Getting Op-Eds Placed for Nonprofit Thought Leadership

Copies of newspaper coming out of printing press

Positioning experts in your nonprofit as thought leaders is a valuable strategy for advancing your mission. Thought leaders bring awareness to issues related to your organization, increase your credibility, and drive action from your audience.

Publishing an op-ed allows your thought leader to speak directly to the public in their own words. By making a compelling argument or sharing a unique perspective, your thought leader can advocate your organization’s cause.

Getting an op-ed placed is not easy. The timing must be right and the piece itself must be unique and relevant. But getting that placement as part of your nonprofit’s communications strategy is a powerful way for your organization to enter important conversations and expand your audience. Here’s how media relations professionals increase the odds of securing placement:

  1. Pick the right outlet.
  2. Write an effective op-ed.
  3. Leverage your op-ed once published.
  4. Keep the momentum going.

1. Pick the right outlet.

Except in rare circumstances, media outlets will only publish exclusive op-eds. Therefore, you need to be selective and target specific outlets when you’re trying to get an op-ed placed.

Consider the outlets (print and digital) that are of greatest value to your target audience. Who are the people you want to reach with your op-ed? What are they reading?

Placement in top nationwide newspapers is competitive. The odds are stacked against anyone trying to get their op-ed into The New York Times or The Washington Post. Op-eds published in a nationwide newspaper need to address national concerns. However, regional publications can be just as (if not more) effective for your nonprofit to reach its goals. For example, if your nonprofit works directly within your community, then an op-ed with a local angle in a regional newspaper can resonate more strongly with your audience.

Once you pick an outlet, you’ll also need to review the op-eds they print. What do they have in common? This will help you get a sense of how your thought leader’s op-ed should be written. Additionally, each has a specific set of guidelines for submissions, such as word count and format. Review these carefully to ensure that your op-ed meets those guidelines.

2. Write an effective op-ed.

The op-ed needs to be relevant not only to the newspaper’s audience, but also to current issues. Depending on the topic, you may only have a brief window of a week or two to enter conversations on current news. For this reason, it’s helpful to lean on the expertise of staff in your organization; they can help anticipate when certain topics may become timely.

Op-eds that promote your organization or otherwise serve as marketing aren’t good candidates for placement. The value in thought leadership is authenticity and originality, not self-promotion. The opinion at hand, however, should align with your organization’s messaging and connect to your organization’s efforts. At JR Communications, we work closely with our partners to make sure that their messaging is incorporated into their op-eds. We want the op-ed to leave audiences with a clear takeaway, something to remember or act upon.

Ensure that your thought leader establishes their authority as well. What is their connection to the topic? Why do they have expertise? Show the audience why they should listen to your thought leader’s opinion. This furthers the op-ed’s ability to establish credibility for your thought leader and your organization.

3. Leverage your op-ed once published.

It’s a great success when your thought leader’s op-ed gets placed, but don’t stop once it’s published.

You can share the op-ed internally and externally by including the link to the digital version in social media posts and email newsletters. If your thought leader’s biography is posted on your website, consider citing the outlet there too. This builds your thought leader’s reputation and makes it more likely that they’ll be called on in the future by other media outlets.

4. Keep the momentum going.

Not all op-eds will be published. But by following this guidance, you’re more likely to have the opportunity for placement.

When an op-ed doesn’t get placed, you may be able to repurpose it. It could be a fit for your organization’s website, blog, social media, podcast, or brochures. Thought leaders can take advantage of these channels.

When you do get an op-ed published, it contributes to your organization’s brand, recognition, and messaging. Thought leaders are an important part of your nonprofit’s communications strategy. They can help audiences articulate their own views and connect your organization’s efforts to current issues. Through op-eds, audiences connect with your leaders, learn their point of view, and can be persuaded to take action.

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