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Don’t Forget the Opinion Page (the Dolphins Won’t)

Don’t Forget the Opinion Page (the Dolphins Won’t)

Don’t Forget the Opinion Page (the Dolphins Won’t)

Publishing your own news, part of the “democratization” of journalism and communications, has opened many doors for companies to spread their message in a multitude of ways.  Almost anyone can write a news release and distribute it online using private wire services that range in price from free to a few hundred dollars.  In a matter of moments, your message can be published in hundreds of Internet outlets.  Exactly who and how many see it is up for interpretation, but without question, today nearly everyone has many powerful communications tools at their disposal.

One effective tool that’s still available but often overlooked is the opinion page at daily newspapers.

If you open up the front or “A” section of big city daily and thumb to the last two pages, you will typically find the opinion pages.  On the left-hand page, you will see editorials written by the newspaper and its editorial board.  The newspaper’s position on wide ranging and hopefully “high-minded” issues like zoning, the environment, immigration, local elections and foreign affairs among other topics will be published here.  This page also typically houses political cartoons and letters to the editor.  Many people are avid writers and readers of letters to the editor.  While such letters are effective communications (particularly if you are complaining about potholes and city hall), they are typically edited down and rarely exceed a few hundred words. 

The right hand page, opposite to the editorial page, is known as the OpEd page, perhaps called “Viewpoints” or “Other Views” or another descriptive name.  In most major newspapers, this page is filled with articles written by syndicated columnists such as Ann Coulter, Cal Thomas or George Will, but many papers have space for commentary from local people.

A few years ago, we helped attorney Hector Lombana place an opinion piece about the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  Another client, George Joseph of Dade County Federal Credit Union, wrote a prescient piece in 2006 warning of the dangers of predatory lending – two years before the financial crisis.

The most important rule for writing for the opinion page is that you need to write about an issue that is relevant to the audience and not just about yourself or your company.  If you have an intelligent and high-minded (there’s that phrase again) take on an important or fledgling issue, then you have a chance to get published. 

Last month, we assisted the Florida International Bankers Association in its efforts to defeat an aspect of the Dolphins stadium tax bill.  Part of the money to fund the stadium was to come from eliminating a tax benefit for international banks.  The issue was complicated and nuanced and while reporters were covering it, we believed an OpEd piece, which runs close to 700 words, gave us a better opportunity to explain our side of the issue.

While a number of high-profile people in Miami were against the stadium bill, the international bankers had a business reason to oppose it, and we believe this was an important distinction between our client’s message and those who were banging their chest about raising taxes and whether or not public money should go to sports stadiums.  FIBA was against the bill for a specific reason and had data to back it up.

In the end, our client turned out to be the perfect counterpoint for the stadium argument, and the Miami Herald took advantage of it, publishing the stadium backers’ “Pro” article next to our client’s “Con” perspective.

The OpEd (which also ran in the Sun-Sentinel) delivered a new level of authority to the international bankers’ argument – and much more credibility than had we published it ourselves using a wire service.  On the afternoon that the OpEd ran, the sponsor of the stadium bill removed the language that negatively impacted international banking.  We can’t take complete credit for it because a number of talented people assisted FIBA’s lobbying team, but I believe our efforts on the OpEd page made a difference.



Author: John P. David

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