Tips and Tricks to Boost Your Opinion Piece
It’s no secret that opinion writing is one of the most daunting parts of being a PR pro. The waiting game, the silence, the rejection – it’s enough for us to tear our hair out.
Luckily, Allison Silver hosted a webinar last week with The Communications Network on “Mastering the Art of Opinion Writing”. No stranger to an editor’s desk, Allison is Reuters’ current opinion editor and has previously served as opinion editor for outlets including Politico, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. Her vast industry knowledge provided some guidance on crafting high-quality opinion pieces and pitches, which we are here to share:
- Every opinion piece has to fall within the realm of public discussion or debate. Allison used a phrase that we liked a lot: “Okay” today is better than “perfect” tomorrow. The news is changing so rapidly that there are limited windows to get a piece into the news cycle – if you have the idea, it doesn’t have to be the most beautiful piece in the world. What matters is that the idea is there and the timing is right. Piggyback the “news” – not the “olds”.
- Opinion pieces don’t have room for build-up, getting to the point right away is what is going to catch the eye of an opinion editor and an audience. And by right away, Allison meant in the very first sentence.
- The piece is about the idea, not the author. Editors crave original ideas – while some authors are older and float off of reputation, many authors are younger and bring fresh, vibrant ideas to the table. The originality is what is going to win out in the end.
- While the point of a piece may be complex, prose cannot be. Opinion pieces should be written to make it as easy as possible for the reader to understand and agree with your argument. Stray away from $10 words and long, complex sentences – opt for easy, chewable bites of information instead.
- Thought leadership pieces don’t belong in self-publishing sites like The Huffington Post or Medium – the audiences you want to target to advance thought leadership are in large, print outlets.
- Pitches should be short – the first sentence should introduce the idea, and the second sentence should explain why the author is the perfect person to explain this point.
As communicators working in healthcare, it is our job to break down complex ideas into digestible information for our target audiences. What makes JPA stand apart is that we take it upon ourselves to be experts on our client’s topic areas so that we can support the development of knowledgeable, creative and thoughtful pieces. As solely healthcare communicators, we are constantly monitoring the healthcare landscape and gunning for the right moment to take our clients’ visibility to the next level.
Opinion writing provides a unique opportunity to thought leaders to write their own script. In the end, it’s balancing timeliness, effectiveness and authenticity of a piece that will be the difference between a headline and another email lost in the black hole of an editor’s inbox.
Leah Corry is an Account Executive at JPA Health Communications