How to successfully place an op-ed

“I’m going to write and op-ed, and I’d like you to place it for me. Ideally, I’d like to be in The New York Times. Or, if that doesn’t work, I’m good with The Washington Post or the LA Times.”

I have heard that throughout my career in public relations, working for several different organizations.

It’s easier said than done.

Recently, a group of communicators I work with met to discuss placing op-eds, and what it takes to be successful.

Ideally the piece should be tied to current events or newsworthy topics. Readers want to read about issues dominating the news, which means op-ed editors want to publish about them.

Additional tips include:

State your main point at the top. You have a few seconds to hook a busy reader and convince him to continue. Use the rest of the piece to support your case. It’s persuasive writing at its best.

Be brief and concise. Most op-eds are 750 words long. Opinion editors are not going to take your 1,200 word piece and edit it for you. Submitting a lengthy piece is a sure way to earn a rejection.

Short is best. The sentences of most op-eds are short. They rely on simple declarative sentences written in the active voice. If you have long paragraphs, cut them into two or more shorter ones, even a one-sentence paragraph is acceptable.

Make a single point. While you may have several points you want to share, readers won’t be interested in wading through so much information. Focus tightly on one point and you will be more persuasive.

Avoid jargon. You work in the industry so the jargon you use makes sense. The readers of a newspaper don’t work with you, and they are your audience. That being said, if you are submitting your piece to a trade publication, your readers may be more familiar with the concepts and you may not have to explain them.

This is your opinion. It’s acceptable to mention someone else’s work, but it should be a mention, not a recitation of the work. The more unique the piece is, the more likely it is to be published.

Follow submission guidelines. Most newspapers and websites post guidelines about how they prefer to receive submissions. If you follow the guidelines, you are more likely to be published. Always include your contact details and a photo of yourself.