Write Your Own Op-Ed
One way you can take action for your campaign is to write or recruit an advocate to write an op-ed for your community or school newspaper, magazine, blog, or newsletter. Look for an advocate who is credible on the topic and well-known in your community to sign your op-ed, as they will likely draw in more readers for the publication. A recognized person in the community, a person with a strong personal story, or an expert in the issue area are good places to start.
An op-ed is a written opinion editorial published in a local, regional, or national media outlet. Sometimes it’s a personal, emotional story—other times the facts are presented straightforwardly. Many people like to read op-eds because community ideas are important and they can’t get those same opinions in objective journalism. When you write about your cause publicly, you’re spreading awareness to decision makers, journalists, and members of your community, giving them the chance to learn more about the issue, form their own opinions about your cause, and, ideally, move them to take steps to get involved.
Before you get started on your own story, here are a few things to keep in mind as you begin to write:
- Your op-ed can be either emotional or rational. It all depends on the story you want to tell. The sample emotional op-ed below is an example of a soft-sell. It encourages readers to care about what the author cares about and uses personal touches to emphasize why this is important to the signer. A hard-sell op-ed presses the urgency of the issue and uses words like, “can’t,” “refuse,” “never,” and “now.”
- A rational introduction often includes statistics and logical explanations for why your issue is important. An example sentence for that kind of piece might sound like this: “Over 70% of people are concerned about their food choices. If [STATE OR LOCALITY] does not change its food and beverage options, we will see a decrease in use of these public spaces and money spent to support a community.”
- A strong headline is concise, gives the readers a preview of what you’re going to say, and also makes them curious enough to read it.
- You can also choose an influential signer, someone who is well known in your community and credible on the topic, like a doctor, researcher, or politician, who can help you gain attention or earn a placement in a high-profile publication. Make sure to include the signer’s contact information—name, title, organization (if needed), e-mail, and phone number—in case the editors want to contact you/the signer.
Do you think your community is ready to learn more in an op-ed? Let’s get started by breaking down the sample emotional op-ed below.
Ex: We want choices—and healthy ones!
Ex: Dave Williams
It’s important to make your key points early and often so that your reader understands why this is meaningful for them.
My family recently visited [SPECIFIC STATE PARK]. We explored, hiked, and took fun photos. After a morning of adventure, the kids were ready for a snack. We swung by the visitor’s center, and I was immediately disappointed with the lack of options that would work for my family.
Unfortunately, the snack options at the park don’t align with the healthy eating we talk about and demonstrate for our kids both at home and in school. Once again, my “choice” for what to feed my children was between several unhealthy options.
Where you can, be sure to include your state, town, county, or the specific community that you want to reach.
While I teach them about the importance of healthy eating, my kids are routinely choosing from an array of unhealthy snacks when visiting our state parks, museums, and recreation centers. Millions of children and their families visit these public spaces every year, and their snack options don’t allow them to make healthy choices. As a parent, I want to be sure I have the opportunity to model the healthy decisions I talk to my children about when we’re doing these kinds of activities as a family.
This issue impacts more than just [STATE] children. Studies show hat adults tend to eat what’s readily available. Providing healthy options in our vending machines and visitor centers gives us the opportunity to choose something good for our health. Having healthy options will help improve the health of all [STATE] residents and decrease the risk of heart disease and diabetes in our communities.
I’m concerned because I talk to my kids about the importance of making healthy choices, but the often unhealthy environments around them mean that many times the healthy choice isn’t even an option. I’m worried that we’re setting our kids up for failure.
As I started researching what could be done, I realized I’m not the only one who wants a change in [STATE]. More people are looking for healthy food options, and many businesses are taking steps to meet the demand. Restaurants to supermarkets to food producers, are providing more healthy options to their customers. Vendors on [STATE] property should too.
So what can we do? I believe it’s our responsibility to show the need and desire for healthier options in our public spaces. We must Restock our Future™, showing [STATE] that healthy options are the right choice for public health, disease prevention, consumer demand, and our children and families.
Remember to include a link at the end of your piece so that your readers know how to join your movement or create a campaign of their own.
For next steps and to learn more, check out [LINK TO ACTION].
Keep your op-ed to 500 words max so that your important points aren’t cut during the editing process.
Word Count: 457 Words