If you want to get your point across to thousands of people or want to gain publicity and name recognition for you and your company cheaply, consider writing letters to the editor to publications.
Why? Because the opinion page/letters page is one of the most widely read pages in any publication. Letters also help news professionals gauge the interest in the community for particular issues and may stimulate them to take an editorial stance on an issue readers are writing about.
And sometimes a letter to the editor can help reporters and editors generate a news story about a particular topic.
Here are some tips to help your letter get into print:
1. Think before you write. Even before you write a word, decide for yourself the one thing you want to say. To be effective, a letter to the editor should get a single point across. Don’t start writing until you know what that one thing is and make everything else support that one point.
2. Make clear what you’re responding to. If you are responding to something that’s already appeared in the publication, identify what that is in the first sentence. The usual format is something like: “In explaining the recent upsurge of home-based businesses in the area (Daily Hootenanny, March 15), the reporter…” That way the editor – and the publication’s readers – know why you’re writing the letter from the start.
3. Tell ‘em what you think. If you are expressing an opinion in response, be clear about it. When evaluating a letter to the editor for publication, a newspaper will generally place a lot of weight on an opinion that’s strong enough to know it’s just an opinion. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use facts to support your opinion; just that you should be sure which is which.
4. Be brief. Most publications will limit letters to the editor to a few hundred words, usually 300 at most. Only letters from an exceptional authority will sometimes get more space. But don’t count on it.
5. Simplify, simplify, simplify. When you’ve written a draft, you then need to challenge every word in it. Ask yourself, “Do I really need to say this?” Odds are you don’t.
6. Be timely. Letters to the editor are usually reactive things. You need to send it out no more than 24 hours after the original item appears, or you’ll lose the momentum and the paper won’t print it.
Now things like word limit and timing aren’t written in stone. Every newspaper and magazine has their own recommended requirements so check out the publication’s guidelines on their website or call for more information before submitting. The homework you do now will only help you get published in the future.