The word “op-ed” can be easily associated with politics, making it seem academic and unapproachable. But this belittles its purpose and its value to the individuals, companies or causes that could potentially employ its use. Op-eds can be incredibly important to public relations, especially if an individual or a company is trying to make a significant impact.
So what is an op-ed? And how do you determine if it’s another media format you might be able to use?
The term “op-ed” originally came from its placement in print newspapers, when it appeared “opposite the editorial page.” But now, especially in the age of online media, op-eds refer to essays expressing the opinion of the author. They’re important vehicles of information for writers who aim to change the status quo or present an unconventional thought.
Op-eds can be powerful for communicating a person’s or company’s voice. Because of their inherent purpose of communicating the author’s opinion, op-eds can employ different kinds of language mechanics than other formats. The language can be more conversational, descriptive or argumentative. The flexibility of the op-ed format can very clearly communicate vision and personality more so than is possible with other article formats.
But just because there’s a little bit more leeway in style, op-eds are still very structured pieces of writing, as outlined at the end of this post. A good op-ed will always, always, always be backed up by accurate research. The goal of an op-ed is to persuade the reader or enlighten him as to why the author is taking the stance that she is. The only way to do so is to make sure that there are facts to back up the arguments.
Op-ed formats work very well for people or companies that work for very specific causes or have clear visions that may be different than the norm. A good op-ed always has tension, so if you work in an industry where there’s disagreement or a movement toward doing things differently, an op-ed could be an excellent strategy for advancing thoughts of change. Op-eds, like traditional articles, are very timely pieces—an outlet is more likely to run a piece pertaining to something that’s in the news elsewhere.
You’ve decided that you have something to say. It’s an issue that’s all over the news. It’s time to write an op-ed. What do they look like? This:
Strong lead: a timely news hook is crucial for a paper to decide to run your article. Something that catches the eye, is controversial or is very straightforward is what editors look for. The strength of the first sentence can determine whether or not someone reads the entirety of the piece.
Thesis: The thesis of the piece should be within the first one or two paragraphs. If someone entirely unfamiliar with your argument were to read your op-ed, they should be able to quickly identify your thesis. It should come early on in the piece, and be written clearly and concisely.
The Meat: This is where the argument will be won or lost. After the thesis is presented, a break down of the thesis, with supporting information, should proceed logically. This is where the argument is proven—a good op-ed should have no shortage of argumentative statements with research-based facts supporting them.
The Conclusion: It’s often assumed that the conclusion is just a summary of everything that the author has said previously. But that can be a lazy approach. The conclusion is an opportunity to advance the argument in a witty, thought-provoking way.
Op-eds are important in advancing the debate on important subjects influencing our country and our world, plus they’re powerful tools for communicating vision, values and authority in the industries of their authors. Everyone has an opinion, but everyone doesn’t always know how to argue it in an informed, strategic way.