The ‘Trifecta’ of Op-Ed Writing

There’s a phrase that we like to use here at C.Fox, especially when we host media or presentation training sessions, and it centers on the need to have three elements in play for greatest impact. Messengers must speak with credibility (subject matter expertise), authority(a position of influence) and persuasiveness (the ability to sway a point of view). Together, we believe, they’re the perfect trifecta in message delivery.

When three world leaders got together to author an opinion piece in the Washington Post – as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Holland, and British Prime Minister David Cameron did last week in favor of the agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program – it’s clear that they kept these three elements in mind so that their message would be heard.

Indeed, the Merkel-Holland-Cameron piece provides some lessons that may prove useful in understanding what makes a good opinion piece and how you can boost the chances of getting yours placed:

1. Remember that timing (and simplicity) counts. The Post commentary appeared after the U.S. Senate assured President Obama with a veto-proof margin of support. Not wanting to appear to influence the Congress, the leaders of Germany, France and Great Britain reinforced the U.S. position and made the case that America was not in this deal alone. Timeliness was essential. The draft had to survive multiple audiences and many red pens in Berlin, Paris, and London. The simplicity of the message made the first step an easier task.

2. Acknowledge the other side of your argument. To make a stronger case for getting an opinion piece placed, acknowledging detractors’ point(s) of view helps demonstrate thoroughness of thought and the validity of your argument. In this case, while stating a forceful point of view in favor of the agreement negotiated along with the U.S., China and Russia, the three leaders also acknowledged the case made by detractors: “This is not an agreement based on trust or on any assumption about how Iran may look in 10 or 15 years. It is based on detailed, tightly written controls that are verifiable and long-lasting.”

3. Pull together a surprising byline to make a stronger case. A piece signed by more than one influential author, especially when the authors don’t typically speak in unison, can make the argument more compelling. If Angela Merkel had authored the Post piece on her own, she would have been speaking only for Germany. Together, these three individuals represent three of the strongest allies of the United States, and are deliberately speaking beyond their own nation’s borders.

Opinion pieces are just one way your organization can make an impact – by helping to advance policy, increase public awareness of a critical issue, or raise philanthropic dollars. They’re not easy to place, but when crafted with the “trifecta” in mind, the power of the message can stick long after the day’s news is over.

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