Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Op-Ed Advocacy

One effective way to spread an advocacy message is through submitting an op-ed. Op-ed is short for opposite the editorial page.
Trivia: Most people call them opinion editorials, but editorials are - by definition - opinion pieces.
There are lots of ways to put together an editorial. I like the structure of rubrics, so my preferred method is Monroe's Motivated Sequence or MMS for short. This method can be used for speeches, letters to the editor, op-eds - basically anything persuasive.
  1. Get attention. Also known as the hook, this first part is supposed to grab the reader. Studies show that stories (of any kind) are the best hooks. Make it personal and relevant for bonus points.
  2. Establish Need. What is the problem? Why are you trying to convince the other person to do, support, or think something? This is the reason why you are writing the op-ed.
  3. Provide a Solution. You told us what the problem was, now tell us how to fix it. What would make the situation better?
  4. Vision of the Future. What does the future look like when your solution has been implemented? Use figurative language (but don't get too flowery), and really drive the point home in this section.
  5. Call to Action. Tell people what you want them to do. This is your take-away message and your closing statement. Finish with a bang.
General writing tips:
  • Avoid double negatives
  • Never have more than one rhetorical question
  • Use the reading level setting in your word processor. If it's greater than a 10th grade reading level, simplify.
  • Stick to the specified word count. The paper you'll be submitting to probably has some rules about submissions. If you want to see it in print, follow the rules.
Three good examples of advocacy editorials in support of the NIH funding in the economic recovery package are included below.

Laing Rogers Sisto in Roll Call (1/29/2009)

Patrick Swayze in the Washington Post (2/8/2009)

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) in the Washington Post (2/9/2009)

Do you think they follow MMS? Are these pieces effective? What might you do differently?

**Bonus** Each of the steps are pretty self-explanatory, but they do take practice to get right. For the slightly more advanced writer, we'll be talking about some different ways to implement MMS over the next couple of months:
  • Hook, line, and sinker
  • Percentages
  • Varying sections
  • Peaks and valleys

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