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Here's an oft-debated subject among writers, journalists, PR practitioners and other pursuers of the trivial: Does "op-ed" refer to "opposite" the "edit"orial page or is it short for "opinions and editorials"?

Webster's says the former. But here's the more important point that the debate passes over: incorporating such articles into your PR program significantly advances your organization's positioning as an expert on specific topics, trends and issues.

Op-ed articles in newspapers or magazines express an opinion and are generally found on the page opposite where editorials are located. It's where columnists' pieces (think George Will or Maureen Dowd) can be found, along with letters to the editor\ and, in some cases, articles longer than letters that are contributed by experts with timely perspectives or in reaction to news coverage.

Each publication, however, is different in terms of what it publishes. For example, it's very difficult to place a piece in the op-ed pages of consumer publications like the New York Times or mainstream business publications like the Wall Street Journal. First, the competition is fierce—a lot of people would like to get their names and opinions printed in these widely read newspapers. On the whole, their op-ed contributions respond to a recent article or issue of the day and, generally, are oriented toward politics.

For the vast majority of consumer publications, an op-ed concerning a business issue would have to center on a trend or issue with a high level of public interest, like the Enron and Arthur Andersen scandals.

Professional and trade publications, on the other hand, are often interested in op-ed contributions on topics generally of interest to the industries they cover. Such submissions to Brand Week, Ad Age or Industry Week, for example, need strong points of view but need not necessarily respond to articles that have appeared on their pages.

Op-ed article development and placement is one of the media strategies we use for one of our consulting firm clients, targeting such publications as Brand Week, Automotive News and CMO Magazine. Authored by partners of the firm, these articles have helped position them as experts on their specialty area—the integration of brand, business and marketing strategies—as it relates to a variety of industries.

One such piece placed in Automotive News, for example, provided an overview, from a branding perspective, of why the Oldsmobile line of cars and brand died. The author's strongly expressed convictions about the failure helped to solidify his standing as a brand specialist with expertise in the automotive industry.

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Sally Saville Hodge is president of Hodge Communications, Inc. (www.hodgecommunications.com), a strategic PR and marketing communications firm in Chicago. She can be reached at shodge@hodgecommunications.com.