How to get a letter published in a national newspaper or online news site

A letter to the editor can be a great way to secure national coverage and spark a wider conversation. With national newspapers receiving hundreds of these letters every day, how do you improve the chances of your letter appearing in print? Read on to find out.

Each day, national newspapers and their online sites publish a selection of letters they have received in response to the news, which they feel will be of interest to their readers. Getting a letter in print can be a great way to:

  • Make yourself known to a relevant audience
  • Engage in debates relevant to your organisation
  • Communicate your organisation’s key messages
  • Demonstrate that your CEO, or other spokesperson, is a thought leader and someone who is opinionated and well informed

Act fast and be current

Most platforms and publications strive to stay current. So there is little point in writing about a topic that was relevant last year, unless you are presenting a groundbreaking new perspective, evidence or angle. The best approach is to write about something that is happening right now. To ensure your letter has a good chance of being published, make sure you file it with the letters editor by midday on the day you send it. Sending it later may still secure publication but it limits your chances. At Pedroza Communications, we know it’s hard for some organisations to respond quickly, as everyone has other deadlines and priorities. Get organised in advance – understand who is writing the response, how it will be signed off, and who will send it to the publication.

Get organised

There are lots of things in the news that we can respond to, but in order to make your letters a worthwhile part of your PR strategy, identify the topics that are most relevant to your aims in advance. Prepare your key messages, identify an example, or recent piece of research, and then monitor the media to see when it is covered in the news. If you don’t have a tailored news service, a cost-effective way to monitor the news is to set up Google Alerts for the relevant keywords or topics.

Catch the reader’s attention (and keep it)

Start your letter with a strong hook that will get the reader’s attention. Unless you’re talking about a widely understood subject, your letter should introduce the topic in a way that makes it accessible to everyone, otherwise you’ll alienate some of your readers. For inspiration, just take a look at the letters that are printed in the publication you are targeting. You’ll find plenty of ideas there.

Keep it snappy

When you feel passionate about a subject, it is easy to write a lot, but letters editors aren’t going to publish a 2000 word piece – they simply don’t have the space! At Pedroza Communications, we often need to edit letters down, and a letters editor may edit it even further. So try and make your letter no more than 350 words. Doing this will help you to stay on topic too!

Offer a unique perspective

A letter from someone with personal experience of an issue, such as a parent, teacher, or someone within the sector, will have much more impact than someone outside of that experience. Play to your strengths and offer your unique perspective on a  topic. Don’t forget to say who you are and why you are well placed to comment.

Proof it

However quickly you need to send it, always make sure you proof read your letters. The less an editor has to correct or change, the more likely they are to use it, especially if they are on a tight deadline.

Don’t give up!

Don’t be disheartened if your first few attempts don’t make it in to print. The key is in persevering and honing your approach. Good luck!

If you’d like more support and advice on how to secure good quality media coverage, please get in touch to arrange a free consultation. You can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter for free resources, tips and PR advice for education-sector specialists.