Letters to the editor can be an important advocacy tool for business owners. Often, the letters to the editor are among the most often read sections of your local paper.

A letter has the potential to reach a large audience and they’re often monitored by elected officials looking to get a bead on public opinion. A letter is a great opportunity to expand on an issue or provide a viewpoint not covered in an article and demonstrate support (or opposition) on an issue.

Some tips for getting your letter in the paper:

  • Keep it short: most newspapers have a word limit. Make sure you know what it is before you send. My local newspaper, for example, the Register-Guard in Eugene, has a word limit of 250 words. There is a lot of competition for a small amount of space.
  • Stay on topic & be timely: don’t wander down the rabbit trail. Keep your letter on a single topic and make your point succinctly. It’s crucial that your letter tie into a recent article (see the next tip) or to recent events.
  • Make reference to the newspaper: References articles that were printed recently is a good way to tie into issues of the day and increase your chances of your letter being printed. (ex: “I was disappointed to see that in MY PAPER’s September 19 article…” or “I agree with (author’s name) characterization of this issue…”)
  • Don’t take – or make – it personal: Use verified facts without overstating or exaggerating your point. Don’t insult those who may have a contrary opinion and don’t play defense, even if you feel you’ve been attacked.
  • Include your contact info: Most papers will not publish your letter anonymously. Be honest about who you are and what stake you have in the issue. You have a valuable opinion – state it and be proud.

If you don’t see your letter in 4 – 7 days, it’s ok to follow up with a polite phone call to the editorial department of your local paper. And remember, even if your letter isn’t published, it has been read and is helping to bring awareness of issues to the editorial staff.

Image by NS Newsflash

AvatarKelli Matthews

Kelli Matthews is an instructor of public relations at the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communication, she owns marketing and PR firm Verve Northwest Communications and is a "mama-squared." Her and her partner just welcomed baby number 2 in May 2012. He joins his big brother (age 6). Find her on Twitter at @kmatthews or via email at kelli@paloalto.com.