Five tips for writing opinion pieces that get published

When you have something to say, an opinion/editorial (often referred to as an “op-ed”) can be the ideal vehicle for sharing your message. Op-eds allow people at theheart of an issue to further explain it, or provide context that traditional, fact-basedjournalism may lack. Op-eds are meant to inform and, often, persuade readers to think or act a certain way. In today’s noisy, polarized environment, changing minds or motivating people to act is a heavy lift. Op-eds must be skillfully crafted to haveeven a chance of meeting that lofty objective. For skilled writers, putting opinions to paper is easy, with words effortlessly flowing from mind to keyboard. For others, trying to make a convincing argument, often in fewer than 700 words, is one of the toughest assignments they will undertake. It can seem overwhelming, but breaking the process down into steps makes it easier.

Here are five tips for writing op-eds that get published:

1. Take a side: This is the opinion section. No one gets away with straddling the fence on an issue in an op-ed; the whole point is to present a point of view. Decide what you most want readers to know or learn, and figuratively punch them in the face with it. Be direct, and take a clear, unambiguous position on a relevant, interesting topic. Not only is candor more attractive to readers, but editors are more likely to publish op-eds that take bold or unexpected positions on the issues of the day. Conversely, op-eds that ramble on or struggle to make a point until four paragraphs in face long odds of ever showing up in print.Read More

Every problem has a solution if you know what’s wrong

I once worked with a client who felt like their approach to external communication wasn’t working. They were unsure as to why, much less how to fix it. Their public relations efforts just felt “off.”

This is not a unique problem. At some point, every business or organization will realize something is not working when it comes to telling their stories or trying to make meaningful connections in the community. This is especially true for those in growth mode. Fortunately, a strategic approach can help get to the bottom of these issues.

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Effective communication in times of change: Tools for success

“The only constant is change.”

This statement is true in many aspects of life, but especially so in the workplace. Large-scale changes are the norm at companies and organizations these days, with the workplace being continually transformed by progress and technology. For employees working at companies where change is coming, or even rumored to be coming, it can be a stressful experience.

It doesn’t need to be. While employers can never alleviate every employee’s fear of change, well-executed communications go a long way to building trust and making sure it’s business as usual at work.Read More

Why Crisis Communications Plans are Essential

On November 30, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake shook Southcentral Alaska, shutting down power, landlines, and several major roads. However, fewer than 24 hours later, Anchorage was back on its feet, with stores reopened, Internet available, and residents able to communicate and even commute. I even enjoyed a beverage from my favorite espresso drive-through fewer than five hours after the ground heaved and buckled.

Crises like natural disasters beg the question: why do some businesses and organizations recover quickly, while others don’t? How does a large-scale company like GCI organize and mobilize its workers and technicians to get communities back online in so short a time? The answer is a well-rehearsed crisis communication plan. When everyone in an organization knows exactly how to react in a given situation, recovery is easier and more organized.

Creating a plan need not be a long and arduous ordeal. Putting together a simple list of directions helps employees know their company is prepared for any sort of disaster. And crisis communication plan isn’t just for natural disasters. For instance, if a company higher-up makes an embarrassing faux pas, protocol is in place for handling it. This can mean anything from rules about social media posts, to responsibilities for handling questions asked by journalists.

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The Power of “I don’t know”

People like to appear knowledgeable. Everyone enjoys being able to contribute to a discussion, even when they don’t know all the facts. This is evident in skimming the comments section of any online news article.

But what about when not speaking just for yourself, but instead for a company or an organization? Lying is unethical, plain and simple, and should never be a course of action when faced with a crisis situation. So, what do you do when, say, a reporter asks for information you do not have? Do you attempt to redirect to a different topic, or act as though you know an answer when you definitely do not?

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Three Rules for Ethical Communicators

September is ethics month for members of the Public Relations Society of America, the public relations industry’s professional trade organization. Even though ethical practices are mandatory every day, the month is set aside to focus specifically on how communicators can meet high ethical standards when the rules seem to change quickly.

In that spirit, Blueprint Alaska has compiled a checklist for communicators who insist on upholding the core values of ethical practice of public relations, including advocacy. Read More

Making the case for advocacy

What is advocacy, anyway? And why should a company or organization care about it?

Let’s use some examples to make the case.

A company finds itself in the middle of a public policy debate due to a piece of legislation that will seriously impact its business. Company managers try to rally employees to the cause, but are baffled when they receive a lukewarm reception.

An organization is dealing with an issue that could negatively impact its reputation, jeopardizing the bottom line. Usually content to stay off the radar, the company doesn’t know where to start, and reaches out to colleagues for help. The organization’s leaders are surprised by the lack of support they receive.

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In our social media driven world, practice makes (almost) perfect

Recently, I was asked to participate in a crisis drill for a client. During these drills, companies practice for an emergency by pretending to deal with a real one, and incorporating lessons learned into their crisis plans. It’s an excellent way to keep skills sharp and ensure that everyone knows what to do in the event of a real emergency.

Crisis training and drills are nothing new- companies have been doing them for years. On the public relations side, practitioners have worked to master their communication skills to be ready for a bona fide crisis: sample press releases are drafted, media contact lists developed, and interviews rehearsed. What struck me during this most recent drill was the introduction of social media, meaning a simulated (read: not real) social media blitz resulting from the drill’s scenario. Just like social media has disrupted the news business by empowering citizens to report and discuss their own news, the injection of social media into the crisis drill was also extremely disruptive. I loved it.

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