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Open/Opinion editorial columns

Last edited: January 03, 2012

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Open editorial columns or op-eds are essays in the press written by guests, e.g. experts on an issue. Find out from the newspaper or magazine what their requirements for op-eds are. Op-eds could be contributed by campaign leaders or appointed spokespeople, or even a well-known public figure connected to the campaign.


Practical tips for op-eds

  • Humanize your topic. Begin by illustrating how the issue affects an individual or group of people.
  • Take a point of view and support it with facts and examples.
  • Tie the op-ed to a holiday, anniversary, election, report, vote, or some pending action by the government.
  • Keep it short—the average length of an op-ed is 750 words. If it is too long, it won’t get published.
  • Write clearly and concentrate on just one issue—many readers may not be familiar with the topic. Incorporate your main message points.
  • If you have a fact sheet on the issue, you can use the main points from that document.
  • See if you can reduce your point to a single sentence, for example, “reproductive rights are human rights.”
  • Raise the opposition’s best arguments and disprove them with countervailing facts, or irony, if appropriate. Support your side with facts and numbers.
  • Be positive – provide solution, not just problem.
  • Include a suggested headline, byline and one-sentence description of the author and his/her expertise.

To get the op-ed published, find out the names of the editor or editors of the op-ed section at each media outlet. When you get someone on the phone, quickly tell them who you are, what organization you represent, about your issue, and why the proposed op-ed is timely or newsworthy. Then tell them you have an expert—yourself, the head of your organization or a well-known personality—who would like to get your side of the issue across to the media’s audience. Be prepared either to get rejected or to be asked to send the editorial immediately for consideration. Once one media outlet has agreed to look at it, do not send your op-ed to other outlets until your initial pitch is rejected or accepted.

Source: Centre for Reproductive Rights, Advocacy Guide, 2003.