#HowTo Write the Perfect Op-Ed, and Get it Published!

Over the past five years, I’ve had the opportunity to look at a lot of content that has been contributed to Infosecurity for our consideration to be published.

From all of this ingest of content, we’ve learned a fair amount about what makes a good article, and here are some tips on how to write the perfect opinion editorial.

Make it About the Opinion

This may seem to be a fairly obvious place to start, but it is difficult to believe the number of ‘opinion’ articles that fail to include any sort of opinion from the writer. What we’re looking for is: what do you want to change, what annoys you, what makes you want to slam your fist on the desk and shout in anger at the sky? Too many times we just see the writer fill the article with background context on the issue, only reserving their perspective for a fairly flimsy conclusion.

Context is good, and it helps to make your perspective valid, but don’t feel the need to fill the content with third party statistics; make the article about you, your feelings and your passion for that subject. We all have a perspective on something in this industry, so use the opportunity to raise that subject in front of the industry.

Who is the Reader?

When looking to write an article, understand the publication that you’re hoping to be published in. Take the time to understand what sort of angles they cover, what the typical readership is and what sort of content they are interested in publishing. Here at Infosecurity, we’ve created a page of guidelines to enable wannabe writers to understand what we do and do not like – so it’s worth finding the name of the editor of the publication, or the person responsible for contributed content, and asking them what sort of content they want, and whom the typical reader is.

To make it even easier, try looking at what sort of content the publication typically runs. Do they run content regularly? What sort of content do they typically run? What is the style, does it go for a list style or use more of a Q&A approach? By avoiding a hit and hope tactic and going for a more targeted strategy, you should see a more positive response

Know the Common Themes

Despite being relatively broad across a number of subjects, the same cybersecurity topics do attract a lot of interest for people wanting to write an article. Consider how many times you’ve read an article about the challenges associated with passwords or with alerts and SIEM configuration, or about the future being one of automation using AI and machine learning. None of these are bad subjects, but if you’ve read them, the chances are that others have too, so avoid going for the ‘101’ concept or recycling someone else’s words, and stamp your views on the piece.

Also, avoid that need to do a ‘basic’ explanation of what something is. Business publications often have a professional readership who will know what the workings and issues of a technology are, so cut down on the basics and stick to your opinions.

Get to the Source

This one really depends on the publication you’re looking to write for, but it’s worth adding the sources for your statistics and claims so that the publication can add hyperlinks to them. We are in a world where claims need to be verified, and also publishers like links for SEO reasons, so add them where you use them because the editor can always remove them, and it saves them from searching Google trying to find them (and then finding the same article published elsewhere).

An Exclusive Offer

Speaking of finding the same article on another website, by offering an article as an exclusive you’ll find the recipient far more interested if it is only being offered to them and you can promise that it’s not been offered to another publication.

You Made the List

There are a lot of lists online these days; from things to do and places to go, to the best films and things you may have missed in a movie. Here at Infosecurity we have run some lists, including on the top news stories of 2020, the recent NCSC report and on securing remote workers. We don’t generally accept lists from writers, as all too often they are not providing any sort of opinion, and are often trying to tackle multiple angles rather than present an opinion on the main point.

If you do want to go for a list, consider looking at ways to do things better, what advice you can give to the reader on what you know and what you want to stress your opinion on.

Hopefully, this serves as some advice on how to get your opinion article both correct and accepted. After all, it’s good to have an opinion on a subject, and even better to have others hear it!

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