Op-Eds Still Alive and Well in the Digital Era Want to say something on behalf of the professions or patients? Consider this tried-and-true approach. Spreading the Word
Spreading the Word  |   August 01, 2016
Op-Eds Still Alive and Well in the Digital Era
Author Notes
  • Francine Pierson is an ASHA public relations manager. fpierson@asha.org
    Francine Pierson is an ASHA public relations manager. fpierson@asha.org×
Article Information
Professional Issues & Training / Spreading the Word
Spreading the Word   |   August 01, 2016
Op-Eds Still Alive and Well in the Digital Era
The ASHA Leader, August 2016, Vol. 21, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.STW.21082016.np
The ASHA Leader, August 2016, Vol. 21, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.STW.21082016.np
Even in the digital era, the op-ed is still king.
A lynchpin of the modern newspaper, the op-ed has proven to be a force with the rise of social media. Op-eds can and frequently go viral, making them a valuable vehicle to express an opinion and advance an agenda.
ASHA and its members maximized op-ed opportunities for various purposes last year. Below, you can read just a few examples:
Babies don’t need smartphones: This message was part of a large-scale effort by ASHA to educate the public about the importance of verbal interaction and safe listening in the age of technology. This piece benefitted from a catchy headline and from being a widely relatable topic: finding a healthy balance of device use for ourselves and our children. It enjoyed a tremendous reach thanks to its original publication in USA Today, America’s most popular newspaper. However, its digital footprint grew even larger. In fact, at the time of its publication, it reached the biggest audience of any post in the history of ASHA’s social media presence. ASHA timed the op-ed to occur during Better Hearing & Speech Month for maximum impact.
CenturyLink’s roar may cause more than just ringing in your ears: ASHA member Nancy Alarcon took to her local paper, The Seattle Times, to raise the issue of stadium noise in what’s known as one of the—if not the—noisiest stadiums in the country. Alarcon balanced a tricky task gracefully: generating awareness and appreciation for a health threat without being seen as dampening the enthusiasm of an entire city, especially during the thick of football season. The piece generated lots of chatter and even spurred a follow-up broadcast television piece.
Don’t cut corners on veterans’ hearing care: This piece by Neil DiSarno, ASHA chief staff officer for audiology, was published in Roll Call—a specialty publication with tremendous reach and influence among legislators and their staff on Capitol Hill. It advocates for the role of audiologists as a counterpoint to recently introduced legislation threatening their role in treating veterans by allowing technicians to serve in this capacity. Employing an op-ed to argue for or against a piece of pending legislation remains one of the most valuable uses for this type of media.
When writing an op-ed, consider these tips:
Localize national news. Looking for something to write about? One effective approach involves taking national news and putting it in local context. For example, new research on communication disorders, news on incidence rates of disorders, and best job lists/career rankings all make good topics. When possible, provide local statistics or quantify the impact on the community in some way.
Check the guidelines. You can craft the most well-articulated piece, but if you don’t meet the news outlet’s requirements—word limits, proper author information, the outlet’s specific audience—your submission might not even get considered. Make sure you check the requirements, which you can usually find on most media websites. Look for submission or writing requirements.
Strategize your timing. There are good and bad times to try to place an op-ed. Take advantage of the timing if a topic that interests you shows up in the news or if a related piece of legislation is introduced or discussed. If you write on an evergreen subject—meaning, it’s topical anytime—consider submitting it during a slower news cycle. For instance, many news outlets look for additional content during summer months. However, avoid the weeks or months leading up to an election, when editorial pages get flooded with articles and your submission might compete with those from well-known public figures.
Forcefully argue a specific opinion. An op-ed is not the place to take both sides on an issue. You should present a clear opinion, with facts to back it up.
Focus on a few key points. You’re passionate about your topic, so you probably want to say—or write—a lot about it. However, op-eds call for economy. Select the most important one or two points as your focus and elaborate on those. This approach makes a piece stronger.
Use anecdotes when possible, but be mindful of privacy. Patient stories are compelling and a great way to evoke emotion in readers—part of what makes op-eds so interesting. Of course, keep your patients’ privacy paramount.
Include a call to action. What do you want people to do after reading your op-ed? Make sure you include this key piece of information.
If your op-ed gets published, make the most of it! Share it on your social media accounts, your website (if you have one), and in professional circles. And you can use your published piece to leverage advocacy.
Questions? Email pr@asha.org.
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August 2016
Volume 21, Issue 8