Marketing Matters Featured

9:55am EDT July 22, 2002

In today’s high-tech world, public relations professionals utilize an array of techniques, from video news releases to Web marketing programs and interactive CD-ROMs. In the name of improving communications, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of technology and innovative communications options to constantly outdo ourselves.

But let’s remember the simple dynamic of effective communication: a sender, a message and a receiver.

With this in mind, don’t abandon time-proven, low-tech techniques — one of which is the letter to the editor. It’s an effective vehicle to deliver your organization’s messages — and it will never go out of style.

The sheer volume of print media presents a plethora of opportunities. There are almost 1,700 daily newspapers and 8,500 weekly newspapers in the United States. Thousands of trade and professional journals cater to just about every profession or interest. Titles range from Cat Fancy, Saxophone Journal and Soccer Digest to Waste Age, Modern Bulk Transporter and Chemical Engineering.

Regardless of which publication is important to you and your business, a letter to the editor presents one of the few ways to deliver your message in a pure, mostly unfiltered manner. Unless you pay for advertising space, reporters and editors are the gatekeepers of the printed message. A publication can significantly change your message through its editing, adding information and quotes from other sources, or deleting a key sentence or thought because of space limitations.

A letter to the editor, however, provides you with a vehicle that allows you to state fact and your opinion — the more opinionated the better — and to directly take aim at any issue relevant to your organization. Tackle issues such taxes, government regulations, labor, industry developments, etc.

Your letter can be either reactive or proactive. You can respond to an article in publication that you feel was inaccurate or unfair. Conversely, you can laud a publication on a news story or opinion piece.

Proactive approaches include discussing trends and issues and informing readers of something they may not have known. Write about behind-the-scene knowledge you have that you are able to share without breaching confidentiality or good taste.

Writing a letter to the editor will allow your point of view to be heard loud and clear, usually edited only for space. Because your name and organization are in the signature block, you position yourself as one who is passionate about an issue and taking a leadership position — two positive traits. In crafting your letter, pay attention to a few key points:

  • Clearly state your message. Support your opinion with facts or rationales. Make sure you include no more than one or two key messages so you don’t dilute the power and impact of the letter.

  • Keep it brief. Don’t write the next great American novel. If it’s too long, you may lose the interest of the reader and will surely invite the editor to cut the length. An editor’s choice of what to remove may not be the same as yours.

  • Take the high road. Be careful of the tone of your letter. State fact and opinion, but don’t take cheap shots. Even if your message is negative, don’t allow the tone to be negative. Instead of complaining, forcefully make your point in a positive way.

  • Finally, be persistent and be patient. A publication doesn’t have to print a particular letter to the editor (and it can’t if deluged with letters).

Because you’re competing with others for an opportunity to have your message appear in print, make sure your letter is the most informative, most opinionated and most compelling piece it can be.

And if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.

Jeff Krakoff is president of Krakoff Communications, Inc. and an adjunct professor at Point Park College. Comments and questions can be sent via e-mail to jkrakoff@krakoff.com, or by fax to (412) 434-7738. He can be reached by phone at (412) 434-7718.