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Letters to the Editor: A Free Public Relations Resource

You may not think of a letter to the editor as a way to extend your public relations budget, but a well-crafted letter in a widely read publication can be a powerful (and free) way to promote your company. Writing an effective letter to the editor will be that much easier if you use the following tips.

Stay on top of the news. A newspaper or magazine prints letters to the editor by readers responding to recently published stories, which means timely topics. If your company has recently been profiled in the press, then obviously a follow-up letter is a smart idea, especially if the letter is rebuttal or correction. But be sure to keep an eye out for general articles on your industry as well.

Don’t wait. A timely topic requires a timely response. Know a publication’s schedule; many magazines and newspapers won’t print letters to the editor about stories they covered two or three issues ago. Your letter should be sent no later than 48 hours after the issue hits the stands. Be sure that your letter is sent to the appropriate party (editor, assistant editor, section editor, etc.) in the appropriate format (print, e-mail, fax, etc.).

Grab an editor’s attention. No editor is going to publish a letter that merely reiterates the original article; they certainly don’t want letters where you pat your company on the back. Come up with a unique, expert twist on the information provided in the story under discussion. Offer a perspective that differs from the author of the original article. Write as an impassioned reader out to set the record straight, not as a public relations hack covering their company’s butt.

Keep things to the point. The letters to the editor column is usually limited to one or two pages, and it’s unlikely yours will be the only letter published in that issue. A succinct letter will not only have a better chance of getting published, it will stand less of a chance of being mangled by the editor in order to fit a word count.

Expertise never hurts. If you’re writing a letter to the editor about your company or industry, you should already be something of an expert in the topic at hand. So flaunt it. When writing your letter, include any educational, employment, or extracurricular experience that qualifies you to offer your opinion. But while editors often single out letters based on credentials, be sure to not come off pompous or self-important.

Send individual letters. Many newspapers and magazines refuse to publish letters that have already been printed in competing publications. Target each letter to the specific publication where it will be most effective.

Remember the op-ed page. More exclusive than the letters to the editor column–which lowers your chances of getting published–the op-ed page nonetheless provides a more prestigious platform for your message. If you’ve got a unique opinion expressed in a concise, eyeball-grabbing way, you may want to think about sending it to the editor of the op-ed page.

This article, written by Ellen Schweppe, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.

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