Write a Letter to the Editor
By Martin Cohn

Marty Cohn
Letters to the editor can be a great way to express your views on an issue important to you—and reach a wide audience at no cost—since the letters to the editor page is one of the most popular and widely read pages of any newspaper.

Oftentimes, the letters influence editors' decisions as to which topics to cover in future news stories or editorials. In addition, many politicians and other decision-makers read the letters page to gauge public opinion. A well worded letter can bring up information not addressed in a news article or can create an impression of widespread support (or opposition) to an issue.

You can use letters to correct or interpret facts in response to inaccuracies, statements made by corporations or government officials, to explain the connection between the news story and your priority issues, or to praise or criticize an article.

There are four good reasons for you to consider a letter to the editor. First, you have a diverse audience within easy reach because of the popularity of the page. Second, letters to the editor have credibility. Third, a letter offers you easy publicity for your cause. And, fourth, the more letters, the more influence.

Here are six tips to writing letters to the editor that can increase the likelihood of your letter being published:
  1. Write about an issue which is current. Try to write within two days of when an article appears. Specify the item to which you are responding.
  2. Send the letter to the publication in which the article appeared. Don't bother doing a mass mailing since only those publications that carried the article will be interested in your opinion.
  3. Be concise (usually no longer than 250 words) and keep to the point.
  4. Type your letter and follow the guidelines in the publication (i.e. mail, email, or fax). Proofread
    your letter for typos before sending.
  5. Do not be defamatory. Rather, be polite, even when you disagree.
  6. Include your contact information (name, address, daytime phone number).

While it's very satisfying to have your letter appear in a large daily newspaper, don't overlook the weekly community newspapers. In general, the smaller the publication's circulation, the more likely it is to have your letter printed.

And, be persistent. You shouldn't be discouraged if your letter is not printed. Editors receive many more letters than they have space to print. If your letter is published, consider sending clippings to others in your organization. After all, this is a good way to demonstrate that your views are getting public attention.

Martin Cohn is president of Cohn Public Relations, a public relations firm in Brattleboro, Vt., that concentrates on the promotion of philanthropy. Reach him at 802-221-4821 or e-mail to martin@cohnpr.com.