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 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 children in America aren’t learning the healthy habits they need to stay healthy. With many schools having a lack of healthy nutrition options and insufficient opportunities for physical activity, we’re seeing childhood obesity increase.”
- 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.
- When choosing an influential signer, try to identify 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 op-ed below.
Ex. Don’t You Want Our Children to Grow Up 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 children in [TOWN or CITY]. It’s scary thinking about how more than one in three children are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer later in their lifetimes. I don’t want [MY DAUGHTER/MY SON/OUR CHILDREN] to become part of that statistic.
The reality is that children spend many of their waking hours and eat up to half their daily calories at school. Therefore, it only makes sense for schools to play an active role in helping kids learn and practice healthy nutrition and physical activity habits.
Children across our entire state deserve access to healthy school meals, safe drinking water, and plenty of physical activity. However, many school districts – especially those in low-income neighborhoods – have difficulty providing kids with access to healthy food and regular physical activity due to a lack of resources and space.
Where you can, be sure to include your state, town, county, or the specific community that you want to reach.
But I am not without hope. In fact, I’ve heard that there may be a solution for [MY DAUGHTER/MY SON/OUR CHILDREN] and other kids across [STATE]. I was excited to learn that the USDA has asked local school districts to improve their school’s Local Wellness Policies (LWPs). These policies are a great opportunity for parents and other community members to partner with school officials and administration to ensure our kids are learning healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
LWPs cover a broad range of important issues including alignment with the updated nutrition standards for school meals, snacks, and beverages as well as addressing which foods and beverages can be marketed to our kids in the school space. In addition, the policies can encourage healthier classroom celebrations and rewards, access to clean drinking water, and even increased physical activity, which I really appreciate as a [PARENT OF A #-YEAR OLD/CONCERNED COMMUNITY MEMBER].
Once implemented, our local wellness policy will 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?
Fellow [PARENTS/TEACHERS/COMMUNITY MEMBERS]: It’s up to us to work together to help our children get the physical activity and nutrition they need for mental, emotional, and physical health. Together, we can update our local wellness policy and work with our schools to ensure they are implemented to support the health of our kids. If we want our kids to have success in the future, we must place a premium on physical education and healthy nutrition habits.
Raise Your Hand. Join me in working with other parents, community members, and school officials to [CREATE or UPDATE] our school district’s local wellness policy. Together, we can improve the school environment and support our children’s health.
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: 449 Words