We've all read bang-up letters to the editor focused on a recent event or issue covered by a publication or TV or radio coverage. More recently, I've seen letters crafted in response to websites and e-newsletters. It's much more likely that your organization's letter will run than it is to place an op-ed piece or get your nonprofit covered in a feature article.
Unlike news stories, letters to the editor enable your nonprofit or foundation to state an opinion, offer an alternative viewpoint, heap praise, or move someone to action, in your own words. That means there's a much smaller chance that the facts will be wrong or that your message will be twisted or diluted as it might be in a news or feature story written by a reporter.
The benefits for your nonprofit include:
- Keeping its name in front of the public.
- Raising its profile.
- Getting your share of news ink.
But writing an opinion letter that gets published and has the desired impact is both an art and a science. Here are 10 practical tips for writing a letter to the editor that gets published and read:
- Identify your target publications and programs
Once you have your target list, you're ready to respond when an opportunity surfaces.
- Research the letters policy for each venue on for your target list
Asheville (NC) Citizen Times – conditions for rejection http://orig. citizen-times.com/service/faq/letters_policy. shtml
Chronicle of Philanthropy – via snail or email http://philanthropy.com/about/letters.htm
The New York Times – maximum of 150 http://www.nytimes.com/top/opinion/editorialsandoped/letters/
The Washington Post – letters must be exclusive to the Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpsrv/edit/letters/letterform.htm
- Reference a recent print or broadcast article
- Respond as quickly as you can.
- Hone your opinion letter writing style, before you're on deadline to submit it.
- Be Concise.
Include two to three paragraphs, each with no more than three sentences.
- State Your Point Early and Clearly
- Include Your Contact Information
- Follow Up
Nancy E. Schwartz helps nonprofits succeed through effective marketing and communications.
Subscribe to her free e-newsletter “Getting Attention, " at http://www.nancyschwartz.com/getting_attention.html and read her blog at http://www.gettingattention.org for more insights, ideas and great tips on attracting the attention your organization deserves.