How to write and place a great opinion piece.

Be honest now. How many of the zillions of opinion pieces that are published in the business media ad nauseam do you actually read? Not many, would be my guess.

One of the problems is that most of them are insufferably dull, both in terms of subject and style; and probably the only people who read some of the worst are the by-lined author, their spouses and the PR wordsmith who hacked the thing together in the first place.

Do opinion pieces actually have any real PR value at all?

The simple answer is that, in the right hands, they can and they should be effective.

Here is the Aspectus PR guide to successful opinion pieces.

Step One

Recognise at the outset that it’s much easier to place an opinion article somewhere in the media than it is to write a good one. The media like them – they are easy space fillers – and don’t always apply much rigorous judgement about their quality. But, as we’ve established, there’s little PR value in a tedious piece that nobody reads.

So start with a sound, original idea for your article. Give it a really good kick around to get it into shape before you even plan out the piece and apply some important tests. Is it going to impress your target audience? Is it going to make them want to engage with you and your company? Is it going to enhance the named author’s reputation? Is it consistent with the client’s overall message strategy?

Keep in mind that a good article should have many different applications, not just as a media piece. It should be adaptable and the basic argument or idea good enough to work as a blog, an outbound email, a Twitter post or even a text. It’s the idea that matters; the article is just one vehicle among many for getting it out there.

Step two

Let the writer do their job. A good article needs a good writer, someone who knows how people read and absorb information. The ‘author’, under whose name the piece is going to be published, should focus on the message for the piece and not get involved in the editorial process. So many opinion pieces fail because the copy is ‘improved’ by the client.

The writer understands the dynamics of a good piece: how to make it flow, how to make it easy to read and compelling. No opinion piece should be much longer than about 1,250 words and they can be a lot shorter. We have produced some cracking articles of just 500 or 600 words. Never let the piece be longer than it needs to be.

Don’t forget to optimise the copy. Get plenty of your search target keywords into the copy. This will help your client’s Google performance and drive people to their website.

Step three

Aim to place the piece in the best, most appropriate media. Sometimes, it can be very tough going to get a piece into exactly the right media. But it is better to aim high with the article, perhaps taking a bit more time to place it than might be ideal, than to take the easy way out and dump it in some low grade trade mag that publishes more or less anything.

Good opinion pieces are often republished many times over and can have a direct impact on brand recognition and lead generation. Indifferent ones are simply not worth the effort.

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