An Integrated Strategy
The Office of Communications is dedicated to an integrated media relations and social media strategy, with a particular focus on raising the profile of our scholars and researchers. Since implementing this strategy in 2019, we have had a significant increase in earned media coverage of scholarship and research and faculty commentary in top-tier outlets. These media opportunities spark engagement and propel visibility for our experts and the Law School.
Additionally, current events locally, nationally, and around the world invite insight into many complex issues. If you are interested in writing an op-ed, we would be glad to assist you in that process, from advising on outreach to editing and placement.
If you have ideas, please contact us at email@example.com.
- 750-1,000 words are ideal. Keep your sentences short and your paragraphs tight.
Each publication is different in terms of what they will and will not accept length-wise:
- The Washington Post will not review anything longer than 750 words
- The New York Times will accept pieces that are a little longer.
Make your argument strong and make it early.
- Present your argument in the first two to three paragraphs of your piece.
- Spend the rest of the piece defending it.
Tie-in to the news cycle.
- Arguing/presenting a clear and connected opinion about a news event = a good shot of being published.
Look for gaps in coverage and write about it.
- Many times op-eds are rejected because the same argument – or a similar one – has already been made by someone else.
- The pieces most likely to be printed make a strong, original and affirmative claim about a timely, relevant topic that nobody else is making.
Know your audience.
- The average newspaper is written at the 5th grade level and the average reader is not a lawyer.
- Pieces that are too technical, contain a lot of jargon and/or acronyms or too much legalese will not be accepted.
- Write in layman’s terms, make sure your piece is easy to understand and contains broad appeal. You are writing for the masses, not a niche audience.
Write confidently with your expert status in mind.
- Delete words like “apparently,” “understandable” or “indeed.”
Limit the number of authors.
- Articles should preferably have one byline, two at most.
Do not write as if it’s a newspaper column.
- While you should lead with the most important points – you are seeking to make an argument and inform the reader, you are not stating and writing about the news.
Provide concrete support points.
- The two best ways to do this are with stats from a reputable source (provide links) and testimony from qualified experts.
Include personal experience.
- If you have had a personal experience that sheds light on the news – then use it and write about it. That helps create the unique perspective mentioned above.
End on a strong note.
- The best op-eds have strong and well-written last lines.
Timing is everything.
- Op-eds can be written and submitted throughout the week, but we must allow time for review. For example, submitting an op-ed on a Friday and expecting a quick turnaround is not realistic.
- Most publications request 1-3 business days for review. If we haven’t heard back within that timeframe, it’s safe to assume we can shop the piece elsewhere.
The Inverted Pyramid
- Start with the big picture
- Drill down into the issue
- What are the proof points, supporting messages, and differentiators?
Take the Interview Where YOU Want
- If necessary, block first (avoiding unwelcome or unproductive questions)
- Think about how politicians approach a briefing… bring the questions back to the answer you want to give
- Be proactive and take control of the interview
Bridging: Getting to Where You Want to GoFind the issue encompassing the question and then use a smooth segue:
- “What’s even more interesting…”
- “What’s really important about this…”
- “That may be true, but here’s something to think about…”
- “Actually, it’s just the opposite…”
- “That speaks to a bigger point which is…”
- “Another way of thinking about this is…”
- “I think the real question is…”
- “When you look at the whole story…”
4 Steps to an Effective Answer
- Find the issue encompassing the question
- Bridge to a specific, positive message
- Add bonus information
- Stop – Many people get tripped up here, especially with print phone interviews because the reporter sometimes is silent while taking notes or figuring out what the next question should be. If you’ve answered the question, don’t feel the need to fill in the silence and just stop talking
General Dos & Don’ts
- Use punchy, concise statements; put the most important point upfront
- Say (more so to print media): “I’ll get back to you on that” if it’s information you are unsure of
- Correct inaccuracies that are grossly wrong
- Bring the conversation back to your agenda (bridging)
- Speak clearly and steadily
- Pause frequently and engage with the reporter
- Use signifiers (i.e., “This is important…” “Here are three reasons why…”)
- Tell a reporter, “Well, I think…” if you are unsure. If it’s print, you can always follow up once you’ve had a chance to figure it out. If it’s a live Zoom or radio, then bridge the answer you want to give
- Never say, “Don’t quote me on this, but…” or “Off the record…” You are never off the record and anything you say can and will be used in the finished piece.
- Never say, “No comment” – many readers will assign guilt to a statement like that. It’s better to bridge back to the message you want to give using the blocking and bridging techniques outlined above.