Have you ever disagreed with something written about your industry in a newspaper or magazine? Have you ever read anything that was just plain wrong? Instead of just tossing the offending reading material across the room, write a letter to the editor.
Letters to the editor not only provide you with a forum where you may share your perspective on an issue, you also can use a letter to bring attention to yourself and your business. Although most publications are resistant to writers using the letters section for self-promotion, your professional credentials may be published if they lend credibility to the point of view you express in your letter. If nothing else, you may get your company name mentioned.
When I had a letter published in Inc. Magazine I was identified with my business name, IdeaLady.com. Although I did not notice a flood of traffic to my Web site as a result, you never know who may happen to read my letter, visit the Web site, and become a customer.
Although I’ve only written about a dozen letters to editors in my life, I’ve had most of them published in publications ranging from the Houston Chronicle (three times), to Forbes magazine to the Wall Street Journal (twice) and others. You can increase the chance that your letter will be selected by following a few simple guidelines
Take a position. You can be for something or against it, but pick one. Do not try to lay out both sides. State your position and why.
If you are responding to an article they published, mention the article and date.
Do not cover multiple issues. Stay focused.
Do not use profanity or engage in name calling. Be professional and polite.
Use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation, even in e-mail.
Get your letter in while the issue is still hot. Most publications accept letters via e-mail. Look for an e-mail address on the letters page, or at their Web site.
Keep it short. Some letters must be long, but most can be kept short. That makes it easier for the editor to use your letter, and increases your chance of getting some of the limited letters space. To tighten your writing, take out unnecessary words such as very, so, really, and other vague qualifiers. Even if you keep your letter short, understand that the editor my still make cuts.
Some comments are too long to fit the letters to the editor format. If you have a long commentary, consider submitting an “op-ed” or essay. Not only do you get more space to explain your point of view, you will generally get a byline with a brief explanation of your credentials. And, you may even get paid.
If the publication has guidelines on its Web site, follow them. They may specify that you must include full contact information with your letter, or specify a maximum length.
Watch for opportunities to comment on issues related to your industry or expertise, then fire off a great letter.