Open letters are a way for you to build support by asking people to add their names to a public letter that lays out shared concerns, experiences and a call for action. They put the spotlight on the person it is addressed to, and because the letter and their response are public, they are under pressure to give an honest response. It's a powerful first step in any campaign, and you can keep your identity private if you would like to.
The norm for an open letter is to have the names displayed. But on Organise, you can choose when you want the names to published. So you can choose to only display the names once you get to 50 or 100 signatures (or any number you choose!). That gives you the option to wait until you hit safety in numbers before you publish the names. You can also choose to keep the letter signatures anonymous forever - it's up to you.
Not sure whether you should use a petition or an open letter? Check out our short guide first:
If you've not written an open letter before, or are not sure how to, don't worry! There's a few simple tips you can follow to write your letter, including how to structure it for maximum impact. And a step-by-step guide explaining everything you need to set it up.
Top tips for writing your open letter:
- Have a clear ask, get to it quickly and repeat it. You need to keep things focused on what it is you want the letter recipient to do, and be very clear what that thing is. If there is more than one solution or change you are calling for, list them clearly in bullet points to make it easier to read.
- Explain the issue and the change you want in the same way you would explain it when chatting with friends or family. You don't need to use formal or technical language, you want everyone to understand even if they don't work in the same industry or role as you.
- Keep it short and simple. You want people reading your open letter to understand what it's about quickly. A few short paragraphs is ideal!
- Personal stories are really powerful. People are more likely to add their names to the letter if it’s clear why you care and how you, your colleagues or people you know are affected by the issues.
- This one’s really important: keep it professional. You might be feeling upset or angry at your employer, and it’s fine to say in that you’re feeling like that. But if you want your employer to take it seriously, make sure it is professional, and not a rant or a moan.
As well as the letter itself, there are a few extra parts to setting up an open letter. Here's a step by step guide with everything you need:
1. The title
This is the first thing people will see and so it's the most important! Focus on the change you are looking to make, and the solution rather than the problem.
Research by Change.org found that in the UK petition titles starting with the word 'Protect' gained 50% more supporters than petitions starting 'Demand', and 'Save' recruited 95% more! The same rules apply to open letters.
So instead of "Stop paying lorry drivers poverty wages" try "Pay all lorry drivers a real living wage" or instead of "Don't cut holiday pay for Asda workers" try "Save Asda workers' holiday pay"
Titles don't have to be super short - the key is to clearly explain the change you want in one short sentence, rather than just a few words.
2. The target or decision maker
The target of your open letter is the person, people or organisation who has the power to make the change you are calling for. It's who your letter is going to be sent to, and who you want a response from, rather than who you would like to sign.
Not sure who to target? Read our guide to deciding on a target or decision maker.
3. The open letter itself
Aim for your open letter to be about 3 paragraphs long - you want people to be able to read and understand the issue quickly, as it makes it more likely they will add their name.
It can be tempting to make your letter formal, as often that's what we're most used to when writing letters. But try to resist the urge and instead write the letter in the same way you would when talking to colleagues or friends. You want people reading the letter to understand the issue, and be persuaded to add their name and support the campaign.
Here's a typical structure for an open letter to help guide you with writing yours:
- Opening paragraph: Use the opening paragraph to explain who you are and why you are writing. Get straight to the point, and make your ask very clear in the first couple of sentences.
- Middle paragraph: Try and think of 3 key points that support your argument, and make these in the middle of your letter. This is where you can include a personal experience or the impact of the issue on people you know.
- Final paragraph: Wrap up your letter by repeating what it is you want your employer to change. Before you sign off, let them know that you are expecting a response and how they should respond - e.g. by calling a staff meeting, emailing the people affected, etc.
Ready to set up your open letter? Once you've set it up, the Organise team will be on hand to help you run and win your campaign!
More questions? Check out our other short guides
If you can't find what you need get in touch with the Organise team including our campaign coaches at email@example.com