How My PolicyMic Article Got Me On TV

Huffington Post Live hosted a live discussion about the nature of China's drone program, which featured three panelists and myself, with Ahmed Shihab-Eldin.

Overall, the discussion was a constructive and fruitful one, though some of the panelists had their disagreements. When I wrote my article on China's drone program, I was writing purely out of my intellectual interest in China's rising role as a powerhouse in the world. I found the experience of being a featured panelist a great honor and a great learning experience.

Here's the video:


Upon reflection, I have some tips and thoughts for my fellow PolicyMic peers, and any aspiring writer out there, on my experience with appearing live on Huffington Post Live and writing the article that caught the eye of the producers.

Writing a Eye-Catching Article

Since I started writing for PolicyMic in the fall of 2011, I have seen my writing skills improve noticeably. Now, it seems that they have reached a level where my readers take notice of my improvement.

There are several factors that have enabled me to find success with my drone article. I have come up with five unique tips for my readers.

1. Have a Hot Niche Topic

PolicyMic is a hot and growing news start-up with increasing readership, impact and visibility as our community grows, but it remains a nascent organization nonetheless. We can't compete with the established brands and news organizations that have carved up the marketplace on where people get their news.

What we as PolicyMic writers have is a fresh perspective as millennials. That's why we need a hot niche on the trending stories of the day. What I mean by hot niche is to take a big story that has traction and then give a unique spin to the story.

In my piece on the Chinese drone program, I chose to write a relatively comprehensive story detailing the Pentagon's concerns about China's new drones and making a constructive analysis of whether or not this program presents a real threat to the America based on the aggregated information I gathered from multiple stories on the net.

2. Write An SEO Title and Opening Paragraph

Search engine optimization is one of the most important elements to a successful article. It will get you on the map so to speak as it did for my article, which happens to be one of the first two stories you find when you search for "China drone program."

I surmise that this is how my story was found in the first place. The key is to choose words that reflect your topic and spells out your general outlook on the issue at hand.

This idea must also be applied to your opening paragraph to help improve your ranking on Google. With a SEO optimized title and opening paragraph, you will improve the odds of being read by people from all over the world, including producers looking for experts on their programs.

3. The Thesis for the Road

Every article should have a thesis. Without one, your article will not be taken seriously. A thesis is also important because it sets the tone for your story overall in terms of defining the direction of your article.

By spelling out your thesis early on, you set up a road map for your reader to follow and gives them a sense of direction as they proceed through your story. With a road map in your readers' minds, you can add details along the way to give your story complexity and depth.

I think the thesis goes well once you've presented the basic context of you story, so it should be your second or third sentence.

4. Tell a Good Story Your Way

A "good story" is hard to define as there are many ways to tell such stories. For me a "good story" means that you present a thoughtful and well-researched narrative on a subject matter of interest to the public that demonstrates both your showmanship and ability to present a logical tale.

In my story, I chose to break up my story into three parts to lay out a comprehensive and  deliberate presentation on the importance of drones and China's drone program as seen by the U.S. and based on my own research on the issue. The aim is to enable the reader to see a holistic story that sees the main issue from multiple angles.

The key is to add richness to the story you're telling by writing in a engaging way and bringing the facts to bear upon your perspective. Good evidence and timely quotations goes a long way towards strengthening your argument and story as it did for my article.

5. Utilize Multimedia Resources

Your readers come for your written story, but having complementary media to complement and supplement the power of your article is key to making the difference between a average story and a great story.

When I wrote my article, I wanted to give my readers a sense of what made the Pentagon so concerned about China's drone program. So, I found a graphic illustrating the various types of drones that the Chinese had produced and put on display, which was used in the program and something the producers liked as it gave a simple, yet tasteful illustration of the prime subjects of the story.


Your readers enjoy interacting with your story and incorporating multimedia helps to improve the overall quality of your article. It doesn't substitute for good writing and research, but multimedia adds a "tipping point" to the power of your story.

Live on Huffington Post Live

I did not expect to a featured panelist when I wrote my China drone program article, but I was pleased and honored to be invited and enjoyed every moment of my first live appearance on the Internet. I believe the discussion was insightful for me, the other panelists and our viewers as we laid out the major issues and led a constructive discussion on our subject.

Afterwards, I've come up with some thoughts on how I might improve and the impressions that my moment in the spotlight left me with.

First, I think it's important to rehearse for any on air appearance by going through the predictable questions based on the conversations that you see on precious program by the channel and host. You can also glean information from interactions with the producers, before the show, which are both revealing for those who want to be prepared.

I was admittedly a bit nervous, but the questions that I was asked were foreseeable. Sadly, I choked a little, but covered my points nonetheless for each question posed.

Second, it's highly important to work towards creating a constructive and assertive voice on air. I went into the program with the intent to stick to the facts and hoped to show my expertise rather than to show off as end.

In the end, I think I was successful in carrying out the plan to be a objective and informative panelist who cared about facts and constructively exploring the issues that were brought up.

Some of the commenters didn't like how some of the panelists were being uncivil by cutting off other panelists to get their views across. I hope that I came across as a civil panelist.

Third, though you may have done research to write your article, it's important to continue your research to expand upon your initial work to strengthen your expertise. I did some more research about China's drone program and its potential uses and made a link to its disputes with Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands as well as the complexity of international law governing aircraft over territorial waters. This brought me to the EP-3 Incident of 2001 when a U.S. spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter near Hainan Island.

Though I didn't get to explore it with the other panelists, I thought that it added to the discussion about the implications of China's drone program, which I saw was germane by the Huffington Post's expert, who nodded at my point.

I thought that this was an excellent chance to reap the fruits of my work as a columnist, expert on China and a part of PolicyMic. I can see room for improvement in my on air performance, but was pleased at having the honor of getting my time in the spotlight. I hope my colleagues on PolicyMic can learn something from my experience and work to raise the brand name of PolicyMic to the world!

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Dillon Zhou

Dillon currently works as a Foreign Teacher at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu. He graduated from International Relations Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2012. He previously worked at the Cyber Conflict Studies Association in Vienna, VA as a research assistant. He has also worked at the US Embassy in Tirana, Albania and JFK Library's Declassification Unit. His primary areas of interests are in US-China Relations and US Cyber Security Policy. He is proficient in speaking and reading Mandarin Chinese.

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