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 local newspaper, magazine, blog, or community 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 is a good place 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 in a straightforward manner. 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 legislators, 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, take steps to get involved.
Before you get started on your own story, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- 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 introduction for that kind of piece might sound like this: “Many families in America struggle to afford early education programs for their children. Expanding access to Head Start and Early Head Start programs can help these families set their kids on a positive path.”
- A strong headline is concise, gives the readers a preview of what you’re going to say, and makes them curious enough to read your op-ed.
- When choosing an influential signer, try to identify someone who is well known in your community and credible on the topic, like a farmers’ market champion or ambassador, someone from the city, county or state Public Health department, a doctor, researcher, or politician, and 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 op-ed below.
Ex. Every Kid Deserves A Shot At Success
Ex. Janis Smith
It’s important to make your key points early and often so that your reader understands why this is meaningful for them.
All young children deserve to be healthy and have access to the best education regardless of income or geography. As a [PARENT or YOUR PERSONAL/PROFESSIONAL CONNECTION TO THE ISSUE], I am deeply saddened to know that families in our community do not have access to early education programs where they can send their children while they are at work or school. In order to support these families, we need our lawmakers to [ESTABLISH or GENERATE BETTER FUNDING FOR] Head Start and Early Head Start.
Where you can, be sure to include your state, town, county, or the specific community that you want to reach.
Head Start and Early Head Start are nationwide programs that aim to reach children during early brain development. By providing a safe and caring learning environment at a young age, kids develop the reading, communication and behavior skills to help them succeed in kindergarten and beyond. Currently, Head Start serves over one million children and their families each year. But thousands of families with low-incomes struggle to access these early development programs – whether it be due to overflowing classrooms or lack of student transportation. That’s why I want [TOWN or CITY or COUNTY or STATE] government officials to work to better support Head Start and Early Head Start programming for our community.
We need parents and other community members to come together to advocate for changes such as providing better transportation, improving facilities to accommodate more students and promoting increased participation. It’s also important that we work with Head Start providers across [TOWN or CITY or COUNTY or STATE] to bring their input directly to our government leaders.
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.
I believe that every child in [TOWN or CITY or COUNTY or STATE] deserves a chance to succeed in life. If you do too, visit [LINK] for more resources on Head Start and Early Head Start programs, and on how you can help make a difference.
Keep your op-ed to 500 words max so that your important points aren’t cut during the editing process.
Word Count: 299 words