Comment pieces, or ‘op-eds’ as they are often called, are a prestigious way to get your name or brand mentioned in the press. As a journalist I regularly receive pitches from PRs or entrepreneurs offering their view or their client’s view on something topical. But more often than not I delete them.
Why? Because they don’t follow the rules below. Here are four essential elements to pitching a comment piece.
1. You have to be opinionated.
Sitting on the fence won’t work for the mainstream media. This is where comms and journalism clash. Editors want polarised views because that’s what gets a discussion going (and what gets clicks). Corporate comms teams are hell bent about being ‘on message’ and the result is bland statements. That won’t cut it.
This applies in broadcast too. I regularly take part in topical debates for ITV Good Morning Britain. Before I’m invited on, a producer will call me to sound me out on my views. They don’t want a balanced view of both sides. They want a clear for or against. So ask yourself or your client, if they are prepared to stick their neck out before pitching.
2. Make it topical
Comment pieces are almost always pegged to a news story so you have to widen your expertise. If you or your client is an expert on fintech, for example, you need to monitor the press daily for any story related in any way to banking technology or consumer finance trends. Whenever something big happens (like banks announce high street closures), you need to pitch now, now, now because tomorrow it won’t be a story any more.
3. Target your pitch
With comment pieces it is you (or your client) who will be writing it, not the journalist. Therefore you need to pitch to someone in a commissioning role, not a journalist. As a freelancer, I have to pitch my own ideas. Yet you would be surprised by how many pitches I get from PRs suggesting their client’s opinion piece ‘just in case you are running a piece on XXXX’. Where exactly would I be running that then?
4. The writer needs authority
The point of a comment piece is to represent a unique voice that can’t be told by a journalist. So an editor wants CEO’s or company founders. A press officer or ‘spokesperson’ is not enough. If you are trying to raise the profile of an individual or entrepreneur then qualify why they are in a position to have a noteworthy view. Have they written a book on the topic example?
Nine Media Training run bespoke in-house training courses for professionals in PR, marketing and comms. We are team of media experts all working in journalism and PR so we specialise in giving the inside track on how the media works, leading to more successful pitching.