This is the fourth and final part of my Developing a Traditional Media Strategy series. Part 1 covered media lists and press releases, Part 2 covered working with reporters, Part 3 covered media monitoring, and this post will cover rapid response and letters-to-the-editor.

Build your list

The first step in creating a rapid response program is to create a list of the newspapers in your area and to find the email addresses for submitting letters to the editor. You should be able to find the information online on their contact page or on the op-ed page. You will want to take note of any other pertinent information that you find. For example, some newspapers will not look at letters that have been submitted to any other publication. You also want to see if they post any guidelines on letter length or format, which you will want to convey to your team.

Assemble your team

Find your best writers and ask them if they would be willing to join your rapid response team. When certain issues arise these people will be those you rely on to send letters to the papers to which you direct them. For very important issues that are getting a lot of coverage you may want to blast your entire email list about it, but your core rapid response team will be your most reliable group that you count on to follow through.

Educate your team

It is important that for each rapid response item you send your team the information they need. Here is a list of some of that information:

  • A general introduction of the issue and why it is important. Sell them on why they should put the effort in on the issue.
  • Talking points that you would like them to follow in their letters. These will help your team write their letters and keep them on the message that you are trying to spread.
  • The papers that you want them to submit their letters to with the email addresses for submission.
  • Letter-writing tips and guidelines, such as length (normally 250-500 words), that they should be concise, and that they should be careful to avoid anything libelous.

Determining what to write about

Topics for rapid response should have recently been in the news and be relevant to the readers of the paper. If the topic is not relevant the letters will be ignored. Choose topics that help you get out your organization’s message.

Talk Radio

If you have a heads up that are certain topic is going to be discussed or a certain person interviewed on a talk radio station, the rapid response process is similar to LTE. Email your team with the talking points, the date, time, and channel of the broadcast, and the call-in phone number. If you are finding out about a talk radio broadcast at the last minute, call your most reliable people, brief them on what to say, and have them call in.

So that was a basic overview of rapid response and LTE. If you have more advanced tips, advice, programs that worked for you, etc. leave a comment and share.