Guide to writing letters & giving interviews

GMT 18:01 Thursday ,03 December 2015

 Migrant Voice - Guide to writing letters & giving interviews

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Migrant Voice recently held special Masterclass sessions of our Media Lab in both London and Birmingham to prepare our members for media activities we have planned for International Migrants Day (18 December 2015). Delivered by journalist and editor Daniel Nelson, the Masterclasses engaged participants on how to prepare clear, concise ways to tell our messages or our experiences in order to speak on a radio programme or write letters to a newspaper.

Following the sessions, we have worked with Daniel to produce a video training guide which will be useful  for anyone eager to understand and learn the basics of letter writing for multiple purposes, as well as tips to speaking to journalists and speaking on the radio. 

 

 

The following is a handout by Daniel Nelson used during the training sessions:

A GUIDE TO WRITING LETTERS TO THE EDITOR AND GIVING A MEDIA INTERVIEW 

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
- Read the 'letters to the editor' of the publication of choice. 
- Do your research 
- Start your letter with: ‘Dear Editor,’ 
- Be direct: Be original. Make your most important point first
- Write to the level of the readers
- Be respectful and professional in tone
- Keep it short. Keep letters under 200 words. 
- Personal details: Make it clear if you want to remain anonymous 
- Evidence is key: Show any verified evidence or statistics available 
- Personalisation: Tell a personal story, use personal examples 
- Direct the readers to a website or organisation that is relevant
- Instruct the readers directly on actions they can take to help
- Name the names of any relevant parties or legislators 

ENDING YOUR LETTER 
- Have a simple closing 
- End with ‘Sincerely, your name.’ 
- Re-drafting and Re-editing
- Make sure it is easy to follow and to the point 
- Spell-check your letter Proofread your work.  
- Ask someone to read your letter
- Know that your letter may be edited

WHY WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR: 
- Letters sections are prime forums for getting your message to a wide audience. 
- Letters in local and regional papers are read by local activists, government officials, legislators and many community members.

DETERMINE THE PURPOSE FOR YOUR LETTER

- To tell readers about an issue or event you are angry about
- To publicly congratulate or support something or someone 
- To correct information in an article
- To suggest an idea to others
- To influence public opinion or persuade others to take action 
- To influence policymakers or elected officials 
- To publicise an organisation’s work with a current new issue

WHEN TO WRITE YOUR LETTER?
- Write your letter within two to three days of any relevant date

HOW TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF GETTING PUBLISHED?

- Respond directly, either to previously broadcasted or published news articles or commentaries
- Focus on one important point 
- Use verified facts
- Specify how readers will be affected by the issue you are addressing
- E-mail your letter in the body of the e-mail 
- Subject line should read, “Letter Re: your topic or article name”
- Include your contact details 
- Follow the guidelines and word count limit
- Read through other letters to the editor of the paper
- Be Direct. Be Brief

DO NOT
- Do not overstate or exaggerate your point
- Do not insult opponents
- Avoid jargon or acronyms 
- Never use capital letters or bold text to emphasise a word 
- Do not be put off by rejection or failure. Keep trying 


EFFECTIVE CALLS TO TALK RADIO
- Familiarise yourself with the program before calling in. 
- Speak in the language and tone of the listeners 
- Focus on one main message.
- A compelling story is more powerful than facts.
- Know your sources. Use a source that is reliable and credible
- Practice your short pitch out loud. Repeat until you can do it 
- Be concise and direct. Prepare to make your best case quickly.
- Direct people to your preferred source for more information 
- Articulate it clearly. If not well known, repeat it if possible.
- Close with a clear call to action 
- Using a calm, confident tone can attract people to your side
- Avoid long pauses. Hosts hate “dead air”.
- Focus on the message you want the listeners to take with them 
- Don’t get caught in trying to “win” an argument with the host.
- Really listen to the host after you speak. 
- Look for opportunities, rather than just preparing a counterpoint.
- Befriend the host. 

BEING INTERVIEWED 

OFF THE RECORD
If asked for a general chat, make it absolutely clear you are speaking off the record, or they may quote you.

KEY INFORMATION
- Know what organisation is doing the interview
- What the interview is for 
- Who is doing the interview
- Find out the topic and angle of the interview.
- How will the interview be used - for a news story, a current affairs feature or an entertainment piece? 

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
- You have a choice about being interviewed and the way the interview is done 
- You have a perfect right to determine what you will, or will not, talk about.

KNOW WHAT YOUR MAIN MESSAGE IS 
- Think about your main messages
- Identify your core argument:  "What do I care most about?"
- Have two or three points to want to make
- Think about likely questions 
- Think about audience 
- Be brief and clear
- Weave your message(s) into several of your answers. 

DO
- Make your messages clear: Start with the conclusion. Then explain it. 
- Keep it simple: Speak in short, concise sentences. 
- Be positive. Don't appear negative or confrontational. Keep calm.
- If you don't know the answer to a question, say so 
- If you don't want to answer a question, say so
- Have notes and key points already prepared 
- Print out basic biography or relevant information

DO NOT
- Do not comment on opinion of other groups you do not belong to
- Do not be pressured into supporting one side or another
- Do not respond if the interviewer tries to put words in your mouth
- Avoid general criticisms about the awfulness of the media.


 

 

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