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, community, or school 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 straightforward. 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 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: “Many people in America struggle to stay healthy. Safe walking and biking paths can set healthy habits, helping to decrease obesity.”
  • 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, 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 emotional op-ed below.

Headline

Ex. We want streets built to share!

Author’s Name

Ex. Sharon Brown

It’s important to make your key points early and often so that your reader understands why this is meaningful for them.

When I was a kid, streets were the great connectors of our town. They brought neighbors together on their evening strolls after work. Kids could bike to each other’s houses after school. And I vividly remember walking with my father and sister to soccer practice.

As I look around [TOWN], where I am raising my children, I can’t help but feel that times have changed—and not necessarily for the better. Sure, we parents still take our kids to soccer practice, but these days, most of us don’t walk, we drive. It’s not just that it feels easier to drive; it’s that it is actually safer, too. Those walks to soccer practice I remember, the evening strolls and bike rides after school; they are all things of the past. You see, the streets in our town simply aren’t built for anything but driving.

If I want to raise my children in the same type of livable neighborhood that I thrived in as a child, an environment where they can choose healthy transportation options without sacrificing safety, things need to start changing around here. We need bike lanes, sidewalks, and crosswalks that give all of us the opportunity to get out of the house and connect with our neighbors. Of course, that’s not the only benefit. Making these changes to our streets makes living healthfully a lot easier, and a lot safer, for everyone. Plus, I know that my kids will do better in school if they have the time and space to be physically active each day. As a parent trying to raise healthy children, that’s something I can really get behind—and I am sure I’m not the only one.

I know this change is possible because I’ve seen it in other towns. Their streets are lined with bike lanes and walking paths. People bike to their offices each day, and parents bike and walk with their children on the way to school. When towns thrive like this, it’s a beautiful sight to see. I’ve heard that these types of streets are called “complete streets.” I like the sound of that.

Complete streets policies that require developers to build bike lanes, sidewalks, and crosswalks into their plans can go a long way to support the safety of all travelers and the healthy living of our entire town.

Where you can, be sure to include your state, town, county, or the specific community that you want to reach.

I want that for [TOWN]—and look to our local leaders to make complete streets a reality. But they need to know how many of their neighbors and fellow citizens share the desire to build a neighborhood that inspires healthy living.

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.

There are tons of great resources and ways you can be involved with this effort. Visit [LINK] to learn more. And please tell our local leaders to help promote complete streets and—ultimately— completely healthy options for all of us in [TOWN].

Keep your op-ed to 500 words max so that your important points aren’t cut during the editing process.

Word Count: 471 Words