5 Keys to a Successful Op-Ed



Crafting and placing the perfect op-ed is an art.

Let’s be clear – no one can guarantee the placement of a given op-ed in a top-tier publication like The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times.

That said, there are ways to ensure your op-ed has the best chance of seeing publication.

Five essential elements to consider are:

  1. Substance
  2. Outlet
  3. Signer
  4. Timing
  5. Persistence

Let’s discuss these in order.

1. Substance

  • Know your audience.

Different publications not only serve different geographic regions, but most also have specific ideological slants.

  • Follow the submission guidelines.

This may seem basic, but a great way to sink your submission is by not following the recommended word count and other instructions that publications typically post on their websites.

  • Have a defined point of view.

Attention spans are short.

In terms of your op-ed’s content, the best thing you can do is have a strong point of view and open with it immediately.

Be controversial.

Be provocative.

But state your thesis upfront before providing the context and supporting points.

With just a few hundred words to sway your readers, you don’t have time to meander before voicing your view with strength.

2. Outlet

While many clients want to have their voice heard in only the top-tier outlets, such as The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, oftentimes, their message could be just as effective in smaller, regional outlets.

This is particularly true when trying to affect a legislative policy.

The adage that “all politics is local” holds particularly true with regard to the top news outlets in a key legislator’s district.

In fact, a dozen op-eds, placed strategically in local outlets of significant legislators, could sway a piece of legislation.

The key is to recruit local political or business leaders as signers – as represent authority in the communities the legislators represent.

3. Signer

Having a list of recognized experts (including academics, executives, and local leaders) is often critical to getting your op-ed accepted.

Authority matters.

An op-ed signed by a Senator, CEO or professor will hold far more sway with editors than one signed by a nobody, regardless of the content.

4. Timing

A dirty little secret of the public relations business is that there’s a large element of luck. And mostly, this comes down to timing.

Your op-ed may be accepted or rejected based on external factors entirely beyond your control.

No matter how well-written it is, and no matter who has signed it, there’s always an element of luck. Your topic may happen to tie in perfectly with news that broke overnight.

Or, it often goes the other way: The editor expresses preliminary interest, only to ultimately reject the op-ed when breaking news pushes other issues ahead of it.

Timing matters, but it’s often the element you can least control.

5. Persistence

As with all things in life, practice and persistence pay off.

Just because your op-ed is rejected from your target publication this time, does not mean your next submission will be rejected as well.

I have a friend who had her submissions rejected by The Huffington Post five times. The sixth time? Published. And she’s had several more pieces accepted since then.

While paying attention to the substance, outlet, signer and timing is important, so too is resilience – the ability to continue rather than give up, often makes all the difference.

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