Writing Op-Ed Pieces (Without Sounding Your Own Foghorn)

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    Looking for additional ways to get exposure for what you do? Consider writing op-ed pieces or opinion or editorial essays — commonly known as an Op-Ed piece. Most business sections of the daily and weekly papers have such a space and welcome contributors who know what they are talking about. The trick is to provide insights into the industry in which you work without sounding like a self-promoting foghorn. In other words, keep the piece generally free of things that your company has done and focus more on an issue in the industry that merits addressing, or something in the regular news that you can address in a meaningful and hopefully original way. You can make an aside or allude to something in your own experience but don’t dwell on it. Readers sniff out such puffery and are often put off by it.

    For example, the principals of a financial staff augmentation firm were interested in looking at big-picture hiring trends — including what the advantages were of using temporary staff from both the corporate side and the consultant side.

    After their PR pro did a few hours of research and put together the essay, the piece provided good insights into the developing trends in the economy and illustrated how the workforce was rapidly changing, with more people wanting to work more flexible schedules, or even to work five months and take the next two off to go on a dream trip. Plus with downsizing, corporations wanted the flexibility that temps provided, too, since they could not afford top talent full-time and did not have to pay benefits. The editors of the local business pages liked it too (“It’s got a lot of good statistics and we love that in the business section!”) — and they did not hear any bellowing foghorn in the distance.

    What did the client get out of it? A load of goodwill in the business community because many people commented to them about it and some new opportunities to discuss placing their consultants in key, but short-term, high-end financial and accounting positions. Such editorials can help position you as a leader, or “thought leader,” in your industry, and they provide great content to re-purpose to your website, to share in social networks, and to use as marketing collateral (this particular company had the article reprinted and available to read in all of its meeting rooms for both potential consultants and clients to read while waiting for meetings to begin).

    How does it work? Pretty easy. Find something you are passionate about in your business or industry, or that you have been giving a lot of thought to. Write a brief four-or five sentence summary of it with a catchy headline. Submit to the editor, perhaps with a link to your Bio, or a short statement about who you are and what you do. Email it. Follow up with a call a week later or so if you haven’t heard back. If you get the nod, the editor will usually give you a word count (do not exceed it, since if you make more work for him or her, they will be less inclined to take or publish another such piece). Not only do Op-Ed articles help build your credibility, they sometimes lead to the opportunity to become a regular contributor to a publication. If you get this offering, take it. You’ll be surprised how many people will read your “stuff” and maybe even call you to do business as a result.


    For more resources, see the Library topic Public and Media Relations.