Is the Op-Ed God’s Gift to PR?
By Shannon Watterson, Account Executive, Corporate/Nonprofit Group
Communicating the right message is what public relations is all about. That’s why we write detailed message guides to prepare our clients to succinctly convey their stories, media train them so they can artfully handle any question and counsel them on what topics are in the news so they can relate what’s happening in the world to their content. But, once a client steps into a studio or sits down for an interview, a story can travel in a myriad of directions and can result in unplanned detours.
Enter the op-ed, a life saver in terms of providing a “safe” way for PR pros to successfully disseminate our clients’ messages. Often confused for “opinion editorial,” op-ed is actually short for “opposite the editorial page” and gives subscribers and PR people alike a chance to share their opinions with a publication’s readers. The op-ed places control in the hands of the writer, whether a PR person, a client or a combination of the two, and the message can be as simple as, “I am the authority on this subject” supported by three to five things the client knows that others may not. Or, it can be, “This program deserves funding and here’s why.” The op-ed allows us to convey our clients’ carefully crafted messages to readers directly and encourage them to take action, whether that’s supporting legislation, donating time or money or simply considering a different point of view.
The op-ed also offers a great opportunity to be creative. Compared to a press release, the op-ed has the power to tug at the reader’s heart strings, provide humor or use real world examples to support a position and demonstrate to readers why they should feel the same way.
If we as PR pros can present editors with a solid idea on a timely topic that matters to their readers, there is a good chance that a well-written piece will run, especially given the trend towards local newsroom consolidation. Better yet, if we can form relationships with editorial page editors and demonstrate the depth of expertise we can bring them from financial experts, attorneys, social workers and everyone in between, we can secure multiple op-eds and become a valuable resource to newsroom teams. Whether clients write an op-ed themselves or work with their PR team to carefully shape its content, it’s one of the best and safest ways to get a message across – and it’s far more effective than paid advertising.
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