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The Importance of Thought Leadership in a Time of Industry Transformation

Many professionals understand the significance of building awareness of their expertise and thought leadership, but often grapple with how to do so. Thought leadership goes beyond mere expertise; it is a process that entails building authentic, collaborative relationships within one’s industry, identifying patterns, recognizing emerging trends, and cultivating a code of values and integrity that guide one’s conduct in their field.

Thought leadership is especially critical for healthcare organizations and leaders, who are facing unprecedented shifts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Gallup’s annual Health and Healthcare survey, only 48 percent of Americans now rate U.S. healthcare as “good” or “excellent.”

While there are many factors influencing this perception, including costs and political partisanship, healthcare leaders must have strong communications with their employees, patients, and communities to navigate the post-pandemic era and the ongoing transformation of healthcare. One highly effective means of achieving this is through elevating their thought leadership through op-eds.

The Relevance of Op-Eds in Times of Transformation

Op-eds are written viewpoints that allow professionals to demonstrate their thought leadership and drive change during these transformative times. By crafting compelling arguments supported by data and personal experiences, op-eds can empathize with and educate patients, open doors to new opportunities, shape healthcare policies, and contribute to the broader conversation about the future of healthcare.

As VICE News Editor Chloe Angyal once wrote about the power of op-eds, “It matters who writes op-eds. It matters which ideas make it to the op-ed pages. Because a lot of them don’t stay there. Op-eds become books. … Op-eds become job offers. Op-eds become consulting gigs. Op-eds become speaking opportunities. Op-eds become funding offers. Op-eds become meetings with senators. Op-eds become policy. … It matters who writes op-eds, because it matters who gets to do all the things [that] can come after.”

Choosing Topics Wisely

The key to a powerful op-ed lies in the passion behind it. Start by identifying topics that resonate deeply with you and issues that you wish people understood better. Healthcare leaders likely already stay informed about current events and healthcare developments. That finger on the pulse of healthcare is an asset for placing op-eds because news outlets often seek timely responses to significant industry news stories. If you possess relevant expertise or share experiences related to topics in the news, these connections can serve as a launching point for your op-ed.

Do remember that it’s important to engage with your communications department, public relations agency, or consultants in the op-ed writing process. They can help you refine your ideas and guide you through drafting and pitching your op-ed effectively.

Crafting a Compelling Op-Ed

A well-structured op-ed effectively conveys its message and resonates with the audience. Aim for an article length of 800 to 1,200 words, keeping your argument concise and clear. Use plain language to ensure accessibility for a wide readership. Here is a suggested structure for your healthcare op-ed:

Lede: This is your opening paragraph that should grab readers’ attention. You can start by recounting a current event or study, or sharing an anecdote that illustrates the issue you are addressing.

Thesis: State your central argument forcefully and concisely. This should be the core message you want readers to take away from your op-ed.

Supporting Evidence: Healthcare leaders often talk about the importance of being data-driven. The same holds true in op-eds. Present data, expert quotes, scholarly references, or personal stories that back up your healthcare thesis. The combination of human stories and data will make your op-ed compelling and relatable.

Application and Reflection: Use the evidence you presented to reinforce your thesis and explain its significance to the readers. Show them why they should care about the issue and its implications.

Conclusion: Circle back to the theme or story mentioned in the lede and restate your thesis to leave a lasting impression on the reader.

Pitching and Publishing

To get your op-ed published, you need to identify publications that are interested in the topic you’ve covered. Make sure to check each publication’s website for op-ed criteria, including word count/length and potential exclusivity requirements.

There are two ways to approach publications with your op-ed:

  1. Pitch: Send a concise email to the editor outlining your article’s idea, why readers will care, your qualifications to write on the subject, and a short bio. Make sure your subject line clearly indicates that it’s a timely pitch if relevant. Many editors will only accept pitches from authors with whom they’ve worked before.
  2. Submit on Spec: This is the more typical path if you haven’t written for a publication previously. To submit on spec, you must write the entire op-ed first and then submit it with a short pitch.

Be patient if you don’t hear back immediately. Follow up after a reasonable period, often one to two weeks for a piece that isn’t time-sensitive, or one day for a piece that is.

If your op-ed gets rejected, don’t take it personally. Accept feedback graciously. If the editor invites you to submit again, wait at least a month and try again.

Publication Day and Beyond

If your op-ed gets accepted, congratulations! Op-eds are a versatile form of content that can be repurposed across different platforms. Maximize your article’s reach by reusing it on your company’s social media accounts and your own, in organization newsletters, the company’s website, and any other owned media assets. Engage with readers who comment on your op-ed, especially those who have genuine questions about the issue, but avoid engaging in heated debates.

Finally, be proud of yourself for advancing the ideas about which you are passionate, especially during this critical period of healthcare transformation.