Ensure business continuity by exercising your expertise

Businesses must constantly earn the trust of their customers or risk losing them.

Solving past problems doesn’t guarantee the ability to solve future problems. The only guarantee is that your customers will become more open to those with other solutions if they no longer feel you’re up to the task.

Op-eds — shorthand for opinion columns that once ran opposite a newspaper’s editorial page — offer an incredible opportunity to demonstrate your value. You can present a compelling case to your customers as to why they should trust you with their scarce dollars and not your latest and greatest competitor.

How to begin? Find your compelling argument, the reason for writing your piece. Start with your idea and connect it to a current news event if possible. For example, say a national crisis of failing cup holders emerges and you happen to manufacture the solution to mobile beverage stability.

Once you identify your compelling topic and narrow its scope, outline your argument in 19 to 22 paragraphs. Plan on a word count of 600 to 750 for most print and online publications.

First, open your piece by identifying the problem you solve. Average cup holders are dangerous. Antagonize the problem by talking about the danger caused by inferior products. Average cup holders cause avoidable traffic accidents that endanger your family. You’ll want to own the problem as much as the solution.

Illustrate the solution your industry offers. A new polymer becomes available that increases sturdiness. Mention how your company embraced it and how it contributes to the cup holder community, but nothing more. Readers only want to know how you solve their problems. They don’t want to hear your life story.

Second, include three actionable steps or relevant examples for how to solve your customers’ problems. Educate them on the features of the new polymer, the models that use them and how to spot cheap imitators.

Continuously contrast the problem with the solution throughout your piece. Juxtapose imagery of hot coffee flying around inside cars with your solution that firmly holds beverages in place while jumping over a river like the Dukes of Hazzard.

Third, conclude by summarizing your argument and foreshadowing the successful reality of mobile beverage security. Include a powerful call to action. Consumers should demand nothing less than the most intelligent cup holder available when they shop for cars.

Where to place your newly minted op-ed? Find the publications read by your customers, like the head of GMC’s Department of Cup Holder Integrity. The fictitious “Cup Holder Digest” would seem an ideal publication.

Publications often provide generic email addresses such as oped@newspaper.com or online forms to submit. Those never work. Instead, scrub the magazine’s website or other online databases for the email address of the editorial director or op-ed editor.

Give them the courtesy of three days to respond. If that fails, find a phone number and call them. It could have easily slipped into their spam folder or became missed among the 300 other op-eds they received that day. Be persistent, but move on to other publications after three attempts. Even though the editors at “Cup Holder Digest” passed, it might fit better in another publication.

If you continue to face roadblocks, consider working on another draft from a different perspective. Ask the editor why they didn’t publish it, and they will generally offer valuable feedback. Reputable public relations firms also can help you to discover and dissect your argument to make it more compelling, as well as identify the publications most keen on your ideas.

Ensure you live up to your claims as your customers will expect a superior product that reflects your writing. No $20 word can substitute for an inferior offering.

Don’t leave your customers wondering about whether your solution works for them. Write down your thoughts and publish them to ensure they consistently know that you lead your industry.

The best part is that your market wants to hear from you. The last thing you need is to abandon your customers to their own devices. Inform them of your relevance regularly, and you will keep the trust you labored so hard to earn.

Dave Yonkman presides over the Grand Rapids-based digital public relations firm DYS Media Relations.

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