A Consumer Earned Media Tactic to Consider
The Letter to the Editor is a consumer earned media tactic SPRYTE often recommends to our healthcare communications clients to great success. We like them because they’re reader-contributed and the topics can be current or “evergreen.” Newspapers typically publish several Letters to the Editor every day so there’s ample opportunity for placement.
Letters to the Editor are effective for healthcare providers for the following reasons:
Letters to the Editor Can:
- Educate the public (or correct the record) about a specific health concern or issue.
- Create and enhance brand recognition within a healthcare provider’s targeted geographic area.
- Establish the healthcare provider as an authority on a specific health topic or issue.
- Reinforce the healthcare provider’s reputation as a caring and concerned member of its local community.
Placing a Letter to the Editor hinges on several factors. While there’s always a drive to display your healthcare organization’s name prominently and positively, editors will reject letters that are too self-promotional.
Healthcare providers must be sure about what the newspapers’ readers will gain by reading the letter.
Two Questions the Letter to the Editor Writer Should Answer:
- How does my message contribute to the public good?
- What useful or compelling healthcare expertise can we share?
As with all earned media tactics, establish your goals first. Your goals will shape the content of your Letter. Here are some guidelines:
- If your goal is to inform readers, make sure to include attributable facts and/or statistics.
- If you want to thank or bring attention to a group, highlight the problem the group or individuals have helped to solve, and what they’ve accomplished.
Best Practices for Your Letter to the Editor Campaign
Here are some more tips from SPRYTE’s playbook for leveraging letter to the editor campaigns:
Avoid high-traffic times of year. Saluting mothers on Mothers Day or veterans on Veterans Day or Memorial Day will put your Letter in strong competition for space. Instead, select less prominent recognition days, like an obscure anniversary, a lesser-known holiday or a milestone only your healthcare organization can claim.
Move fast. If you want to respond to an article the newspaper ran, or give your opinion on a newsworthy healthcare topic, waiting even a few days can make your Letter to the Editor stale. Don’t forget to reference the specific article in your Letter response.
Follow the rules. Most newspapers have specific guidelines for Letters to the Editor, read them and follow them. Words might be limited to 200 or even 150, so make every word count. Some publications require you to e-mail your Letter to a specific department or editor, and others have online submission forms. Submit in the prescribed format to give your Letter to the Editor the best chance of being placed.
Be available to Verify. Most newspapers have a Letter verification process to ensure validity. Included might be a phone call or an e-mail to or from the Letter writer confirming contact information, city of residence and organization. Make sure the Letter to the Editor author is aware that he/she might be contacted or, might proactively have to call a number to verify the Letter.
Manage expectations. Even if you get a canned e-mail that says your Letter to the Editor is being considered, it still many not be placed for a variety of reasons including lack of space, competing, more timely topics, or a more insightful (or entertaining) Letter on the same subject. If your letter is more of an “evergreen” topic, it could run days or even weeks later, so keep monitoring for its placement.
Union-Snyder Agency on Aging Provided 31,552 Meals to Seniors
SPRYTE recently placed a Letter to the Editor in the Daily Item of Selinsgrove, Pa. on behalf of one of client Griswold Home Care’s Franchise Directors in North Central Pa.
The topic? Recognition of a local charity that provides food to low income seniors. The community agency was recently the recipient of Griswold Home Care’s Jean Griswold Foundation’s grantmaking program.
The Letter, signed by Franchise Director Andrew Hefflinger allowed Hefflinger to recognize an outstanding local partner while shining a spotlight on his leading local home care business as mutually interested in improving the lives and independence of the local senior citizenry.
Letters to the editor are a powerful tool in a healthcare communicator’s arsenal. If used deliberately, they can build your reputation, influence public opinion and spur changes in behavior or opinion.