Whether being in front of the camera or quoted in a newspaper, newswire or online news piece, when it comes to public relations, most naturally think of traditional press as the coveted medium in which to get their message and viewpoints across.
Less considered by many is the so-called op-Ed, or opinion editorial, as an alternate way to convey a viewpoint: in addition to providing insight, offering advice or simply stating an opinion, the beauty of an op-Ed is that it allows one to promote their expertise and tell their story in their own words, and in a controlled way not typically afforded by traditional journalism.
Op Eds, originally short for "opposite the editorial page" and often referred to as opinion editorials, have become increasingly popular over the last few years.
An Op Ed is a written prose piece published by a website, newspaper or magazine that expresses the opinion of the author, who is usually not directly affiliated with the publication. Often times, the writers of op-Eds are volunteer columnists, community leaders or experts in a certain field or sector.
A Non-traditional Communications Tool
Op Eds usually analyze current news and offer a succinct perspective, but they require more facts and structure to do the job. Beyond commenting on news, they can also introduce readers to new ideas or perspectives, or raise awareness of an important issue or concept that might not make traditional media headlines.
It certainly isn't easy writing these pieces. Publications want pieces that display expertise, are well written with succinct ideas and are timely and provocative. And unlike a blog or social media post, op-Eds must also be informed and backed by facts—not just opinions.
An op-Ed is also quite different than just starting your own blog or posting an opinion because there is an editorial process involved - not everyone and anyone can do it. In fact, the competition is actually pretty tough. For many publications, the number of submissions is so large that they have to pass on a great amount of material of value and interest and can't even reply to all submissions.
In general, most publications want the opinion pages to stimulate community discussion and encourage debate.
Realistically, people want to be heard, and outlets such as Huffington Post, Yahoo! Finance, and the Globe and Mail, among others, are giving authors/experts a voice, which is beneficial to both parties as that voice is easily shared with the public – creating more traffic and engagement on the site, and eliciting attention for the author.
Earning Earned Credibility
OpEds are a great communications and public relations tool: they provide credibility by allowing the author to demonstrate their knowledge about their personal and professional experience and share it with a new audience - which is particularly effective when dealing with hot topics.
This speaks a great deal to how the landscape of news and earned vs paid media has changed. Many assume the articles they read are a form of "earned media" – meaning they are written by journalists covering a particular topic. Alternatively, anything written by a representative of a company is often considered a form of promotion, or a "paid media" placement.
Op-Eds lie somewhere in between. Authors are often unpaid or may receive very little pay for their contributions. However, they do reap several benefits.
Many traditional media outlets are endorsing this idea and searching for contributors, as this allows expertise to come into play on certain subjects. Huffington Post and The New York Times are prime examples of successful forums that have entire sections devoted to op-Eds writers covering a host of different topics.
As for the authors, op-Eds are the perfect way to chime in on important conversations, and let’s face it, they are also free promotion. That being said, you have to be careful about what you say and how you say it. Giving advice and offering perspectives as par for the course, but equally important is being balanced.
By placing themselves as a spokesperson on a subject or event, authors open the door to be contacted to speak on the subject or connect with potential clients – which is why they are becoming an increasingly popular public relations tool.
If you are successful as an author in portraying your thoughts and opinions and placing yourself as a trustworthy spokesperson you may also encounter other benefits. Op-Eds can – and often do – lead directly or indirectly to media opportunities, not to mention new clients.