"In Our Opinion..." How to Effectively Place Op-Eds to Get Your Message Across
A lot of attention gets paid to stories that run on a newspaper’s front page, but it is also important to consider the opportunities provided by newspapers’ opinion pages. At Ceisler Media, we can craft a media strategy to ensure your message reaches not just the widest possible audience – but the audience that matters most to you.
Op-eds can be an excellent tool for proactively setting the agenda and establishing yourself as a thought leader on important issues. When preparing an op-ed, it is important to consider your goals, determine your target audience and ensure you are telling a timely and compelling story.
Here are a few recent examples of op-eds we helped clients develop and place that demonstrate creative techniques for getting your message out. You may find the tips helpful.
One challenge you’ll face when placing op-eds is that outlets generally aren’t interested in pieces that have already appeared elsewhere. That limits the reach of your message to one publication in one geographic area. There are, however, circumstances under which you can work with editors to secure placement in multiple outlets for the same piece if you plan carefully.
For example, we recently found ourselves in one such situation in our work for the Immigration Hub. Stoking fears around so-called “sanctuary cities” has become a common political tactic in recent years, even though the attacks are generally not grounded in facts. To push back against this narrative and provide some clarity on the issue, we worked with the offices of the mayors of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to craft a joint op-ed that ran in both the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
We were able to secure publication in both papers in part because it was a compelling piece on an important and timely issue, and also because we were open and up front when working with both papers’ editors about seeking to have it published in both places. Since the op-ed was jointly signed by the mayors of both cities, it made sense for the editors of both papers to run it, even though it wouldn’t be an exclusive for either.
Developing a reputation as an honest broker with editors is always important, and it can yield long-term benefits. Opinion editors need to fill their space with intelligent takes on important issues, and sometimes they will proactively go looking for them. At Ceisler Media, we work closely with opinion editors to ensure they know what issues our clients are focused on, and that they can reach out to us if they are looking for a specific voice.
Recently, the opinion editor of the Harrisburg Patriot News contacted us because he was familiar with our work on behalf of the Immigration Hub. He was looking to write a researched opinion piece on the Dreamers—undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children by their parents and who currently have protected status. He was seeking Dreamers he could interview for the piece, and we were able to connect him with a Dreamer whose story was so compelling that he became the entire focus of the piece. Because of the relationships we had built, not only with the reporter but also with the immigration advocacy community, we were able to help ensure an important story got told.
Sometimes, you wind up on the opinion pages even though that wasn’t your original plan. During the recent government shutdown, we worked with Your Part Time Controller, LLC, an accounting, reporting, and financial management services firm for nonprofit organizations based in Philadelphia. They had conducted a survey of their clients to see how they had been impacted by the shutdown, and came to us to work on generating media interest in the findings. We pitched several reporters on the story, but were unable to gain traction.
The Philadelphia Business Journal, however, responded by saying they would run it as an op-ed. So we took the lengthy report, whittled it down to an op-ed that hit the key points, and were able to get it placed. Even though an op-ed wasn’t the original goal, the client was able to establish itself as a thought leader in front of a desirable target audience, while highlighting the challenges that its nonprofit clients faced at the same time.
Op-eds can also be used to simply inform, rather than persuade the public on complex issues. In our work for the Pennsylvania Association of Nurse Anesthetists, we helped one of their members, working on the frontlines of health care, to place an op-ed. The piece effectively explained how to assist people seeking care better understand and navigate the rapidly changing healthcare system to ensure that they were making the best possible choices.
In addition to op-eds, which tend to be longer, letters to the editor can be an effective tool for responding to stories, inserting yourself into relevant conversations and establishing yourself as a credible source for editors going forward. In our work for Keystone Counts, we noticed that the Erie Times-News and the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader had run stories about the Commerce Department’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. We used these stories as a springboard to place letters to the editor in each paper. We tailored different letters specifically to the Erie and Wilkes-Barre markets and were able to amplify our client’s message to the readership of both papers.
Our expertise and experience enable us to develop creative solutions to ensure the message will resonate. Whatever your needs may be, the Ceisler Media team stands ready to help you craft a media strategy that meets them, and that takes full advantage of your opportunities.
Drew Murren is an Associate in Ceisler Media's Harrisburg Office.