It is a commonly held belief that as individuals we are powerless to influence or change official policies whether they are from government, local bodies, business or organisations.
This it not true! Contacting decision makers is an effective way to influence their decisions.
Write a Powerful Letter
E-mails, faxes and petitions are good communication tools, but letters are often the most effective and persuasive way of communicating our views to officials/decision makers.
These tips will help you write a persuasive letter:
- Keep it short
Limit your letter to one page and one issue.
- Identify yourself and the issue
In the first paragraph of your letter state who you are and what issue you are writing about
- Focus on your main points
Choose the three strongest points to support your argument and develop them clearly. Too much information can distract from your position.
- Make it personal
Say why the issue matters to you and how it affects you, your family, and your community. Make a connection to the official/decision maker. Did you vote for them? Do you contribute to the organisation?
- Ask for a reply
Include your name and address on both your letter and envelope. Trust your voice. Be polite and take a firm position in your letter. Be confident in your understanding of the issue and remember that the official may know less than you.
Remember to contact and thank officials when they make a decision the way you want.
A Better Letter to the Editor
Letters to the Editor are one of the most widely read sections of the newspaper and reach a large audience. They allow community members to comment on the way issues are being addressed in the media and to influence what topics the local paper covers.
Elected officials often monitor this section of the newspaper and take notice of constituents' opinions. Due to strict space limitations in newspapers, not all letters will be published, but the more letters the newspaper receives on a certain topic, the more likely they are to run at least one letter on the topic. Check the letter guidelines in your local paper and use these tips to write an effective letter to the editor:
- Keep it short and focused
Many newspapers have strict length limits and edit letters for space. A concise, single-issue letter has a better chance of retaining its salient points and keeping the reader's interest.
- Make specific references
While some newspapers will print general commentary letters, most prefer letters that respond to a specific article.
- Be factual and highlight aspects of the issue that haven’t been previously addressed.
- Include your contact information
Many newspapers will only publish a letter to the editor after verifying the author’s contact information. When printed, the letter will usually only include your name and city.
- Type your letter and sign it.
- Send letters to magazines and smaller newspapers
Magazines and smaller newspapers are more likely to print your letter and the letter can then spark local community action.
Source: "WWF Environmental Activism Online" Reproduced with permission from WWF. © 2004 WWF-World Wide Fund for Nature (Formerly World Wildlife Fund). All rights reserved.