How to write effective action alerts
Activists have always searched for the most efficient and effective way to publicize their issue. And, it is becoming more important for the OHV community to evaluate the methods and means used to reach the OHV enthusiast.
In the past few years, the Internet has emerged as a an efficient and effective way distributing information. Known as "action alerts" or "virtual rallies", the web is a tool to send a message about a specific action to be taken on a current important issue.
For your issue to be compelling enough for someone to act, your message must be geared to fit the media (email and forums) and spark the interest of the reader.
Action alerts have historically involved telephone calls, letters or faxes. While they still serve a purpose, email and the internet are cheaper with a potentially wider and quicker distribution.
Through the networking of forums, BLOGs, email, and web pages, an action alert can travel far from its origin without any additional cost being imposed on the original sender. The phenomenon of networking is important, and means the would-be author of an action alert pay attention to detail.
When constructing your action alert, think about the following:
1. Identify your issue. Put a good, clear headline on it that condenses your entire issue into a few words. Make the headline so compelling that the reader has to continue to the body of the alert. The headline should not be more than one line long.
2. Put a date on it. Always include the time-frame in which your action alert is valid. Don't count on the message header to convey the date. If your recommended action has a essential time-line, (e.g., write your congressman by May 1, 2008), then state that clearly and prominently.
3. Make your alert self-contained. Don't assume your readers will have in-depth knowledge of your issue. Your alert will be read by people who have never heard of you or your issue. Provide background or historical information about the subject of your alert, but keep it short and concise.
4. Be compelling! To inspire someone to do something, be inspirational! Speak from the heart about why this issue is important, what could be lost, and with the community's help, what can be saved. Inspire, don't preach.
5. Check your facts. Stick with "just the facts." Plain, simple fact with no exaggeration. Mistakes cause great disruption, as well as discrediting yourself, your organization, and the concept of network action alerts. Always be accurate and stick to facts.
6. Provide action steps. Include a "What You Can Do" section in your alerts. While people care and want to help with an issue, they often are not sure of how to help. Provide clear and concise steps of action your readers can take.
7. Encourage readers to learn more. Your action alert can compel people to want to learn more about your issue. Provide background information with a short bibliography of references such as web sites or forum discussion threads.
8. Include your organization information (telephone, email, and website). This will establish authenticity of your alert and provide a source for additional information or clarification.
9. Track your action alert's success. Ask to be copied on emails and letters so you will know when someone has taken action. When the campaign is over, try to derive some lessons for the next time. Review your efforts and determine: What problems did you experience? What mistakes did you make? Who did you reach and why? Did you need to provide clarification information?
10. Email is just a part of an organization strategy. An action alert is not an organization; it's just an alert. Email is a simple and effective tool to encourage people to assist with your campaign.
For email alerts, a few simple rules are in oder:
• Include a phrase such as "post where appropriate" so that people are encouraged to send your alert to other relevant web sites.
• Place clear beginning and ending markers on your alert. General press release convention uses a string of characters such as '####' to define the end of the text.
• Use short paragraphs with short sentences. Consider breaking up your paragraphs to only a few sentences a piece to make it easier to read.
• Don't overdo it. Action alerts might become as unwelcome as spam. Pick your fights and including some useful, thought-provoking information in your alert message.