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 straightforward. 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 sentence for that kind of piece might sound like this: “Many young people in America struggle to stay healthy. With physical education decreasing in schools, we’re seeing 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.
  • You can also choose an influential signer; 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 emotional op-ed below.

Headline

Ex. Taking my kids out without sacrifice

Author’s Name

Ex. Samantha Watkins, Parent

It’s important to make your key points early and often so that your reader understands why this is meaningful for them.

As a single, working mom with three young kids, my day is full of responsibilities both inside and outside the home. Between my job, homework, after school activities, and loads of laundry, my time is so limited that preparing a good meal at home can be challenging and sometimes feels impossible. More often than I want, the only option is to take my kids to a restaurant or pick up takeout as we rush home at the end of the day.

But the other night, during a rare moment of calm at our favorite neighborhood restaurant, I was struck by something truly troubling: virtually nothing on the kids’ menu was healthy. It was a litany of burgers, pizza, and deep-fried chicken nuggets, along with fries and soda. And as I thought about the many meals we get on the run, I realized that more often than not, that’s the case.

Restaurants simply don’t provide the healthy choices I wish they did—and that my kids deserve. When I researched it further, I found it was even worse than I thought. Ninety-six percent of entrees served at restaurants don’t even meet basic USDA nutrition standards.

That makes finding a healthy option for my kids when eating out like finding a needle in a haystack.

The effects of all this unhealthy food on the long-term health of my children is not just a concern in my household, but nationwide. I learned that eating out is linked to increased calorie intake, poorer diets, and putting kids at an increased risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even certain cancers.

Where you can, be sure to include your state, town, county, or the specific community that you want to reach.

It doesn’t take a long, hard look at the menu to understand why. Hiding between the cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, fries, and soda is a clear truth: parents like me in [STATE] are facing an almost impossible task when it comes to helping our kids eat healthy outside our homes. Families are now spending a larger portion of their food budget on meals prepared away from home than on groceries to be prepared at home. Considering this, restaurants should work with parents to serve kids better and support healthy food options for children.

That’s why I’m taking a stand and asking our local leaders to put families first by requiring that restaurants include more healthy options on kids’ menus. It’s an important step forward for [STATE]’s physical—and economic—health. It’s pro-business because restaurants that increase their sales of lower-calorie menu items enjoy greater sales growth and more growth in traffic and servings. It’s pro-parent because it would make it possible for more parents like me to find healthy choices when we eat out. And it’s pro-child because it means that our children get the nutrients they need to grow up healthy. Our kids can’t wait any longer.

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.

To all my fellow parents out there who are trying to do the best you can for your children: unhealthy menu options are a part of the problem, but we can be part of the solution. Please join me in asking local leaders to demand that restaurants serve healthier kids’ meals in [STATE]. Visit VoicesforHealthyKids.org/KidsMeals to learn how.

Keep your op-ed to about 500 words so that your important points aren’t cut during the editing process.

Word Count: 527 Words