The term “op-ed” comes from “opposite the editorials,” because the op-ed pieces are placed on the page opposite the editorials in the newspaper. Op-ed articles are opinion articles about current issues that are written by people outside the newspaper staff. They are not editorials or news articles, both of which are written by a member of the newspaper staff. They differ from letters to the editor partly due to their length, but also because the author is typically considered somewhat of an expert in the subject. Op-eds also follow a specific format, whereas the only rule regulating letters is the length.

Op-ed articles offer organizations the opportunity to present their opinions on an issue to a wide readership. While an op-ed serves essentially the same purpose as an editorial written by a staff reporter, it is almost more personal since it is coming directly from an organization separate from the newspaper.

Here are some tips to help you write your op-ed:

  • Start strong
    • Start your op-ed with an attention-grabbing sentence that will make the newspaper want to publish the article and make the readers want to read it.
  • Pick a point and prove it
    • Even though op-eds are longer than letters to the editor, you still have limited space. Maintain one point throughout the entire piece, proving it again and again with supporting facts and evidence.
  • Consider the byline (the author).
    • An op-ed is often chosen on the basis of who wrote it, so it may be the in the best interest of your organization if the president or some one else in a leadership position “signs” the op-ed, rather than the media relations person who actually wrote it. Of course, whoever is listed in the byline must give permission and must understand and agree with the points made.
  • Include a “bio line” at the end.
    • This should be a short sentence that briefly explains who is listed in the byline and why they’re important. Similar to the byline, this should impress both the newspaper and the reader with some level of prestige.



   

Letters to the editor are a way of publicly voicing your opinion on a highly important issue. They are very useful in shaping public opinion or informing the public on an issue. Letters to the editor reach a very wide audience and are among the most widely read features.

Similar to editorials and op-ed articles, an organization can utilize this tool to discuss their issue with a large audience. Letters to the editor can also be in response to a previous editorial, whether a positive review or a dissent.

The best way to send a letter to the editor is actually not through the post office, but rather through an email. Emails are much faster than postal letters, and it’s much easier for the newspaper’s staff to transfer the letter to the publication’s layout than it is to type it into their computer. In addition, many news organizations now allow you to submit letters through a web from on their websites.

Here are some tips to help you write your letter: 

  • Open with a salutation: “To the Editor:” or “To the Editor of [newspaper name here]:”
  • Grab the reader’s attention with your opening sentence.
  • State your opinion clearly
  • Keep it short. Letters should be between 100 and 300 words. Some newspapers have stated policies regarding length, so check the editorial page or call the newspaper to ask.
  • Include a call to action. Letters to the editor are not an opportunity to whine and complain, but rather to rally your readers to act – whether through voting or volunteering or other acts.
  • Sign the letter with your full name and your title, if it’s relevant. Letters can also be signed by more than one person. Include all pertinent contact information, such as e-mail address and phone number. Newspapers only print anonymous letters and articles under extremely special circumstances.

The likelihood of your letter being printed depends largely on the size and popularity of the newspaper receiving the letter. Larger newspapers receive more letters than smaller newspapers, and therefore have to be more selective. Your letter has a better chance of being printed if it is well written, concise and articulate. Libelous statements will not be printed. Libel is the publication of a false statement about some one that damages his or her reputation. If your letter is not printed the first time, revise it and try again.

 

   

An email blast is a quick and inexpensive way to communicate with members. It is much faster and cheaper than other, more traditional forms of communication, such as telecommunication and direct mail. Furthermore, links in the email will drive traffic to your website.

Before writing and sending an email blast, take a moment to consider what you want to communicate to your subscribers.  Take the time to write engaging content that is relevant to your readers, while keeping your message succinct. The purpose of email blasts is to build a relationship with your subscribers, so avoid sending them sloppy and disorganized emails.

The subject title of your email should be pertinent to the content in the body, but also intriguing and exciting enough to entice the reader to open the email. Embed links in the body of the email to push readers to your website for more information. Include a call-to-action for your readers: tell them how they can continue to follow the news or how they can help with an issue.

As you're preparing your email blasts, you need to be aware of spam, which is irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the Internet to a large number of recipients. Email spam, or junk email, is a subset of this that involves sending emails with links that send users to fraudulent websites. Essentially, every email a user did not ask for is considered spam.

You need to be aware of spam for two reasons:

First, you or your organization can be held liable for spam if the rules aren’t properly followed. The federal CAN-SPAM law was created to eradicate illegitimate email practices that threaten the growth of the Internet marketplace. It gives people the right to block emails from organizations and inflicts penalties against those organizations. Avoid getting sued for spam by only sending email blasts to people who have signed up to receive them.

Check out this website for more information: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/business/ecommerce/bus61.shtm

The second reason why you need to be aware of spam is because sometimes Internet Service Providers (ISPs) mark non-malicious emails as spam. They have filters searching for certain criteria, and if your email blast meets such criteria, it will be sent directly to subscribers’ spam boxes. There aren’t any legal ramifications, but your readers won’t be getting the information they asked for. 

Here are some tips to avoid getting marked as spam:

  • Include a way for subscribers to unsubscribe.
  • Don’t use false/misleading header information
    • From: To: Reply-To: and routing information must all be accurate and legitimate
    • Don’t write deceptive subject lines
    • Include an opt-out option and honor those requests
    • Avoid excessive exclamation points (Look at this!!!!!!!!!)
    • Avoid all caps (HEY THERE, EVERYBODY)

There are a few different ways you can build your subscriber base.

  1. Send individual email invitations to people you think may be interested asking them to sign up.
  2. Set out an email blast sign-up sheet at any meetings or conventions.
  3. Have a prominent place on your website where people can enter concise information to sign up for emails.

Establish a communication schedule, perhaps on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis. This will allow you to be prepared for an email blast, giving you enough time to plan out what you’re going to write without feeling rushed.


Is there an easy way to manage all of this information?

Email marketing software helps you manage a database of your email subscribers and includes a platform in which you can compose email blasts. Here are a few to start with:

  • MailChimp.com
  • CampaignMonitor.com
  • ConstantContant.com
  • EmailBrain.com
  • Salsalabs.com




   

While completing my first internship here at Tricom, my fellow interns and I had the pleasure of attending a writing workshop with an extremely talented and successful copy-editor. Above everything else, the workshop confirmed for me that academic writing is significantly different from professional writing.

The writing style that is taught in schools is extremely different from the style that it is expected of writers in the professional world. Whether we care to admit it students tend to write lengthy, exaggerated and overly descriptive pieces in an attempt to meet a page or word requirement, or to sound excessively poetic.

I’m quickly learning that fluff doesn’t fly in the professional world. In professional public relations writing, the goal is often to make a concise and understandable point. While more descriptive writing is not always unacceptable in all professional settings, more often than not, short, sweet and to the point is the way to go.


Succinct writing is actually a lot harder than it sounds. Here are some tips that I’ve used to help make the writing transition:


1) Decide what you want to write before you start writing.


2) Avoid complex phrasing.


3) Stick to one idea per paragraph.


4) Eliminate helping verbs. Focus on conveying your message with active verbs.


5) Eliminate the use of “that.” “That” is a fluff word.


6) Be descriptive, but don’t go overboard. Overuse of adjectives constitutes fluff, too.


Surprisingly, the transition is not that easy to make. In school, you become accustomed to a certain writing style and it can be difficult to break the bad habits. Try to catch yourself in the act of “fluffing your work,” and eventually you’ll be able to develop a new and improved style of writing. For more information about professional writing, visit: http://hbr.org/web/management-tip/tips-on-writing

   

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