Is your schedule too jammed to get to town hall meetings? Does cold calling your elected official make you break out in a cold sweat? Or have you mastered these (and all the other) tactics for outreach to lawmakers and want to aim a bit higher?
One tried-and-true method for influencing elected officials is by publishing your opinion in local papers, either as an opinion editorial (commonly called an “OpEd”) or a letter to the editor (LTE). Elected officials rely on local papers as a gauge for public opinion, so publishing your opinion there can have a tremendous impact on their understanding of an issue as well as your community’s perspective.
Here are our top tips for writing a great letter to the editor, plus our full Letter to the Editor 101 guide (download it right here).
- Be timely! Publishers are looking for opinions on current issues, often in response to pieces the paper has already published. The faster you move, the more likely you will be to get published.
- Keep it short. Most LTEs are around 200 words. Mention your reason for writing in the first sentence and limit your LTE to one or two key points.
- Be punchy. Lots of LTEs are boring. Take a strong stance with strong language. Demonstrate urgency. Be clever.
- Tell your story. Personal stories are the best way for local community to connect with you and your point of view. How is this issue affecting you and your family? Why are public lands important to you?
- Know your audience. Who reads this publication? Make sure to take their point of view into account to increase the chances of publication.
- Keep it simple. Facts and figures are boring. Your story is more important and a better way to persuade.
- Call to action. End your LTE with a call to action. You can encourage folks to write or call their elected officials.
- Spell check. Get a friend or family member to double check for spelling or grammar mistakes.
- Practice. If you don’t get published that’s OK! Wait for another timely opportunity, and try again.
Read the whole Letter to the Editor 101 guide by clicking at right, and check out the entire Advocacy 101 series here.