Writing Letters to the Editor

by David M. Freedman

It’s a respectable way to express your point of view and gain exposure in the marketplace.
Writing a letter to the editor is a great way to (1) correct a mistake, misquote, or distortion in a recent news story; (2) illuminate one or both sides of a controversy involving your profession; or (3) comment on how proposed regulations or policies may affect your clients.

There is no guarantee that your letter will be printed, of course, but you’ll have a better chance of seeing it published if you follow these guidelines:

Write concisely, clearly, and to-the-point. Newspapers commonly recommend a length of 200 word or less, which translates to about 20 lines of text. However, they often publish letters that are much longer, if they’re well written and well reasoned (or if you’re a friend of the publisher).

Try to discuss controversial issues as objectively as possible. Your own bias may be apparent, but it’s usually best to show respect for both sides of the issue. If you are responding to a published article, refer to the title, author, page number, and date of publication.

Use facts and examples to support your argument or point of view. If you are correcting a reporting error, be good-natured about it. Don’t alienate the reporter or editor.

Sign your name. As a general rule, don’t ask that your name be withheld for privacy reasons or any other reason. For one thing, you’d lose the publicity benefit. For another thing, anonymous opinions are often perceived as the mark of a coward. If you’re not proud of your viewpoint, reconsider it.

Leverage the exposure. Once your letter is published, make photocopies of it and send them to clients, with a brief cover letter explaining how the issue affects their interests. That’ll ensure that the people who didn’t read the publication still get to see your letter, which confers a measure of third-party credibility upon your message.

About the Author

David M. Freedman is a Chicago-based writer, editor, and media relations consultant. He is the founder of Media Relation Central. http://www.freedman-chicago.com

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