Letters are a powerful way to influence public opinion. While you are likely get a few letters from close friends and supporters, it helps to have an organized letter-writing campaign to local newspapers and publications to help shape the issues and your public positions. A letter-writing campaign can be assigned to a volunteer to organize. All they need to do is to find volunteers willing to write pro-candidate letters.
Some campaign letter writing tips:
- Keep the letters to a single issue, if possible. When doing so, highlight differences between candidates.
- Not every letter has to be politically issued-based. Even letters that highlight the candidate’s favorable personal traits are useful.
- Try to keep a list of the issues and the volunteers who will write about them. Provide a list of (email) addresses to the local publications.
- Do not supply your writers with a ‘sample letter’. A few minor talking points of facts is fine, but the letters should be written in the supporter’s voice, with their own spin on the topic. Canned letters sound phony, particularly if several are published at the same time on the same topic.
- ‘Negative’ letters can backfire. If writing about an opponent, encourage your letter writers to stick to facts and policy rather than personal attacks.
- Suggest that the writers to mention the campaign website, if they choose.
- Start sending letters as early as possible. Especially in local papers, a letter is very likely to be published during ‘slow’ news period.
- Many papers have a holding period where they will not publish letters from the same person within a certain period of time. If a volunteer is willing to write multiple letters, have them be staggered throughout the campaign.
- Don’t have everyone wait until the week before the election to write in. Newspapers are typically flooded with letters right before the election, and it’s very likely many will not get printed.
- If possible, reprint the best letters or quotes on your website. Only do this after the letter has been published.
- If someone you don’t know writes a letter on the candidate’s behalf, have someone from the campaign contact them, thank them, and see if they wouldn’t be interested in volunteering in some greater capacity.
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Letters to the editor can lead to positive write ups, which is good fodder for a newsletter email or social media post. This may bring them back to the site to read up on what is happening and, possibly, make a political donation.
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An effective, long-term letter writing campaign is an excellent investment. In most cases, you’ll see a flood of pro-candidate letters appear right before an election. Astute readers will see them for what they are. But when someone has been hearing good things about a candidate for months, hopefully they will have already made up their minds.