The good old letter to the editor. If there’s one messaging tool for organizations and nonprofits that’s being lost or forgotten as new communications strategies unfold, it has to be this oldie but goodie.
Letters to the editor are a type of social media tool too. Through letters, readers and organizations comment on issues, news stories, correct inaccuracies, and present facts. People have been doing this for hundreds of years. Hey, just like people do today on Twitter and Facebook!
Your approach to letters to the editor needs to be a planned strategy, not something you do on a whim. You’ll need to have a plan to monitor issues, social media chatter, and trends important to your organization so you are prepared to comment.
Here are three reasons that letters to the editor should absolutely be used by your organization and nonprofit on a regular basis and be a key component of your media relations and communications toolkit:
1. Well written, succinct letters are rarely edited. This equals total freedom from a communications standpoint. What more could you ask for in terms of controlling the message you get to deliver through media? State your points. Provide supporting facts. Then provide a call to action. Always avoid writing personal attacks or venom-filled letters aimed at the media. It’s a sure-fire way to have your letter red-flagged by a thin-skinned editor. Most magazines and newspapers have word limits on letters to the editor. Know the individual policies, but always strive to keep letters short. One hundred to 200 words is plenty. Anything longer and your audience is likely to drift away. You want to keep your readers engaged. In the case of letters to the editor, less is indeed more.
2. Letters to the editor often provide inspiration for stories by the media. It’s not just audiences that read letters to the editor. Journalists read them too. A lot. Sometimes a letter to the editor can be held back by an editor. This is because your letter is deemed so compelling that it’s worth doing a news story on an issue you raised. Sweet, your letter ended up being a news tip! The letter usually ends up being published when a story is done. That can be double the exposure you originally planned.
3. A massive audience awaits your letter. Say what? I thought traditional media is dying? Nope. It’s morphing by becoming more web-centred. That’s where you capitalize. Most newspapers and magazines not only print letters to the editor, but they usually publish many more on their websites. Now, do the math on this potential audience, factoring in print circulation and web traffic. The sky truly is the limit. If you were to pay to reach an audience this size, how much would it cost?
A well planned letter to the editor strategy ensures your organization’s name, its values and its activities stay in front of the public. And best of all, it’s a strategy that’s cost effective. All it takes is staff time. So get writing!