Persuasive communication is the first principle of public relations (PR) and opinion editorials (op-eds), with their abilities to shape public opinion and drive discourse, serve as an invaluable tool for PR professionals. These opinion pieces are often written by experts or influential figures to offer insightful commentary on current affairs, industry trends, or societal issues. Writing an effective op-ed not only demands an understanding of the target audience, but a way to convey your message to a broad audience. When done effectively, op-eds allow PR practitioners to foster engagement and build credibility.

What Are Op-Eds?

According to this instruction article by the communications program at Harvard Kennedy School, an op-ed is a opinion piece that “derives its name from originally having appeared opposite the editorial page in a newspaper.” However, op-eds have since evolved to more widely represent a strong, informed, and focused opinion that covers issues that are relevant to a target audience. They are typically short pieces that are “between 750-800 words, have clearly defined points and points of view, represent clear thinking, and contain the strong and unique voice of the writer.”

While op-eds might sound similar to letters to an editor, the difference is that the former are authored by guest writers with the intention of informing and persuading the audience, whereas the latter are written by readers who are directly responding to previously published content. Op-eds are also often longer in length and offer analysis or commentary on a topic. By contrast, this article by Columbia Climate School explains that letters to an editor are usually 100 to 150 words and can be written by almost anyone, but they further explain that having credentials does boost the chances of the letter being published.

In PR, op-eds serve as an opportunity to gain exposure. As this blog by states, PR professionals can “leverage the opinions of top executives to heighten the visibility of their respective organizations by getting them to write op-ed pieces for newspapers.” Further, PR professionals can position their clients as thought leaders in their respective industries, and op-eds allow clients to showcase their depth of knowledge, experience, and perspectives on relevant topics. In expressing their viewpoints, clients can also advocate for specific policies or initiatives and sway public opinion.

How to Write and Pitch an Op-Ed

When writing an op-ed, start with the topic and theme. The Harvard instructions recommend stating your topic and focusing on “the person, place, issue, incident, or thing that is the primary focus of the column.” As for the theme, the piece elaborates that this is where the larger, overarching idea of the column comes into play. This is where you state your point, explain why it’s important. The theme can appear early in the piece or appear later, when it might allow you to delve into a deeper argument.

The post by provides more specific tips for writing a successful op-ed. To name a few of the main points, it suggests checking your local newspaper’s website to learn about their policies, engage with a subject that is currently receiving coverage, focus on a single issue or idea, take a strong stance, use language that a broad audience can understand, state your conclusion in the beginning and support with evidence from authorities of the field, and include a short bio with your contact information at the end of the piece, preferably with a head and shoulders photo. There are many other points in the post that I highly recommend reading, as they further strengthen an opinion piece.

Pitching your op-ed is the next step, and this article by OnePitch gives five succinct steps on how to do it. The first step is similar to the piece, as it says to research the op-ed guidelines and coverage. However, it gets more specific by stating that you should “research who to send pitches to, how the publication handles submissions, and what elements need to be included in your pitch.” Next, build relationships with editors to collect information on upcoming subjects, find out if the publication is interested in your topic, and to gain insights on the publication’s unique guidelines. From there, you can create an outline or write a full draft before pitching to give the editors a sense of where your piece is going, provide the who/why/how upfront in the pitch. Be patient and follow up if the editors have not gotten back to you within seven business days.

Lastly, if your submission is not accepted, work with your client to find the next-best publication for the piece. For an in-depth analysis on three effective op-eds that also teaches you how to reverse engineer opinion pieces, this article by Rice Speechwriting is great.


Opinion editorials (op-eds) are powerful instruments in the realm of public relations and serve to shape opinions and drive discourse. These pieces, authored by experts or influential figures within a given field, offer insightful commentary on pertinent issues and can be leveraged by PR professionals to increase their clients’ exposure and credibility. However, doing some groundwork is a must. Research potential publications, build relationships with the editors, stick to the guidelines they provide, be ready to give a detailed outline or first draft, and try to find at least one next-best publication in the event your submission is rejected. In following these steps, PR practitioners can amplify their clients’ voices, advocate meaningful change, and contribute to shaping public discourse in a profound manner.

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