Despite the info-nugget culture, long-form writing remains relevant today.
Henry Miller, COO of Goodman Media, knows a thing or two about writing Op-Eds, having penned several in his own name, as well as for clients.
"If it's an important issue and the author has a unique vantage point and can prescribe specific actions, there's a lot of potential for publication," he notes. "The whole point of an Op-Ed is to illuminate the issue in a new way. It isn't just an opinion; it's an opinion grounded in facts, data, and research."
It's no secret that Op-Eds are frequently written for senior corporate executives by a PR pro. Joel Postman, EVP, emerging media, at Eastwick Communications, says to get the right tone and messages, research must be done by spending time with the executive in question, as well as listening to keynotes and attending customer meetings.
"These senior executives are there because they're passionate," he says. "It's important to capture the real essence of what they say. Let them be controversial or opinionated. People respond well to authenticity."
"PR people must be involved with both the writing and pitching process to help package it correctly," adds Dave Black, director and cofounder of Voce Communications.
Most publications have a person responsible for Op-Eds, and PR firms should know these people. Black also suggests familiarizing yourself with the past several topics that have been written about, and focusing less on the product, and more on the credibility you hope to build. "If you do self-promotion, you'll never get published," he warns.
Robert Pollack, editorial features editor of The Wall Street Journal, says the two most important things he looks for are "timeliness and that it is smartly written," adding that the piece must come from someone who knows what he or she is talking about.
"I'm not interested in a piece just because it has a good byline, for instance a CEO or government official," he adds. "I'm evaluating the piece on quality of writing."
Beyond print, the Web is the fastest-growing, most accessible way to get a mixed bag of writing out to a large number of audiences. Perhaps the best example of this is the growing number of corporate blogs.
Roger Wu, VP of Digital Power and Light, a specialist firm in digital media and marketing services, says that according to Socialtext, 5.8% of Fortune 500 companies now have a corporate blog. He expects that total to grow significantly in the coming years.
Georg Kolb, EVP of practices and methodology for Text 100, says these blogs are a way to personalize and humanize corporate communications, and shouldn't undergo the normal approval cycles that other corporate communications do. "If you do that, you'll end up with a copy of the company brochure," he notes.
"When writing blogs, bear in mind the community or audience that you are communicating to," Kolb adds. He advises monitoring what people are already saying about you, your products and services, and industry topics. "It's important to bear in mind the issues already out there, the influencers with the strongest voice in this conversation." That should inform the decision whether to make a contribution to this virtual dialogue.
White papers are another form of writing that's much more of a "how-to" piece regarding a product or technology. White papers typically go to trade titles, and it's important to know what guidelines the publications have about accepting such pieces.
Because of these intricacies, Black says white papers may be better for a company's Web site. "The right companies are looking at themselves as a media house," he says. "This is a way to target the right people."
However, he advises against sending a white paper to a large title because it won't publish it.
Eastwick's Postman says it's good for a company to produce a white paper when it has a spokesperson that can speak objectively and offer balanced perspectives. It can be effective when released in conjunction with an event appropriate to its content.
"A white paper is not - and should never be - an overt marketing vehicle for the company," he states.
Carefully consider what outlet would be good for an Op-Ed
Use a personal voice when writing a corporate blog
Consider using the company Web site for distributing your white paper
Aim too high and pitch to a national paper if the piece is better for a trade title
Put the corporate blog through several approval cycles
Use these pieces to overtly market your products or services