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, or community 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 in a straightforward manner. 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:
- 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 introduction for that kind of piece might sound like this: “Many people in America are struggling to afford food and eat healthy, however SNAP incentives help to ensure populations that are most in need have greater access to healthy foods.”
- A strong headline is concise, gives the readers a preview of what you’re going to say, and makes them curious enough to read your op-ed.
- When choosing an influential signer, try to identify someone who is well known in your community and credible on the topic, like a farmers’ market champion or ambassador, someone from the city, county or state Public Health department, 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 op-ed below.
Ex. Don’t You Want Our Community to Be Healthy?
Ex. Janis Smith
It’s important to make your key points early and often so that your reader understands why this is meaningful for them.
As a [PARENT or YOUR PERSONAL/PROFESSIONAL CONNECTION TO THE ISSUE], I care deeply about the health of our community. Unfortunately, food insecurity has become a serious issue for many families and individuals in our [TOWN or CITY or COUNTY or STATE] who cannot afford to buy nutritious foods. I believe that everyone deserves access to healthy meals. That’s why our lawmakers need to [ESTABLISH or GENERATE BETTER FUNDING FOR] SNAP incentives.
These incentive programs help SNAP participants – two-thirds of whom are children, elderly and people with disabilities – use their SNAP benefits to purchase incentivized healthy products and then receive a matching amount to purchase additional fruits and vegetables. Simply put, SNAP incentive programs boost local economies by increasing sales of healthier foods while simultaneously helping those who are most in need gain greater access to these healthier options.
Where you can, be sure to include your state, town, county, or the specific community that you want to reach.
The statistics surrounding these incentives show the many benefits of these programs. SNAP incentives can directly impact revenues for local merchants, especially farmers. Every $5 spent on SNAP generates as much as $9 in economic activity. Additionally, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, each $1 billion of retail generated by SNAP creates $340 million in farm production, $110 million in farm value-added, and 3,300 farm jobs. Furthermore, SNAP participants who receive added financial incentives to purchase more fruits and vegetables, eat more fruits and vegetables and spend more of their benefits on these healthy foods.
These facts hold promise for farmers, business owners, and community members across our [TOWN or CITY or COUNTY or STATE].
Once implemented, SNAP incentives will help those most in need gain access to healthier foods and help the kids in our community grow up with healthy habits in place that will carry them throughout their lives. Isn’t that what we all want?
Together with other community members and public officials, we can [ESTABLISH or GENERATE BETTER FUNDING FOR] these important incentives. It’s time to strengthen the future of [STATE or COUNTY].
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.
Keep your op-ed to 500 words max so that your important points aren’t cut during the editing process.
Word Count: 325 Words