Make a Difference
Activist Toolkit — Skills Building Tools
Basic Ways YOU Can Get the Message Out
In just a few simple steps, you can engage the media and help spread the word about the need for better care. And, once you get the word out there, don’t forget to let us know about it! We want to know about the media coverage you’ve generated about the Campaign’s issues!
Letters-to-the-editor (LTEs) come from newspaper readers and address issues of interest to the community. Send an LTE to your newspaper if you want to respond to a story or opinion article.
- Make your case. Always use your letter to advance your own messages, not simply to criticize somebody else for getting it wrong. Once you’ve opened your letter by mentioning that the article to which you are responding missed some important points, make your case.
- Submit your letter. Letters should be no more than three or four short paragraphs usually 200 or so words. Make sure to sign your letter and provide a phone number so the newspaper staff can follow-up with you (they will not publish your phone number.)
Op-eds or guest editorials are opinion articles that are 600 to 750 words in length. They express an opinion on a timely issue.
- Express your opinion...concisely. Op-eds should emphasize the writer’s opinion or experience. They should be of interest to the general public. Keep your argument concise (usually 600-750 words) and if the newspaper has submission guidelines including word limits, follow them.
- Submit your op-ed and follow-up. Submit your op-ed to the editorial or op-ed page editor (usually this can be done online) with a brief note that summarizes the key points in one paragraph and explains the author’s expertise or experience. Include your name and phone number. Follow-up a day or so later to ask whether the newspaper plans to use it.
- Take it one newspaper at a time. Do not submit an op-ed to two newspapers in the same market at the same time. Newspapers deserve and will demand a “market exclusive” for the piece. Submit it to one outlet and, if they turn it down, move onto the next.
Blogs are a great vehicle for communicating your message about improving our health care system. Blogs vary widely and it’s important to know which of your local blogs have influence and what their focus and audience is. Here are some tips to get your message onto a blog:
- Pitch the blogger with a personalized e-mail. Before you ask a blogger to write about your issue, get to know their priorities and focus (What does s/he blog about? Who is her/his audience?) Once you know how your issue relates to the blog, send a short (two paragraph) email to the blogger letting her/him know about the issue and why readers would be interested.
- Post comments on related blogs. Another way to gain visibility on blogs is to post comments. That’s usually no more complicated than typing a response into a comments box at the bottom of the blog. It’s ok to leave a link to your website, but make sure your comments are timely, thoughtful and contribute to the discussion on the blog.
- Be a guest blogger. Some blogs run posts written by authors not associated with the blog. The best way to approach these blogs is to email the person who runs the blog to say that you’d like to do a post on a particular topic, sketching out in one paragraph what you’d say. If they’re interested, they’ll ask you to write a post.
- General tips - Blog posts are somewhat less formal and often written in the first person. They are usually no more than 500 words and they focus on making just one or two points. Make sure to include links within your post to reports or websites that you cite. It’s also ok to ask if they can include a relevant graphic or picture.
Radio Show Call-In
Many radio programs take callers for questions or comments. Radio shows are an excellent way to get the Campaign for Better Care
’s messages out to the public in an easy and timely way.
- Monitor radio shows in your area. Get to know the radio programs and hosts in your area and check online for upcoming schedules. Determine which shows are worth monitoring regularly. Listen often to identify when a radio show is covering a topic relevant to the Campaign’s issues.
- Determine your message. Once you identify an opportunity to call in, determine what you will say on the show. Keep it short. If you do get on the air, your time will be very limited. Make sure your message is relevant to the discussion that day. Refer back to the Campaign for Better Care talking points for ideas.
- Remember to avoid acronyms, jargon, and abbreviations. Keep your message simple and to-the-point by sticking to the one or two most important points.
- Call-in. When the host announces they are taking callers, make the call. If you get through, someone will probably ask you for some information including your first name and where you live. While you wait for the call-in portion of the show to begin, turn the sound on your radio off to avoid background interference. Once you are on, state your points and wait for the host or guest to respond. Hang up after they thank you for your call.
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