Five Tips for Writing and Pitching Op-eds

By David Loewenberg, Associate Director

At Hatcher, we regularly work with mission-driven organizations eager to expand their media footprint. One way to do that is through an op-ed. A strong op-ed can bring attention to an overlooked issue, build support for a cause, and establish the author or organization as a thought leader in their field. But writing and placing an op-ed is easier said than done. Op-ed editors are barraged with drafts and pitches every day, so how can you make yours stand out?

Five strategic tips to writing and placing an op-ed:

  1. Read op-eds: This is a basic but often overlooked part of writing a strong op-ed. As a regular reader of op-eds, you’ll gain a much better understanding of what’s being published in your target outlets and what is not. You’ll start to notice patterns in style and substance that will help you draft and pitch op-eds that have a good chance of placement.
  2. Make an argument: What distinguishes an op-ed from a blog, ad, or essay is that it makes an argument. Ask yourself: What’s the main point I want readers to know? Define it clearly and early in your op-ed. Typically, the best arguments are those that offer a new perspective or challenge conventional wisdom.
  3. Take a step back: Keep in mind that most people are not as familiar with the issue you’re writing about as you are. Take a step back and put yourself in the shoes of the average reader for your target outlet. Why should they care about this issue? Don’t assume that your argument is self-evident. Clearly state your main points and connect the dots for the reader.
  4. Timing is everything: Why should people care about your op-ed now? Most, though not all, op-eds are timely. They connect to something that has occurred recently or is currently in the news. Remember that the news cycle changes quickly, and op-eds are often published within just a few days of a news event happening. If you know ahead of time that a news event is happening, such as the release of the monthly jobs report, prewrite your op-ed and have it ready to revise and pitch quickly.
  5. Consider the messenger: One way to make your op-ed stand out is to write about an issue from a new or unique perspective. For example, if you’re writing about an education issue, an op-ed from a student or educator may be more impactful and interesting than one by a CEO or researcher. If you’re helping someone write an op-ed about their experiences, the final product should feel true and authentic to their perspective.

Importantly, be prepared for refusal. Although you’ve dedicated time and research to write and perfect your op-ed, keep in mind that news outlets receive an overwhelming number of op-ed submissions. Most will have an automated response indicating their timing for review and potential response. You’re likely to hear “no” more than “yes.” However, don’t let this discourage you. As with anything, writing op-eds takes time and practice. But with the right argument, timing, and perspective, op-eds can become an important and reliable part of your overall media strategy.