One of my clients recently had an Opinion Editorial piece printed in a major newspaper. The client called me later that day to tell me about the number of emails, texts, and calls they’d had from many different people congratulating them on the piece. The client was surprised, telling me: “I didn’t think anyone read those anymore!”
We’re often told these days that people don’t want to read big swathes of information; they want it handed to them in bullet points, displayed in a graphic, or better yet, presented as a video so they don’t have to read at all.
At a minimum of 600 words, it’s often assumed the majority of readers don’t have the concentration span, or time, to read a whole opinion piece (aka Op Ed). And maybe they don’t have the prominence they once did, but in my view, opinion pieces are still a valuable communication tool in a PR kit.
Unlike media releases or interviews, opinion pieces give the author the opportunity to express themselves in at least 600 of their own unedited words without having to try to talk in grabs (sound bites) or deliver a list of key messages while under pressure during an interview.
They allow clients to think about what they want to say, and how they want to say it. Opinion pieces can be a vehicle to explain complex ideas or communicate problems and solutions that couldn’t be covered in a one-minute news story. They can inform people about different perspectives on big issues, start important conversations, influence public opinion or introduce new ideas into the public discourse.
Op Eds are also an opportunity for the author to establish their credibility on a given topic. If they’re articulate, they can establish the writer as a thought leader in their space. They’re an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and understanding about topics which might be misunderstood by the general public.
Writing an opinion piece is also a way of letting people know that not only are you an authority on a topic, but that you’re willing to talk publicly about it. This can be key if you’re wanting to become a commentator on an issue and will signal to journalists that they can ask you for comment if they’re writing a story on this topic in the future (and that you’re going to have something insightful and knowledgeable to say).
Opinion pieces are not as easy as writing a media release. They generally take more thought, research and time to write. They also don’t come without risk – if you’re sharing an opinion, particularly on a controversial topic, you have to be prepared for others to publicly disagree.
But, in my opinion, they’re generally worth the effort.