Writing Letters – is it worth it?

It seem whenever we see something we’re passionate about changing, we’re encouraged to “write a letter”. Despite my best intentions, I haven’t written many of these letters in the past. To be honest, I feel like it’s a bit of a waste of time, who’s even going to read it, right? After seeing the impact Melinda Tankard Reist‘s open letter to Lovable has made (and writing my own letter to Moscow Circus), I’ve felt encouraged to start getting on the band wagon and joining in the letter writing revolution. I’ve looked around and found some great advice on letter writing.

The lovely Lisa at our local MP’s office agreed to answering some of my questions:

Are all letters read?

Yes. There is a person in each electorate office for Members of Parliament who reads all incoming mail, whether it be via mail, email or on multi-media sites such as facebook.

Correspondence requiring a reply will be directed to the relevant staff member to address, and the MP will be advised of the correspondence when assessing an appropriate course of action.

Does the content of any single letter ever make an impact on decision making or are letters mainly useful when received en masse from many different writers?

Each letter that arrives is important, and is useful to the individual writing it. People do not only lobby their MPs about policy ideas and concerns, many ask for assistance from their local Member about an issue specific to them, their family or their local community. In this instance, individual letters definitely make the required impact.

When trying to effect change in a government idea or policy, however, it helps the Federal Member take up a cause in Canberra when everyone in the community concerned contacts them, as they are then able to express, with evidence, the large community concern.
Is there a suggested outline? What is it that politicians are interested in reading about and most likely to respond to?
There is no suggested outline to letters to your MP, however short and sharp is best. Getting bogged down in the little details does not assist the process, so keeping the letter to one page where possible, with appropriate supporting documents attached if required, is recommended.

Collective Shout, a group who campaigns against the sexualisation of women and children, offers this advice on their website:

Writing to a company

First paragraph:

State why you are writing to the company. Be specific about which ad or product you are referring to. Provide a URL (web address) if the items can be found online, or an image of the advertisement if you have been able to take a photo. If sending by post, include a photograph, or the actual advertisement (such as a page out of a magazine).

State clearly why you have a problem with the advertisement/product. ie. ‘This advertisement objectifies women.’

Next 1-2 paragraphs:

Elaborate on why you find the product/advertisement problematic. Examples: “Your commercial presents women as sex objects because….” “The slogans on these shirts reference pornography and are completely inappropriate for children’s clothing.”

Final paragraph:

State what action you would like the company to take. Examples: “This advertising campaign needs to be pulled…” “I would like you to stop selling these shirts and advise your buyer not to bring in clothing for kids with offensive slogans.”

Then advise what you will do: “I believe that our young people are important and as such, I will not shop at any store that stocks items which degrade and sexualise them. If you continue to sell this range/advertise in this way, I will no longer be shopping at xxxxx.”

Important: Don’t make your letter too long, Keep it to one page only.

Writing to the Ad Standards Board

Writing to the advertising standards board can be done online, via their complaints form which can be found here. Filling in the online complaints form takes about 5-10 minutes. As part of the complaints process, accurate contact details need to be included so the Ad standards board can respond. They say they will disclose this information to the advertiser, however there is the option of ticking a box to keep your information confidential.



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