By Kevin Sullivan
In any communications setting, focusing on what matters most to your audience is always a good idea. This includes written commentary submissions to print and online media outlets. In a Harvard Business Review piece on the impact of ideas, Arthur Brooks wrote, “Editorial staffers ruthlessly reject everything except what they believe readers most need and want.”
The former president of the American Enterprise Institute also pointed out that major national publications receive 1,000 unsolicited op-ed submissions per week. Getting published is a key step on the road to becoming recognized as an influencer, and in a crowded marketplace, there are a few keys to getting your column posted.
An editorial page editor for a major daily news outlet recently shared specific guidance on what makes for an appealing op-ed, starting with “a fresh point of view that I haven’t read anywhere else.” In other words, your take should advance the conversation. Your column will make readers think differently about the issue.
The editor agreed with Brooks that submissions should address “a topic our readers are interested in," while also urging would-be op-ed contributors to support their assertions with facts and “fresh research.”
Timing is another important consideration. To get published, a submission must land during the window in time that readers are focused on and concerned about the issue. Unless you have a compelling reason to revive a topic, being late to the conversation most likely spells rejection.
The formula to increase your chances of getting published is straightforward:
• Focus on what matters most to the audience
• Advance the conversation with a new idea or fresh point of view.
• Back up your assertions with facts and data.
• Propose a solution or deliver a call to action.
Remember, an op-ed is not a policy memo or briefing paper. The point is to share an idea that could provoke positive action. Beginning the writing process with an outline that follows this formula may help you draft a commentary piece that not only gets posted, but that could change the world.