How to Craft A Byline Op-ed
Writing any article meant to show someone else’s byline requires an understanding of the person’s viewpoint and any slant they prefer for the piece. If this is not the first article you’ve written for the author, you’ll know some information already. But here are some tips and tricks to submit the best job you can with the information given:
Pay attention to the information sent from the PR client. If there’s a title or link(s) to article(s), those bits of information tell a lot. Any additional comments from the client also provide insights to the slant of the article. If the PR client is conservative running a successful PR practice, the approach should not be negative about PR, nor should it be aggressively liberal in viewpoint. If the title provided seems snarky, that’s a clue to include some sarcasm side in the piece. If you receive link(s), that’s the topic for of your article.
Never forget the PR in the mix. Many times articles provided as links don’t mention PR efforts or firms, so adding the PR element takes some thought. Look for ideas on what could improve the presentation of the message discussed in the article, or how a PR firm might successfully navigate a situation. Ask what went wrong and what lessons come to mind. But, tie it to the PR side of life.
Making it professional doesn’t mean boring. Add some humor whenever possible, and make the language flow from one sentence and paragraph to the next. Pun if you see the opportunity. The old newspaper trick of writing at an 8th-grade comprehension still makes sense. Once written, don’t edit for everything in one fell swoop. Instead, run a spell check, then read it out loud to yourself, making corrections as you go, then run a grammar check, and finally run a check for plagiarism issues.
Specific things to check when reading out loud.
- Cut the fluff stuff. What is the direct point being made? Say it with the fewest words possible without making the text choppy.
- Get rid of passive verbs by writing sentences in active format most of the time.
- Ditch some of the clarifying words – test them to see if they add to the context or muddy the meaning.
Know the timetable. Some articles come with a “rush” implied. Op-eds usually allow more time, but the client knows what they want, meet their timetable or let them know what you can do coming as close as possible.
Many of the above ideas should help keep you on track without infringing on the client’s time.