Authoring an op-ed or guest article for a major news outlet can be a game-changer for your business and brand. It can give you a credible platform for your ideas and help you engage with a large audience.

But the numbers are daunting. Hundreds of unsolicited articles arrive each day at the op-ed department of The New York Times.

What’s more, the editors seek out most of the articles that appear on the op-ed pages. That leaves only a couple of openings each week for everyone else.

Still, there are a few things that can help improve the chances your article will be chosen for publication:

  1. Use the news. Op-ed editors like to play off the news pages. Submissions tied to recent news have a better chance at publication than those that do not.
  2. Make it surprising. Editors want to share something different with their readers. A startling or provocative piece will stand out from the pack.
  3. Include a call to action. The best op-eds include a recommendation for action. Better still are those tied to an upcoming event, like a legislative vote or court ruling. Editors like to use their pages to influence the debate on vital public issues.
  4. Make it personal. A policy point wrapped in a personal story will get an editor’s attention. And it’s likely to be more memorable and interesting to readers.
  5. Don’t be promotional. Anything that’s commercial or self-serving is dead on arrival. Stick to the issues.
  6. Keep it short. The ideal length is under 900 words. That forces you to be clear and makes the editor’s job easier. All pieces are subject to final editing and fact-checking by the op-ed staff, too.

Here’s a final thought: Sometimes the best strategy is to speak to an op-ed editor before writing at all. That way you can establish your authority on an issue and get a sense of what the editor is looking for. If you can agree on an idea for an article, you’re halfway home.

Just remember, even if The New York Times ultimately says no, your article is still great material for your own website, blog or email campaign. Never let good content go to waste