Working With The Media – Writing a Letter to the Editor

March 2, 2015

AIA-NJIn our recent year end review of the 2014 activities of the AIA New Jersey Public Awareness Committee, we asked you to stay tuned for tools that will help you make a splash in the press. Below, is the second in a series of articles that will help you in that regard. With your help, we hope to be able to leverage our strength in numbers to help promote architects and architecture.

In the inaugural installment of our Working with the Media series, we discussed the process of familiarizing yourself with your local media landscape, including reporters and editors from various mainstream and trade outlets, and local community papers. We discussed a process called source filing, in which you, as an architect, establish yourself as a professional resource for future building and design-related stories that a journalist may be writing.

This is a necessary first step to making a splash in your local publication, but as a standalone measure, it leaves you in a passive position. Source filing vastly increases your chances of being contacted by a reporter when they need a source, but what if you want to proactively offer your expertise to the media?

Without pitching a story to a local reporter, it’s still possible to get published through a simple letter to the editor. A letter should be short – ideally less than 300 words – addressed to a newspaper or website’s editorial staff regarding a specific story or pertinent trend. Once you’ve identified the correct email or mailing address for the editor (usually located on the ‘Opinions’ or ‘Letters’ page), it’s time to get started on your letter.

As you’re writing your letter, keep in mind a few key points:

  • Keep it (somewhat) formal: Begin your letter with a proper salutation and thoroughly check it for spelling, grammar, and unnecessary shorthand writing. The printed letter is a direct reflection of you as a professional!
  • Send it electronically: While sending a physical letter is a novel idea, you greatly increase your chances of being published if you email the letter. It’s far easier for busy editors to copy/paste a letter than to retype it.
  • Clearly state your position in the opening paragraph: Whether you’re responding to a recent article or commenting on a building or architectural issue, make sure that you don’t bury your main point. In the first paragraph, be sure to plainly state your stance in relation to the story or subject.
  • Don’t (always) have a bone to pick: The tendency for many is to write a letter to the editor only when they are upset or opposed to something that a reporter has written. In fact, letters to the editor can be laudatory of a reporter, fellow architect, development project – anything! In fact, as long as you’re offering a fresh perspective, staying positive is a great way to solidify your relationship with the publication in the early stages of your relationship.

Letters to the editor offer a unique opportunity for architects because they are not controlled by an editorial board or journalistic practices. They’re an opportunity to say something constructive, educational, or unique about architecture while solely owning the message. Best of luck and happy writing!

For more suggestions, refer to AIA Best Practices – Getting Good Press on the web at www.aia.org. Please note this is a password protected, member only website. Therefore, we cannot provide a direct link to the site for you. But you can find it under Practicing Architecture; Best Practices; Part 2 – Firm Management; Chapter 6: Marketing and Business Development. You might also find a lot of other beneficial material in this area of the website.

If you would like to read the previous article in this series, please click here.

If you would like to see a sample Letter to the Editor, please click here.

Kyle Kirkpatrick
Account Supervisor
Beckerman PR Real Estate Team

Bruce D. Turner, AIA
Chair, AIA New Jersey Public Awareness Committee

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