Public relations campaigns often focus on the big wins: glowing feature stories, in-depth Q&As, conversation-starting op-eds, and the like. It’s easy to understand why these tactics matter. They are key building blocks for building reputations, raising awareness, and generating high-profile results. I’m here instead to advocate for an underused PR tactic that doesn’t get the glory it deserves: the humble letter to the editor (LTE).
Letters to the editor have been around for centuries and have stubbornly hung on as the media landscape continues to contract. Many daily newspapers run them in print and online. As with op-eds, most outlets receive more letters than they can publish and the selection process can be opaque—but editors do occasionally share important information about what they’re looking for.
Here’s why you should incorporate LTEs into your public relations strategy:
Op-eds might go through several rounds of revision; profile stories can take weeks of work before publication. LTEs are timely, brief responses—generally 200 words or less—to what readers see in the news. If you have a clear perspective on the issue, they don’t take long to write.
Getting op-eds placed can be extremely competitive, particularly in major regional or national newspapers. LTEs, though thematically different, give you another chance to share your opinion with that outlet’s audience, and in some cases, it’s easier to get them accepted. Because of the time it takes to edit and finalize an op-ed, editors might be able to publish two or three times as many letters as op-eds in a given day or week.
Didn’t get quoted or featured in an article that matters to your work? A LTE can add your voice to the narrative, and you can share it with your audiences in the same way you would an article or op-ed: on social media, in a newsletter, etc.
You should check each outlet’s LTE requirements before submitting, but here are a few tips to increase your chances of publication:
Respond to something specific, and be timely. Write your letter in response to a specific article, editorial, or op-ed that appeared in the publication within the last week.
Make one key point. Don’t try to fit your dissertation on the issue into 200 words. Get in, make one point, back it up with evidence, and get out.
Contribute something new. Simply agreeing with the piece you’re responding to doesn’t move the dialogue forward. Add a new angle or solution, point out a nuance the article missed, or disagree with the original author and explain why.
Jordan Cooke is a public relations expert with Group Gordon, an award-winning communications firm working in corporate, public affairs, and crisis.