Letters to the Editor (LTEs) are one of the most effective ways to reinforce your communications strategy and bolster your media relations efforts. Too often organizations miss incredible opportunities to refute their opponents, correct and/or balance the record and fuel more discussion on your key topics by choosing not to write and submit an LTE.
For reasons unknown and for which I’ll refrain from speculation about, some organizations seem to view the construction and submission of an LTE too heavy a lift. Yet, in the same breath they may nitpick and wordsmith overly long and uninteresting press releases (which, let’s face it, is highly unlikely to generate any news coverage).
Whatever the stigmas surrounding the LTE, consider these four reasons why you should sit down and hammer out (or hire-out) a great LTE:
Brevity is king
It’s no secret most people don’t like to read long-form content, and that long-form content isn’t really conducive to social media thumbers who consternate about tapping the “read more” button. In fact, most people never make it to the end of a news article opting for headlines and leads only.
This makes an LTE (generally consisting of 50-250 words) an ideal package for your messages. It gives brevity its rightful place at the top and, if done right, gives you the bang for your buck with any given audience.
Note: if you’ve made it this far in the article, you’re an outlier from the rest, but the point about brevity should not be lost. Be brief.
Show how keen you are
An LTE should be submitted within a few days of the article to which you’re responding. And by submitting a well-constructed LTE, you are demonstrating the level and quality of your attentiveness and responsiveness, not to mention an understanding of the media and how to maximize your potential with the outlets you engage.
Every outlet has different standards for submitting LTEs. Follow them. But you may have to hunt around their site, or deal with the unattractive abyss of a form submission, or worse, find no explicit parameters at all. The point is, if you do it right then and get your LTE published, not only does it show you’re always monitoring and watching what’s being reported, but that you’re also well-poised to respond to critics, factual missteps or incomplete arguments.
Keep it pithy
A pithy LTE is like a mic drop moment or besting James Carville in a debate. Pithiness is your way of jam-packing as much substance and vigor as possible into a brief letter. It’s useful for getting the editor’s attention, especially for larger outlets who see tons of poorly written rants flood their inboxes, and for making your message memorable in the minds of readers. Pithy letters to newspaper editors, whether they’re intended to be published or not (some people write great letters with only the intent of giving the editor their two cents), are also part of a longstanding journalistic tradition. The pithier the letter, the greater chances it gets published – if for nothing else than the satisfying feeling of printing a well-articulated rebuke.
Opens new channels
If your LTE includes the above elements, grabs the editor’s attention, gets printed and garners clicks and/or shares, the paper will notice, and that’s a good thing for the next LTE opportunity you should pursue. Plus, getting it placed in one outlet lends credibility and can lead to greater receptiveness with similar publications.
But I know what you’re thinking: this is all great, but the biggest challenge to kick-starting and maintaining a solid LTE regime is process. How are you going to wrangle finicky clients and cumbersome approval processes and pump out LTEs left and right? Every situation is unique, but I would suggest to you that pushing for one, and then another, and then another, and sticking with it is the best way to make this a valuable routine within your communications strategy.
Lastly, make sure you read Letters to the Editor sections in an array of outlets on a regular basis. Some good examples are The Economist or The Wall Street Journal sections where debate and commentary on key issues live on.
And if you need help deploying LTEs, 720 Strategies can help.
Happy writing and wrangling.