"Promoting Your Business By Sharing Your Opinions" 
by Pauline Bartel, M.A.

Building and maintaining a strong, appealing brand image that differentiates your company from your competitors takes time and creativity. You must raise the public’s awareness of your enterprise, create a favorable impression in the public’s mind, and then sustain your visibility as your business grows.

Sustaining visibility can be accomplished through a variety of strategies, including sharing your opinions in local newspapers. Writing letters to the editor and opinion essays gives you the opportunity to stand apart from your competition; gain no-cost publicity for your business, product, or service; and put a “face” on your company through your words. Here’s the strategy:

Monitor the News

Read local newspapers regularly, noting especially any news or information that is directly related to your business or industry and to which you can respond.

Look for opportunities to contribute valuable information that may have been omitted from a feature story. For example, during Fire Prevention Month, perhaps the local newspaper runs an article that offers tips for preventing fires in the home but doesn’t mention anything about keeping fire extinguishers handy. The owner of a fire extinguisher company could respond to the omission by drafting a letter to the editor, explaining the benefits of having a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and sharing hints for selecting the most appropriate type.

When published, the letter will bear the writer’s name and the name of the company, offering visibility to the enterprise in a section of the newspaper that eschews traditional advertising. Thus, the company will stand apart from the competition.

Look for opportunities to set the record straight when inaccuracies creep into news stories. Many local newspapers carried news of Laura Bush’s plans to promote literacy during her time as First Lady. During a White House ceremony launching the campaign and honoring American writers, one of the honored guests misquoted a line from Margaret Mitchell’s novel about the Civil-War. I reacted to the news story in a letter to the editor that congratulated Mrs. Bush on her initiative, corrected the misquote, and cited my authorship of The Complete GONE WITH THE WIND Trivia Book. When published, the letter brought visibility to my book, resulting in no-cost publicity.

Look for opportunities to draw attention to issues related to your industry that are not but that should be discussed in the broader community. A colleague whose company specializes in public relations for technology companies attended a technology summit. This experience prompted her to write an opinion essay in which she challenged the region to address issues of branding, marketing, and growing the needed infrastructure to support those activities in a Tech Valley area.

When published, her essay brought visibility to her company. Her words put a “face” on her company, and her views sparked the beginning of a community conversation about the issues she raised.

Craft Your Statement

When you have an issue to which you can react, consider the overall purpose of your letter to the editor or your opinion essay. Do you wish to inform, argue, or persuade? Once you know your purpose, state your central idea in a complete sentence.

Called a focus statement, this sentence narrows the subject, dictates the evidence you will include and exclude, and states the point of your letter or essay. If your purpose is to inform, your focus statement should summarize the information you plan to explain. If your purpose is to argue or to persuade, your focus statement should state your opinion or your judgment.

The focus statement demands adequate supporting evidence. Thus, the evidence you select must be reliable and logically related to the focus statement. Reliable kinds of supporting evidence include information from surveys, informed opinions from experts, observations, analogies, and logical reasons.

Gather the best supporting evidence you can find then, as you outline and draft your letter or essay, consider the logic of your ideas. Avoid shifting to irrelevant issues or breaking the chain of logic between evidence and conclusion. Informed readers will reject a position reached through faulty reasoning, and this will reflect poorly on you.

Keep in mind the content lengths for letters to the editor and opinion essays. While content lengths vary from newspaper to newspaper, letters to the editor range generally from three to six paragraphs or between 200 and 500 words. Opinion essays run longer and range generally from 750 to 1,500 words. Review your target newspaper to gauge the acceptable content length for submissions. You could also telephone the staff member in charge of the letters-to-the-editor page or the opinion section to confirm maximum content lengths.

Submit For Publication

After completing the draft of your letter to the editor or opinion essay, revise and polish the content until you are satisfied with the presentation. Then check for correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation before submitting the typewritten, double-spaced material for publication in the local newspaper.

Newspapers will accept letters to the editor and opinion essays by regular mail, fax, or electronic mail. You’ll find contact information on the editorial page of most newspapers. Be certain to include your full name, the name and address of your business, and a daytime telephone number. The telephone number is necessary so that the editor can verify that you are the writer of the material and that you grant permission to have your name published along with the letter or essay.

When your letter to the editor or opinion essay is published, you may discover that the text is slightly different from the content that you submitted. Why? Letters to the editor and opinion essays are edited routinely for length, accuracy, and appropriateness.

Share Your Opinion

Publication of your letter to the editor or opinion essay brings your point of view to the readers of the newspaper. You can extend the reach of your letter or essay by sharing your opinion in other venues.

Make photocopies of your published letter or essay, attach a handwritten “In-case-you-missed-this” note, and send to those individuals whom you wish to influence. Incorporate the letter or essay in the newsletter that you send to customers. Post the text of your letter or essay on your company’s Web site. Include your letter or essay in prospective client packets, citing the name of the newspaper and the date the material appeared.

Sharing your opinions in local newspapers gives voice to your views and promotes your business. Invest some time and creativity and use this strategy to sustain the visibility of your company’s brand. You’ll be a page ahead of your competition.

Author Bio:

Pauline Bartel is the owner of Bartel Communications, a Waterford, NY-based company that builds the image of companies with words. Pauline specializes in corporate communications, including writing and editing, public relations and marketing, training and professional development and in commercial writing and publishing in the magazine and book fields.

Copyright © 2003 by Pauline Bartel
All Rights Reserved

Contact Details

Bartel Communications Inc.
12½ Division Street
Waterford, NY 12188
Telephone/FAX (518) 237-1353

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