Want to know an inside secret about the world of publishing? Most newspapers and magazines run letters and opinions pages, and most struggle to fill them.

Given how few companies take this simple, open road to publication, I guess that this is an insider’s secret.

There’s another reason why your content marketing campaign should include contributing letters to the editor and opinion pieces to local and national newspapers and magazines: these are great opportunities to stake your claim to leadership in your chosen field.

You can say what you think, and position your business as one that cares about your customers, our society and economy. People like to do business with people who care, as far as I can see from my decades of business reporting.

To write a good letter to the editor, here are some tips:

  • Letters must be relevant to a current news item or a recent feature. Follow the stories in your publication of choice (the one that your clients and prospects read), and write your letter the instant you see a topic appear that you care about.
  • Be honest, passionate and direct. Your first sentence needs to state your view, and then refer to the debate that has prompted you to write. The rest needs to back it up. Don’t waffle.
  • Contribute to the debate. If you want to be seen as a leader,  you need to offer a positive alternative to the ideas you are criticising.
  • Keep your sense of humour. There’s no reason why passion needs to be too serious. Humour is not only the best medicine, but it also helps break down defensive responses to what you write.
  • Get your personal biases out into the open. Tell readers why you care about the issue, personally and professionally.
  • Don’t sell. This is not the forum to give a little spiel about how good your company is – the editor will just instantly consign your letter to the trash can. And, if it does happen to slip through, so much the worse for you. You’ll be seen by readers – including customers and prospects – as self-serving instead of passionate.
  • Be brief – no more than 300 words. You are much more likely to get a short letter published than a long one.