The ACR is committed to advocating on behalf of its members. This could be on Capitol Hill, by working with insurance providers, or by working with the media to promote the work of rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals and advance the issues affecting them.
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Explore This IssueJanuary 2010
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Each year, the ACR works with the media to place stories about the work of ACR members and the College. As major news hits your local media, you might want to become part of the conversation, representing your institution, practice, patients, and profession as a whole. For example, when a health policy decision is made by Congress that directly affects rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals, you might speak out on a local level, and one way of doing this is by writing a letter to the editor of a local publication.
A letter to the editor offers the opportunity for the readers of a publication to write directly to the editor with the goal of having that letter published or encouraging the editor to cover the issue you are presenting.
Seven Steps to Writing a Letter to the Editor
With a little planning and knowledge of the process, you can write effective letters to the editors of your local publications. Here are seven quick tips to get you started:
- Do your homework and respond to issues quickly: Search past issues of the publication to determine if your topic has been covered recently. If so, you may want to reference this coverage in your letter.
- Send it to the correct person: Confirm the name of the editor so you may address him or her personally within your letter.
- Follow the guidelines: It is important to follow the Letter to the Editor guidelines of the publication (usually found next to the letters in a print edition or online). Such guidelines usually address the preferred method of delivery, letter length, the time period within which they will print letters that address previous articles, and other guidelines of the publication. Editors take these guidelines very seriously, and failing to respect them can result in your letter not being pursued.
- Get straight to the point: Editors appreciate the fact that you have a lot to say, but they don’t have space to print it all. To increase your chances of publication or follow-up, touch on one or two main points and exercise brevity in the overall letter and in each individual sentence.
- Don’t save the best for last: If the editor is going to cut something from your letter, it will likely be from the bottom. Therefore, you should make your point at the beginning of your letter. As an added bonus, doing this will help catch the editor’s attention from the start.
- Leave your information: Don’t forget to sign your letter and leave your contact information (including your city, phone number, and e-mail address). Editors rarely print letters they haven’t confirmed and should not print your contact information; it is just for follow-up purposes.
- Review and read aloud: Make sure you check and double-check for grammar and spelling mistakes. Editors will not take the time to clean up a letter with a lot of errors; they will just throw it away. Also, read your letter aloud to determine if it is clear, concise, and informative.
When Should I Contact the Media?
Contacting your local media should be done sparingly so you don’t lose impact. Not every story idea is a winner, and not every issue needs a letter to the editor. Save your contact with your local media for highly important issues so you don’t become a person who suggests unhelpful stories.
There are many ways to work with your local media to promote your practice or institution and to advance rheumatology on a regular basis. Three of these ways are:
- Speaking out about advocacy issues: With health policy changing every day, your local media outlets might be interested to know how these decisions affect you, your patients, and your profession on a local level.
- Providing expert opinions: Does your local paper have a health reporter? The next time you see a rheumatology-related story, feel free to comment directly to the reporter (who will typically provide his or her e-mail address with the story), introducing yourself as a local area expert on the subject.
- Joining conversations: If your local publication has social media components, such as message boards or comment features online, join the conversation and share opinions.
A final tip for working with your local media: Don’t underestimate the smaller media outlets in your area. If you live in a big city, don’t feel like you should only work with large media outlets (like The New York Times, for example). Great strides can be made by working with smaller media outlets. When you are deciding whom to reach out to, consider everything you read and what your patients are reading. That is where you want to go, even if it isn’t the largest media outlet in town.
The ACR is committed to pitching valuable stories to the media, but your local connections can be of help as well. If you have any questions about how to work with your local media, contact Erin Latimer, the ACR’s senior specialist of communication and marketing, at firstname.lastname@example.org.