Media Advocacy & Social Media
Using the media to spread your message is a smart and effective way to build support for an issue from decision makers and from fellow residents. Below are some ideas to get started!
Op-Eds or Opinion Editorials
An op-ed, short for opinion editorial, is a written piece published in a local, regional, or national media outlet that expresses an opinion on a certain issue. Op-eds give legislators, journalists, and members of your community a chance to learn more about your cause, form their own opinions, and, ideally, take steps to get involved.
Before you get started on your own op-ed, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Check the submission guidelines. Most news outlets have strict guidelines on op-eds, including limits on word count (typically around 500) and specific directions on how to submit (via email or online). We recommend you check your paper’s requirements before you start writing. This information can typically be found on the “opinions” page of the media outlet’s website.
Write like you talk. Avoid jargon, fancy words, and slang. Your op-ed must be understandable to the general public, including people that may have no knowledge of the issue or your campaign.
Get to the point. Make your key points early and often, and back them up with facts and examples.
Offer a short, snappy headline. A good headline gives readers a preview of what your op-ed is about and grabs their attention.
Share a story. A personal story is a great way to humanize your issue. Whenever possible include a story in your op-ed.
Be prepared to be edited. Op-ed submissions are subject to revisions, editing, and fact-checking. Sources for factual statements should be listed at the bottom of your op-ed or linked to in the text to expedite review and placement processes.
Include your contact information. Be sure to include your name, title, organization (as needed), email, and phone number in case the editors want to contact you/the signer.
Letters to the Editors
Letters to the editor (LTE) are an effective, simple way to spread awareness about a public policy issue. It’s a short letter for publication about an issue of concern. Most LTE are written in response to a published story. You can write letters to LTEs of a local or national newspaper, online magazine or blog. Like op-eds, LTE can be centered on a personal story or be more factual and straightforward. It’s important to think about the readership of the outlet when determining your writing style. Also, keep in mind that your LTE can agree with or oppose the original piece you’re responding to, or could add to the article by offering a different or missed point of view.
As a volunteer, you have an important story to tell! Lawmakers read their local newspapers and can be influenced by stories from their constituents. The awareness you can bring to an issue by submitting an LTE is unique and valuable.
Link your letter to a published story. You can respond to any article that you feel relates to your cause as a hook to get the editor’s attention. Reach out to your NCIT or your local organization contact for help to identify a story to respond to for your letter.
Keep it short and concise, up to 250 words maximum. Most publications have limitations on how long LTE can be, usually the publications rules are included in the LTE section of the paper. Generally, you’ll be asked to share a few sentences telling your story and then why you want to see the issue you’re discussing to be resolved.
Include your contact information. Often, publications will call to verify your identity and confirm that you submitted the LTE. So be sure to include your name, email and phone number when you submit your letter.
Use a catchy title. Your title should offer a preview of what your letter is about in a way that attracts the attention of your audience.
Talk about the issue from your perspective. Your LTE should seek to answer these two questions: Why is this issue important to you? Why is it important to people in your community?
For additional support on submitting a letter to the editor on a topic, reach out to NCIT or your local organization directly. They can provide talking points or data to support your opinion on a public policy issue.