letters to the editor

React and Respond: Letters to the Editor and Online Comments Get the Job Done

By Public Relations

One of the more eye-opening moments I had as a young PR intern had to do with letters to the editor. A naive idealist, I thought all letters to the editor (LTE) were written by earnest citizens, penned by hand and mailed with a stamp. While some surely are (I hasten to add, for you, the Easter Bunny believers), many are not.

Now, all LTEs are signed by earnest citizens. All are sent by or delivered to publications by those putting their money and hearts behind the sentiment in the aforementioned letters, but LTEs are often suggested, originated, drafted and refined by people just like me: Public Relations professionals.

Publications worth their salt (or the paper on which they’re printed, in the case of those who still follow this process), follow up with those who have signed the LTEs and ask them to verify that they, indeed, have lent their name to the letter and the words within are theirs.

(Am I really telling a trade secret here? Or are you all nodding the head bob of the cynical with me?)

Today almost everything printed or broadcast is also found online, allowing for a faster reaction and response and, fortunately the speed-of-light submission of e-mailed letters to the editor and of course, the online comment, appearing just below the original article, to which the comment or letter reacts.

It’s a gift to the PR industry, actually, to be able to respond so thoroughly and quickly in this way. The opportunity for a client to correct misinformation in a very visible way, or to defend itself in a public forum is extremely valuable and clients always appreciate the opportunity and support to get the job done.

Chiming in is important, and it’ s been part of my job for more than 15 years to monitor the news on behalf of my clients and alert them to opportunities to react and respond. My favorite of these are those that offer controversy, stir up emotion or even allow for a crisis to potentially be averted. Few activities in the PR practice are more fun for me than crafting the crisis message and response. The current speed of news is the most challenging to stay on top of, but I enjoy watching and listening, and making the recommendations to get into the conversation when it’s appropriate for my clients to do so.

Have you ever written a letter to the editor? Is this information news to you?