call it a byline, contributed article, guest essay, or op-ed, it’s the same: You write an opinion piece exclusive to a print and/or online publication.
Unfortunately, no matter how compelling your story may be, the sheer volume of news and the battle to capture an audience amongst the publishers is so great that it can be hard to breakthrough.
Nardi Media Founder; Ashley Bernardi and Managing Director, Caroline Pruett, who have placed op-eds across national titles ranging from The Washington Post to Forbes, recently sat down to answer common questions and provide insight into their strategy in securing top placements for a client.
Q: I know an op-ed is a good idea, but I have no idea where to even start:
A: That’s OK! It honestly boils down to two initial questions: What’s a topic where you can provide unique insight? and Where would you ideally want to see it published?
Q: I know what I want to write, but have no idea what to do first!
A: Knowing what you want to write is a great start! What you want to do is take that subject matter and develop angles to ensure it’s relevant to your target audience. Can you provide a contrarian view of what most people are saying on a topic? Can your story add context to an existing news story? These are the types of questions editors will be asking about any content they run so addressing them from the start gives you an advantage.
Q: How can I ensure my submission stands out?
A: It all starts with the headline – Think about news stories you see online that make you stop what you’re doing and click. You need something compelling, something that makes the consumer feel like they’re missing out on something if they don’t continue reading. Also, play up your credentials – There’s a reason why you have a unique ability to speak to this issue, make sure the editors know that from the jump. If possible, try to support your case with data to showcase this is more than a single opinion but rather a larger issue that isn’t being properly addressed.
Q: Is there a different approach to digital platforms vs. top-tier newspapers?
A: There can be. When you make your list of where you want to see your op-ed placed, do your research on their submission policy. Some platforms require a fully written draft of the op-ed while others just want a synopsis to get a sense of the story you want to tell and will collaborate with you to take it to the finish line. You’ll also find other important notes regarding formatting, word count, etc. Side note word count – Publishers aren’t looking for your version of Don Quixote, try to stick within a range of 500-700 words.
Q: I know a lot of people include the word “Exclusive” when they’re pitching an op-ed, is that a big deal?
A: YES! This speaks to a couple of different points: First, whatever you’re submitting needs to be something that isn’t posted anywhere else, not on your blog or social media. If you have a great idea, always think Pitch It Before You Post It. You never want to pitch the same op-ed to multiple publishers at the same time, you can run into a lot of issues or burn bridges in the event two or more editors accept. Start with your dream platform, look to see if they post anywhere about the typical “consideration time” and wait for that to pass before considering taking your op-ed to someone else.
Q: Once I’ve submitted, what’s the recommended follow-up process?
A: You always wanted to find the line between engaged and annoying. Be sure to respect the time they request to review but once that time has passed, it’s OK to follow-up on your original note or try to find an editor with that publisher that covers a similar subject matter and ask them for any tips on ensuring your op-ed is reaching the right person. When following up – Don’t just reply to your original email. Try to change the subject line or update your submission with anything relevant to the news cycle. This shows the editor that you’re quick to adapt and engage in the subject matter. If after 3x follow-ups you still have yet to receive a reply, it’s time to move on to the next outlet on your list.
CLICK HERE to watch the full IG LIVE with Ashley + Caroline!