Suggestions for writing letters, which are not news releases, to the media:
- Brief is better than lengthy. Eliminate fluff. Get to the point. Try to limit your email/letter to one page or less. You can always send additional information later.
- Be civil, courteous, and professional. If you start attacking the journalists, they are likely to become focused on defending themselves rather than on what data you are trying to share with them.
- Many outlets will not consider information sent to them unless they are the only outlet you are contacting, so do not attach other visible emails but use BCC. When appropriate, let the site be the only site to which you are sending your letter, knowing that you can contact other sites later if the first site does not respond to you.
- Include useful research documentation but limit how many you use. You can send more at a later time. Remember that most journalists will not open links.
- When appropriate, personalize/humanize these issues without sharing your personal situation/case.
- When possible, tie your pitch to an event in the news. An example would be to discuss the high cost of maintaining an ineffective registry, while a lack of revenue is causing government agencies to slash their budgets. Reporters often look for ways to advance an issue past what other news outlets are reporting.
- If you don’t interact with journalists the right way, you could waste time and do more harm than good. Rather than arguing and attacking a journalist, use smoother transitions to get your point across, such as: “You reported on ……………, but another big problem is …………..” or “Thank you for starting the conversation on …………… Did you know that ……………?” There is usually no need to point out to the journalist everything that was wrong with their article. Share the evidence-based facts, and the journalist can figure out their mistakes on their own. Most are not out to “get us”; they are simply misinformed.
- If the journalist responds to you, do not leave them hanging. Reply as soon as you can. Be prepared as to what you would say to the journalist and assume that everything you say is going to be quoted. Remember that if you waste a journalist’s time, you will probably never hear from them again.
- If a journalist does use information you share with them in a story, always send some sort of thank you email. Even if you do not like the article, there is always something that you can find to compliment. Do not dwell on the negatives, so that hopefully in the future you can send new developments that might interest the reporter. But do not overdo it, or you might be ignored.
- Learn to work with the journalists and not against them.