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. Keeping [TOWN] on the active path!

Author’s Name

Ex. Ben Timmers

My family doesn’t have a car, but luckily we’re able to get around town in a number of other ways: by bus, bike, and often times even by foot. What worries me, though, is that it’s not always easy to find safe lanes, paths, sidewalks, or even crosswalks when my family is on the move. Whether it’s my weekly trip to the grocery store or feeling comfortable letting my son go down the street to a friend’s house, I’ve begun to worry about our safety when getting to and from places in our town.

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

That’s not the reaction I want to have—especially when I want my family to be active, social, and healthy. But in [TOWN], we lack the infrastructure for people without cars to get around safely. My sister’s town has bike and pedestrian lanes everywhere, and her kids can jump on a bike to get to friends’ and walk safely to school each day. I want that for my kids and for my town.

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

I know that healthy eating and active lifestyle choices have to go hand-in-hand for kids to grow up at a healthy weight, and I want to do my part in continuing the advancement of safe and healthy infrastructure in our state for walkers and bikers. From reaching out to our local leaders to sharing our stories at town halls, every step helps ensure we’re using available funding smartly while also advocating for additional financial support for new projects to continue the momentum.

Creating streets built to share isn’t a one-stop shop. It takes continued prioritization by our community leaders, city planners, elected officials, and residents to insist that we are always striving to make safer environments for everyone—no matter how they choose to get around in the neighborhood. Crosswalks, sidewalks, bike lanes, and street lights are all a part of what makes up a safe atmosphere for people who aren’t traveling just by car. I’m raising my voice and sharing my story to help everyone understand the importance of active lifestyles on the overall health of our city’s residents; especially kids who rely heavily on having time to be active outdoors in order to do better in school and prevent poor health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

I imagine a healthy future for my kids, and kids across [STATE], and I know that has to mean access to safe and active travel routes. Join me as I share why support is needed, how safe walking and biking lanes impact our children, and what is needed to keep these projects moving forward.

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.

If we work together, we can ensure we take continued steps toward healthier futures for generations to come. Join me in taking action by visiting VoicesForHealthyKids.org/Bike-Ped today.

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

Word Count: 457