Looking for new ways to promote your small business? Most small business owners have limited budget for advertising on traditional media like television, radio and newspapers. However, the op-ed pages of your local newspaper provide an effective way to connect with your customers and prospects.
Editorials are among the most widely-read sections of local newspapers. Guest columnist opportunities and letters to the editor provide the opportunity to establish yourself as an industry expert and broaden your influence within the local community. That increased influence can lead to an increase in foot traffic, visitors to your Web site and sales.
Here are some tips on how to go about creating a persuasive Op-Ed or letter to the editor:
Choosing the Right Topic
Remember that your objective is to generate buzz for your business while providing valuable insights that will be of interest to the reader. Instead of writing about political events half a world away, focus on topics that relate to your business and your community that directly or indirectly affect your business and customers. Some examples include increases in taxes and parking meter rates, as well as increases or reductions in the local school board budget and municipal infrastructure spending.
State your opinion forcefully in order to grab the reader’s attention and make an impression, but be careful not to sound argumentative or self-righteous.
Share Your Personal Experience
After expressing your overall opinion on a topic, tell readers how that opinion was formed by your personal experiences. It’s that personal experience that will give your opinion credibility and establish you as being uniquely qualified to write about the topic.
Avoid Highly Polarizing Topics
Keep in mind that your customers are individuals with unique perspectives and biases. Expressing a point of view contrary to theirs can cause them to take their business elsewhere. The more polarizing the topic the greater the chance you may lose some customers because of your stance.
Don’t be Self-Serving
When writing your Op-Ed or letter to the editor, focus on the broader implications of the topic. For instance, instead of writing about how a proposed hike in parking meter fees will lead to a decline in foot traffic for your business, talk about how it will adversely affect all of the businesses in the area. And, again, back up your opinion with facts whenever possible.
Enlist the Help of Others
Enlist others to help make your Op-Ed or letter to the editor more persuasive. Including quotes from others who share your opinion can be an extremely effective tactic. Before submitting your piece, make sure that you enlist the help of at least one proofreader with strong grammar skills. Mistakes in grammar and spelling can reflect poorly, not just on your writing abilities, but on your entire business.
Introduce Yourself to the Editor
Editors are inundated with letters and Op-Ed pieces, so it’s a good idea to make your submission stand out from the crowd. When submitting your piece, include a formal introduction in which you tell the editor a little about yourself and provide a summary of what your Op-Ed or letter is about. Be sure to include your contact information in case the editor has questions about your submission.
In addition to increasing your visibility among customers and prospects, using the Op-Ed section to establish yourself as a thought leader or expert in your field can cause print, television and radio reporters to seek your opinion and lead to even broader exposure for your business.
Be sure to include your business name, address, phone and web address. If you have any social accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) include those also. Editors are increasingly publishing this contact info when it is provided.