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A matter of opinion

4 October 2016

News outlets prize good opinion pieces. They help create a specific tone and atmosphere for the publication or website, which in turn contributes to reader loyalty.

From the likes of Katie Hopkins and Rod Liddle, both well known for their outspoken commentary on current affairs, to political journalists giving their views on the latest developments from Westminster, to industry leaders giving their perspective on a particular business challenge, the media is littered with opinion.

The volume of opinion pieces has increased further since the advent of the internet and the demand for new content 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Editors are usually crying out for good opinion pieces and so there is a wealth of opportunity for charities to pitch suggestions. But what makes them good?

What you see is news, what you know is background, what you feel is opinion.
Lester Markel (1894-1977), American journalist

A good op-ed, as they are known in media circles, will feature many of the following qualities. Use this checklist to ensure your next op-ed hits the mark. 

1. Be very opinionated

Although being mild-mannered, tactful and diplomatic are superb qualities in some circumstances, they are not qualities journalists are looking for in an opinion piece. As with ‘what is news’ the clue is in the title. It’s an opinion piece. So be opinionated.

2. Be timely or early

If you can link your comment piece to something that has just happened or is about to happen then it is more likely to be published than a piece commenting on something that happened three weeks ago.

3. Demonstrate your expertise

Your experience within a particular field is what gives you the authority to have an opinion on it. So use it to your advantage.

4. Tell readers something they didn’t already know

As with news and indeed any kind of content, it’s vitally important that it adds something new and fresh. Otherwise it’s just boring and won’t be run. This means keeping your audience in mind at all times.

5. Be focused

Unlike news, which needs to feature the what, where, when, why and how, an op-ed tends just to focus on one of these questions – perhaps the why? Or the how? By doing so, the writer can use the op-ed to make a single point, providing unique insight, analysis and colour to an on-going debate.

This article is an extract from Effective media relations for charities: what journalists want and how to deliver it by Becky Slack. Find out more about the book here

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Becky Slack

founder and managing director, Slack Communications

Becky is the founder and managing director of Slack Communications. She is the former deputy editor of Charity Times, editor of Professional Fundraising and publishing editor of Charity Insight magazines. Becky is also a member of the Understanding Charities Group.