First, make sure you’ve identified the issue. It needs to be an issue which can be changed through campaigning, and it needs to be the main issue.
Secondly, withdraw and analyze. Slow down! Take some time to decide on the best call to action. There might be other more effective forms of activism you should be engaging in.
And finally, before you do anything, make sure you have the best person on the other end, so you don’t waste your time. For example, contacting the person you think is in charge, does no good, if they must answer to others before affecting change. So research and find out who the very best contact person is; who is really in charge; and who has the power and authority to make things happen.
Once you determine that Letter Writing is the most promising call to action, follow these tips to ensure your letter has the very best chance of getting read and appreciated.
Step One: Identify yourself. If you have an occupation which would convey knowledge and awareness related to the issue, mention it. If you have been a resident of the area involved, for any length of time, mention that as well. And if you have done any meritorious deeds related to your campaign, don’t be afraid to make the reader aware of that.
My name is Lucille Wilson. I have been a resident of Hyde Park for 5 years, and am a member of the Hyde Park Beautification Committee.
Note: you don’t have to be on a committee in order to gain respect and acceptance. At a minimum, just mention the fact that you are a concerned citizen, or a fan of the city (if you don’t live there) who wants to see it prosper.
Step Two: Show gratitude. Most likely, the person you are writing has been contacted multiple times about this issue, in a less than gratuitous tone. Stand out! Highlight anything good they have ever done, and take a tone of camaraderie, which assumes you both want what is best for everyone involved (even if your positions on the issue are completely opposite). This will involve finding some commonality, which may be challenging but is very effective at building rapport.
“I wanted to thank you for all you do for the city. You were there for us during the hurricane season and helped to restore order. I believe you want what is best for your residents. That’s why I am writing you to day about….” (next step)
Step Three: Identify the issue. Be very specific and don’t make generalities. Let the person know exactly which matter is concerning you!
“That’s why I’m writing to you today about the safety of our town. Numerous shop owners are being vandalized by underage youth who are walking about unsupervised after midnight”.
Step Four: Emphasize the support of others who are on your side
“I surveyed local residents within a two block radius of the area. Almost all of them told me they would like for there to be an increase in police protection on the weekends.”
Step Five: Give examples of how this issue is affecting others
“Multiple businesses are closing down and moving out of the area, or hiring extra security so that patrons won’t stop coming”.
Step Six: Suggest change (or demand it, if it is a big deal requiring immediate action and/or outrage). Be specific about exactly what you want and exactly when you want it!
“In order to retain local businesses and make residents feel more secure, it is vital that extra measures be taken on the part of the city, to make our town safe for shop owners, and attractive to local shoppers. Therefore, we are requesting that, effective immediately, the city double its police protection in the downtown area.”
Step Seven: Thank them for their time. and reinforce your belief/expectation that specific action will happen on their part.
“I am confident you will agree that this is a problem which can be easily remedied by increasing the presence of our fine police force. Thank you for all you do and for listening to the will of the voters.”
End your letter with “Sincerely” , followed by your name. Don’t forget to sign it, and invite others to sign it as well. Be sure it’s addressed specifically to the correct contact person, not just to their address. If you are mailing several copies of the same letter to different people at the same address, you should mail each person a separate letter in a separate envelope.
Finally, do leave your contact information, so they can follow up with you! You should leave, at a minimum, your phone number and, of course, put a return address on your letter (unless you truly don’t feel safe doing so).