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Letter Writing Campaigns for Action Alerts

October 29, 2009
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I have a few forthcomming posts that ask readers to email an organization in order for the organization to take corrective action.  I am not posting a sample letter, but may post links to sample letters as guides at a later time – and I do encourage readers to post links to samples for this purpose.

What many people do not take into account when composing an email campaign that requests corrective action is how these organizations view these email campaigns.  For example, in some organizations, any messages that are received with the same subject line and in some cases even the same body are considered to be 1 complaint – even if hundreds or thousands of complaints have been sent.

For this reason, I am posting a best practices guide for readers to use when constructing a message of action.  This is a bare bones basics of what I know.  Please feel free to add to the list by posting your suggestion in the comments area and I will update the content of the post with suggestions I feel will be beneficial to the best-practices guide.  Thank you!

  • Subject lines should be unique, concise and include key words.
  • Subject lines should be written in lower and uppercase letters – never use all caps.  All caps is the equivalent of yelling and hostility and therefore the recipient may disregard it.
  • The body of the email or letter should be unique and concise.  For example if someone has a personal experience that makes this situation hurtful, they should include that experience in their letter without making their experience overtake the intended message.  The experience can be one or two sentences but should not be one or two paragraphs.  The latter is appropriate for op-eds in news papers but does little to get the message across in letter writing campaigns.  
  • The letter should explain why the sender is writing the letter in the first paragraph. 
  • It should include positive statements as well as address the issue. (this is more often possible than we think) 
  • It should include actions that the sender would like to see take place (reasonable actions – include your best-case action and your at the very least recommendation).   
  • It should conclude with bridge building, positive, forward looking statements. (when possible)
3 Comments leave one →
  1. Owen permalink*
    October 31, 2009 7:24 pm

    Good advice. I was told a couple of months ago by a UK MP that what she takes most notice of is a handwritten letter telling someone’s own story.

    But although they’re cynical about e-mail campaigns, particularly unpersonalised texts, they still take note of the level of interest.

    The number of e-mails in relation to the size/type of organisation originating the campaign may also say something.

    Above all the crucial thing is to communicate with decision-makers in whatever way suits you, so that you actually do it.

    Overall it’s a way of keeping them in touch with important issues, but also sometimes it’s a way of making them aware of something they hadn’t even considered. They don’t have infinite time and resources – it’s the activist’s role to get an issue up onto their radar.

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