One of the best kept secrets from Capitol Hill is the enormous influence of local media on congressional decisions — not just cable news or The New York Times, but the local papers in the communities members of Congress represent. Over and over, we hear from members of Congress that a letter to the editor or an op-ed in their home district is what moved them into action.

Letters to the editor are quick to write, relatively easy to have published, and appear in the most widely read section of the paper, the editorial page. Politicians and government agencies routinely clip and circulate letters to the editor as an indicator of what is important to their constituents.

Be current, construct your letter using the EPIC format, and be clear and concise. Connect the dots between your community and our national and international poverty issues. If appropriate, mention members of Congress by name and be sure to include a call to action at the letter’s end.

Keep reading for more top tips on how to write a powerful letter to the editor and get published.

Rachid Ouedraogo: Publishing media (1 min.)

Write a letter to the editor

Letters to the editor are fundamental to media for advocacy. They are quick to write, and members of Congress read the letters in their local paper every single day.

Create and deliver a “laser talk”

RESULTS has created an easy format for our volunteers to use to create powerful “laser talks” – short and compelling talks, less than 2 minutes long, that end with a call to action. Laser talks are the backbone of our advocacy work.

Op-eds are opinion pieces that are usually published opposite the editorial page in a newspaper. They are written by columnists, leaders of organizations, public officials, and community members. This includes RESULTS advocates!

  1. Check the editorial page or the paper’s website for instructions on submitting an op-ed. The preferred length is usually in the range of 500–800 words.
  1. Scan your paper’s opinion pages to get a sense of what people are and are not writing about. Opinion editors often look for pieces that cover issues they are not yet covering. Be current and relevant.
  2. Try composing your op-ed using the same EPIC format you would use for a letter to the editor or laser talk. While an op-ed is considerably longer, EPIC can be a powerful and effective formula for organizing and presenting your thoughts and ideas.
  3. Finish with a call to action.

There’s even more to crafting an effective op-ed. Keep reading for more insight on how to write and pitch an op-ed.

Rachid Ouedraogo: Publishing media (1 min.)

Write an op-ed

An op-ed or commentary piece gives you more space to make your case. If you can land an op-ed with a clear call to action, your member of Congress is sure to see it.

Create and deliver a “laser talk”

RESULTS has created an easy format for our volunteers to use to create powerful “laser talks” – short and compelling talks, less than 2 minutes long, that end with a call to action. Laser talks are the backbone of our advocacy work.

Newspapers take editorial content decisions seriously, recognizing their broad influence. Those decisions are made independently, but they’re driven by current events, local relevance, and the editorial board’s assessment of what matters to its readership. So how do you increase the chances that our issues rise to the top of the list for your local editorial board? Just like with Members of Congress, a strong relationship is key to ongoing success, and meeting face-to-face with your editorial board is a great way to develop that relationship.

Knowing what your local editorial board is already writing is essential for a productive meeting. If you’re going to ask them to editorialize on a specific issue, make sure you know your issue well and are clear on how to pitch an editorial. Then consider your angle. If you’re pitching an editorial, consider how to make the issue timely and relevant to your local community. Is there a recent news story in your area on a related issue?

There’s more to learn about how to meet with your local editorial board, including how to secure the meeting. Keep reading for more information.

Meet face-to-face with your local editorial board

Meeting face-to-face with your editorial board is the best way to develop a relationship and support them to take on the issues you care about.

Generate an article in your local paper

Lots of other constituents are sure to see a local news article, giving you even more influence on Capitol Hill.

Being persistent in fostering and building good working relationships with editorial and health writers is crucial to our success in generating editorials and articles. Good reporters and editorial writers are always looking for a fresh scoop to follow and a dependable source of information. Thoroughly research your “pitch,” a story idea that will get your editor or reporter as interested in your issue as you are. Typically, this means developing three or four talking points about your issue.

Our job is to provide them with current, accurate, up-to-the-minute information on our issues. But be sensitive in your communication with writers and editors, keeping in mind their busy schedules and deadlines. Then make your pitch! Direct contact in person is best, by phone is next best. If you reach voice mail, leave a message but don’t count on a return call; it is up to you to make the personal contact with your writer.

We have more to share about how to make an editorial or article happen in your paper. Read on!

Generate an article in your local paper

Lots of other constituents are sure to see a local news article, giving you even more influence on Capitol Hill.

Create and deliver a “laser talk”

RESULTS has created an easy format for our volunteers to use to create powerful “laser talks” – short and compelling talks, less than 2 minutes long, that end with a call to action. Laser talks are the backbone of our advocacy work.

Take a look at this helpful explainer on how you can maximize the impact of your media by leveraging it in new ways.

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