The seed was planted during a public relations conference I attended in early June.
I attended a workshop on how to successfully place Op-Eds (opinion pieces that run opposite the editorial page in newspapers). During the presentation, it occurred to me that this would be a perfect medium in which to obtain some national media attention for Professor Sam McQuade’s cyber education initiative.
Upon returning to campus, I shared my thoughts with McQuade and asked if he was interested in working with me to write such a piece. He was. And so began a seven month long process that concluded this week with the publication of a guest essay, authored by McQuade, in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Yeah, that’s right. Seven months.
Writing the piece was easy. However, successfully pitching it takes time. All of the big time newspapers want exclusives. Therefore, it isn’t a good idea to send out the piece to more than one newspaper at a time. In the event that two newspapers want to publish the piece, a bridge will undoubtedly be burnt with one of them. And that’s just bad public relations.
McQuade and I opted to go straight to the top. We pitched the Op-Ed piece to the New York Times. A week went by. No response. We pitched it to USA Today. A week went by. No response. We pitched it to the Washington Post. A week went by. No response.
I was beginning to get a bit frustrated. However, I did realize that we had a major obstacle in our way. The Hezbollah fiasco was raging in Lebanon and eating up a sizeable chunk of the opinion pages in the United States.
Mike Saffran suggested that we take a different approach, and pitch the topic to the Chronicle of Higher Education. He noted that higher education reporters across the country read the Chronicle on a regular basis, and that an in-depth piece published there, could lead to some other outstanding placements.
So, I fired off an email, pitching the topic to one of the Chronicle’s editors. We received a response almost instantaneously. The editor wanted to know more about McQuade’s vision for the role of higher education in this process. Two weeks later, the editor commissioned a 2,000-word piece for publication.
The piece was finally submitted for publication during the last week in August. But it didn’t end there. McQuade and I communicated with three different editors during the process—and each one had their own set of suggestions. Ultimately, shortly before Thanksgiving, the final version was completed.
Was it worth all the time that was invested in it? I definitely think so. Being featured in a prestigious publication like the Chronicle is a big deal.
The real pay off, however, is hopefully yet to come. Stay tuned to see if this piece results in more publicity for McQuade and his research.