People care about their finances. The growth of personal finance blogs over the past few years has been astounding, with the top finance-oriented websites pulling in millions of readers each month.
But credit unions are often a great untapped resource for expertise on financial topics for their community. How can you share your insights while simultaneously expanding your brand presence and reputation? One often overlooked channel for the public relations and marketing department is the opinion-based editorials (or op-ed for short).
Unlike a hard news story or a feature article written by a magazine, newspaper or website’s staff, an op-ed takes a stance on a topic of interest to the publication’s readership and outlines a strong argument on a specific viewpoint. Sometimes op-eds take the form of letters to the editor, but they are often stand-alone columns that give the space for a strong, well-argued position (and potentially a call to action).
Placing op-eds is not easy – there are a lot of issues being covered by your target publications, and you’ll need to cut through the clutter of all the other proposed topics to stand out. But there are three things you can do to increase the chances of a successful placement.
Do Your Homework
Like any PR outreach, a successful op-ed begins with research. Read the target publication’s current op-eds. How long are they? How are they formatted? Is any kind of promotional language allowed? Many publications will also publish submission guidelines on their website, and following those guidelines exactly will prevent your submission from being disregarded before it is even read.
Pick an Issue and Take a Stance
It sounds obvious, but the key to a great op-ed is to pick a topic that impacts your community. Then take a stance. This makes some credit unions uncomfortable, because a strong op-ed not only educates the readers on a topic, but it also advocates for a potential side.
As a credit union, there are many topics that you are a natural expert on – housing, tax and debt policies; financial management; credit and loan issues; impact of new laws on a family’s budget; etc. Make sure that the credit union’s management signs off on the stance you wish to take (and that it supports your long-term strategic goals) as well.
And then, research your chosen topic. Gather studies, statistics, testimonials or anecdotes to build your case.
Support Your Stance and Refute the Opposition
When it comes to writing the op-ed, a strong opinion does two things well. First, it lays out the argument for your opinion. Use the statistics and stories you’ve gathered to defend your position. Use non-biased sources and experts to build credibility.
Just like a good debate, once you’ve laid out your argument, it’s time to acknowledge the other side of the issue. This shows the readers that you understand the other side of the argument, and it makes your claim more compelling when you can then showcase why the opposition is wrong. Again, don’t just say something is right or wrong. Show it with real-life examples, stats and non-biased experts.
And be sure to finish with a call to action. Now this is not the place to promote a product or service. Every editor will throw a blatant promotion in the trash. Instead, make the call to action something that the reader can do to impact the issue at hand. Maybe it’s talk to someone about their budget, reach out to their local government concerning a tax issue or donating to a non-profit that helps people better manage their finances.
So what should you do now? Go pick an issue and tell your community what you really think.