The opinion editorial, or op-ed, is a powerful vehicle to express an opinion on issues related to your community. Op-eds are more effective than letters to the editor because the length allows greater detail and content control. You might use an op-ed to do the following:
- Applaud a new program that advances your mission and goals.
- Respond to published reports released on the healthiest cities and comment on why your city is or is not on the list.
- Recognize national observance days or months, such as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and highlight how your local health department's efforts are helping reach the goals behind these celebrations or events.
- Recommend or support a public policy or a proposed initiative that you believe will have a positive impact.
Prior to writing an op-ed, be prepared to answer all the following questions:
- What is the main opinion or argument you will express?
- How does it fit with the messages in the strategic communications plan?
- What is the problem in the community that your organization is solving?
- How does your organization help to solve this problem?
- Describe your organization. How does it work?
- Why was the problem not solved before? What was the obstacle?
- Is there a villain in the story?
- What is the cost of the solution you propose?
- How can you "paint a picture" in someone's mind through your words?
- Which community leaders, groups, or people in the community agree with you? Why?
- Which community leaders, groups, or people in the community disagree with you? Why?
- What is the urgency?
- Who does this affect?
- What is the history of this story? What has been done before? What was the process to get to this point? Was there a cliffhanger or suspenseful event?
- What correlating facts support the story and strengthen the case?
- What happens next?
Whenever possible, draw on materials you have already created to generate content for op-eds and other media tools (see sample op-ed) or follow these basic steps to format a new one:
- Op-eds are typically 800 words or less in length. Before writing an op-ed, contact the op-ed page editor of your local paper for submission policies and guidelines.
- Have an opinion and state it forcefully. An op-ed should argue a point, and the point being made should be stated clearly up front. A compelling hook generates interest and demonstrates relevance to the readers and the community.
- State your opinion at the outset and then back it up with facts. Do not present the facts first and save your opinion for the conclusion.
- Support your case with facts. Attribute your facts to a credible source (e.g., the Surgeon General or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
- Submit a timely piece. It should relate to something in the news.
- Tell a story to your target audience using plain language that everyone can understand. Do not use industry-speak or jargon.
- Keep sentences and paragraphs short.
- Offer specific recommendations to address the issues raised.