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Reaching the Media

These are the basic steps to writing an effective letter to the editor, op-ed, or a press release.  Use these tips to increase your chances of getting published in local or national media outlets.

How to Write Letters to the Editor:

What are Letters to the Editor?
Letters to the editor (LTE's) most often discuss a recent event or issue covered by a publication, radio station, or TV program. Widely read, LTE's are your chance to "sound-off" to your community about issues in the news.

1. It is much easier to publish a letter to the editor than it is to place an op-ed
2. Your letter has the best chance of being published if it is a reaction to a story in the paper. Respond as quickly as you can.
3. Read the letters page, you will learn how to develop an effective letter-writing style, and you will see if someone has already responded with your idea.
4. Keep it short and concise (150-200 words). The paper will take the liberty to shorten your letter to suit its format; the more it has to cut, the less control you have of what gets printed. Lead with your most important information.
5. Focus on one main point and make a compelling case.
6. Write in short paragraphs, with no more than three sentences per paragraph.
7. Don't write too often. Once every three months is about as often as you should write.
8. Avoid personal attacks.
9. Put your full name at the bottom, and include a phone number for verification purposes.
10. Follow up to see if the letter was received.

How to Write an Op-Ed:

What are op-eds?
An op-ed is an opinion piece printed opposite the editorial page.  Anyone can submit op-eds, even though columnists, public officials, or heads of organizations are often the authors.  Op-eds take more work than a Letter to the Editor, but they are widely read by policy makers and can have a far-reaching impact.

1. Call your local newspaper for the name of the op-ed editor and guidelines for submission.  
2. Submit the piece at least two weeks prior to the time you want it to appear.  Space for  3. op-eds is often planned in advance.  
4. Your op-ed should be longer than a letter to the editor; 750 words is a good length.  Be sure to type it double-spaced.
5. Submit your op-ed with a cover letter.  
6. Follow up with a phone call to confirm that your piece was received.  Ask if it will be published.  

How to Write a Press Release:

You should use a press release when you want to get reporters to cover a specific, local event (such as a WFP-sponsored speaker or demonstration).
A creative event coupled with a well-timed press release can get you great media coverage. 

1. Press releases should be short (one page is best), double-spaced with generous margins, and error-free. 
2. No smudges, no typos, no misspelled words.
3. The first sentence must catch the attention of the reporter.  Make sure to include the basics:who, what, when, where, why.  If you save your best for last, many will not see it.

Who to send it to:
Send the press release to specific, relevant people.  If you don't know the name of the appropriate editor, call and ask.  Send the same press release to as many people as you like, but if you begin working with two people at the same paper or station, let each of them know immediately.

Print/TV/Radio Interview Tips:
Visit these links to learn how to get your point of view across to a news reporter without compromising your argument or losing his or her attention.

  • Radio Interview Tips

How to Hold a Media Event or Press Conference: 

Bringing your message to the media is a powerful way to educate people in your community and to make your policymakers take notice.  Here are some tips on hosting a successful media event. 

WFP speaker tours, local rallies, returned delegations, and nonviolent direct actions provide rich media opportunities.  ALWAYS include media in the plan.

Tips for Successful Media Events:
• Hold event or press conference between 11AM and 1PM to fit well in the media window
• Limit speakers to 4 minutes (if the press conference is too long you’ll lose folks)
• Be sure to provide an adequate sound system
• Send out Press Advisory one week ahead to print, radio, and TV
• Send out second Press Release two days ahead
• Follow up with press phone calls the day before
• Have press packets at the site with press release, background info, speaker bios, etc.
• Designate 2-3 people to hand out press packets and connect media with speakers
• Have media sign-in sheet so you can follow up and build your media contact list
• Carefully select media spokespersons.  Prep them with the media message and sound bites
• Provide good visuals – puppets, banners, well-made “message” signs, special T-shirts, Street Theater, etc.

More Resources: