When it comes down to it, letters to the local newspaper editor is a form of campaign advertising. Of course, the letters are the opinions of the writers, but they typically represent honest views and bring up points or subject matter not covered in the usual political campaign ads.
Of course, in this digital age, ‘letters’ can also mean e-mails. Many newspapers allow letters to the editor to be sent electronically. For the purposes of this article, we are referring more to physical letters, but the same principles apply to both forms.
Like most aspects of your campaign, letters to the editor can be a coordinated effort. It’s one facet of an advertising campaign that can help grow support for a candidate and promote the campaign message. A well-written letter can influence a voter. A number of well-written letters published week after week can influence a LOT of voters.
Encourage your supporters to write letters to the editor. Tell them that they can help by writing and sending to local newspapers a positive message about the candidate and the issues. You really never know what people will say. Some letters will be pro-candidate, others will talk down an opponent. A few won’t make much sense at all. Some of the best letters will come from voters who are not affiliate with any party or organization, but simply want to express an opinion.
For close supporters, you can provide them with specific issues or ideas that would be particularly helpful to the campaign. Close supporters should still write their own letters in their own words. It may be helpful to have these letters written early and collected so that they can be mailed to the newspapers on a schedule, starting weeks or even months before the election day.
Using a standard format for structuring a letter is fine, but letters should NOT be pre-written for people to simply sign. When a bunch of letters are published that all have the same talking points and the same phrasings within them, it’s propaganda. Readers can usually see though propaganda, and most won’t like it.
Finally, don’t wait until the last days before the election to have supporters send in letters. Newspapers get flooded with campaign letters to the editor and will probably not publish them all. Letters that are sent in the weeks prior to election have a better chance of being published.
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