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The Art of Creating and Pitching Well Crafted Op-Ed Pieces

Even Rodin, the French sculptor who created iconic images like The Thinker, (left) might have a hard time getting his opinions published in some media outlets today. That is, unless the artist also possessed a writing style with a strong viewpoint that was provocative or counterintuitive with a catchy, conversational tone.

Those were some of the pointers from the editorial panelists at a recent PCNY event on pitching opinion pieces, bylined and contributed content. Other desirable criteria include articles with compelling angles that are well sourced and grounded in facts. Self-serving or promotional pieces don’t make the cut. So if a sculptor like Rodin was intent on seeing his name in print or online, he’d be well advised to write about the fine arts category, not focus exclusively on his own masterpieces.

The panelists represented a broad array of digital and print outlets with varying degrees of difficulty for outside submissions to break through. These included: CNN Digital, Bloomberg View, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Ad Age and The Muse. Of course the industries these media brands cover aren’t targeted or limited to art. They encompass categories ranging from politics and economics to technology, marketing, media, careers and lifestyle.

Each editor painted a brief picture of their outlet and provided tips for prospective guest contributors.

CNN Digital: The Opinion section of the site “hosts a wide range of views across the spectrum of politics, religion, arts and other areas”, explained Richard Galant, senior opinion editor. They only publish one or two outside submissions per day, and they want original, exclusive hooks to ongoing news stories.

Bloomberg View: Editorial board member Frank Wilkinson described the two-year old site as “a startup within a large news organization”. He said their op-ed page only takes selected outside contributors since they now produce more opinion related content in-house. Their core focus is the intersection of economics, finance, government and cultural issues, and they look for densely researched pieces.

Business Insider: The site has evolved, according to managing editor Jessica Liebman. There are now 15 sections, like technology, finance, retail, politics, sports, lifestyle, military and defense, with plans to add energy and healthcare. Their current focus is having quality contributors and selected bloggers post about newsy or fun topics.

The Huffington Post: “We’re as much a social network as a news site”, said Lance Gould, HuffPo’s executive impact editor. With 80 verticals/channels and 30,000 bloggers worldwide, it’s easier to contribute here. Timely information from academics and authors is especially welcome. All content goes first to the copy desk to be approved, and it must be vendor-neutral.

Ad Age: This marketing, media and advertising brand has a section devoted to CMO strategies. As its editor Natalie Zmuda noted, their viewpoint column takes about ten contributed pieces per week. Examples include CMOs discussing their strategies, case studies or topics such as real-time marketing.

The Muse: The site was established as a “career job search destination, using a hybrid media and job board model”, said CEO and founder Kathryn Minshew. Their bread and butter content, mostly evergreen, relates to networking, management, leadership and interviewing. Eighty percent is contributed content, and they seek interesting angles, such as an introvert’s guide to networking.

So while it may take far less time to write or place an op-ed piece than to create a work of art, all the elements still need to be exceptionally well designed.

(Image courtesy of Musée Rodin, Paris)

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