Write to your MP
"One of the most effective things we can do to promote the cause of public broadcasting and media is to write letters."
Write to MPs, government departments and influential people
It takes time but writing to MPs and relevant government departments is a great way to make sure your voice is heard. Especially if your letter is in your own words rather than a standardised letter cut-and-pasted from our website. Yes, it can be galling when you get a standardised response back from the Minister of Broadcasting or your MP but behind the standard responses politicians take a lot of notice of mail volumes, particularly personally written letters.
For information about the specific issues check out our Campaigns and the 'Our Reasons menu. And if you need more info contact us.
To make the most of your effort and time spent writing the letter, here are some tips from the experts (adapted from several websites including Greenpeace and the EFA).
Tips for Writing Letters - The Address
All MPs have two addresses. For national issues use their parliamentary address (available here) and for local issues write to their local electorate offices. The parliamentary website can help find your MP's contact details.
If it's a national issue, instead of writing directly to a Cabinet Minister, write to your MP or a list MP based in your region, and ask them to pass on the letter to the appropriate Minister. This way the letter arrives directly from the electorate MP, who is obliged to hear your concerns and pass on the letter to the appropriate Minister.
Tips for Writing Letters - Formatting and Content
- Identify yourself as a constituent by including your address when you write to your local MP. All politicians are likely to pay most attention to people who might vote for them.
- State the topic clearly - include a subject line at the beginning of your letter. If it is about a specific piece of legislation (an Act) or a proposed law (a Bill), state the full name of the Act or Bill in the subject line, or at least in the first paragraph.
- Use the correct form of address - formalities work.
- Dear Prime Minister
- Dear Minister
- Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms/Dr (surname)
- Start by stating the issue and what you want done about it. For example "I am writing to urge your support for / opposition to..." Focus on two or three main points that support your view. Use examples as evidence and flesh them out. This is more effective than attempting to address numerous points in a letter. Conclude by requesting a specific action such as:
- writing a response back to you
- organising a meeting with you
- taking concrete action on the issue i.e. talking with someone, raising the issue with their party, voting to support a bill etc.
- Sign off with a salutation, e.g. regards, yours sincerely, thank you.
Other Important Tips for Writing Letters
- Keep it brief. Letters should be no longer than one page and should be about one issue only. Be as concise as possible. Long letters are likely to be put aside to read on a less busy day and that day may never come.
- Use your own words. An original letter sent by one single person is more effective than a form letter (or cut and pasted texts) sent by dozens of people.
- Handwrite, or type and sign, your letter. A handwritten, or typed and signed, letter is far more effective than photocopied form letters, postcard campaigns or emails.
- Personalise your letter. Include a personal story or information on how the issue affects you, your family, your business, or people around you. This can help your representative understand your position and can be very persuasive as they form a position on an issue. The more personal your letter, the more impact it is likely to have. Use formal language but remember you are expressing your point of view, so phrases like 'I feel' and 'I want to see' are good to include.
- Personalise your relationship. If you have ever voted for the representative, or contributed time or money to their election campaign, or have met them, say so. The closer your representative feels to you, the more effective your letter is likely to be.
- Be polite. Be courteous but don't be afraid to take a firm position. While your representative's job is to represent you, remember that politicians and their staff are people too. Threats, hostile remarks and rude/offensive language are among the fastest ways to alienate people who could otherwise support your position. Your representative could be in elected office for decades, and could be promoted to higher, more influential, office within their party. Avoid creating enemies and try to use rational and reasoned argument.
- Thanks are as important as criticism. Politicians need to be able to tell the 'other side' that they have been inundated with calls and letters supporting their position. Write thank you letters to politicians that support your position. This will encourage them to stand firm on their position rather than backing down.
Writing an email to an MP
Email is the least effective way of communicating your views to your representatives. However when you are unable to find time to mail a letter or make a phone call, it is better to send an email than do nothing. MP's email addresses follow this formula: email@example.com and cabinet ministers use this formula: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most of the tips for writing letters apply to writing emails and the following will help maximise the chance of your email being read:
- Write to appropriate politicians, not everyone. Send your email to your local representative and the Minister/Opposition Spokesperson responsible for the matter, not to everyone. Mass emailing politicians can be blocked like spam, either technically by the computer or mentally by the assistant reading them all.
- Use the "To" field. Place the politician's email address in the "To" field of your email, not in the 'cc' or 'bcc' fields, to minimise the risk of your email being treated like spam and automatically deleted or sent to a junk mail folder.
- State the topic in the subject line of your email.
- Address a person. Commence with "Dear ...", so your email doesn't look like junk mail.
- Include your name and address. Email can come from anywhere in the world so be sure to identify yourself as a constituent by including your address (preferably at the top of your email). Politicians are most likely to pay attention to people who live in their electoral district or at least in NZ.
- Use the formality of a letter, not the informality of typical emails. The formality of a letter makes a better impression on most politicians than the informal style often used in email messages. Pay attention to spelling, punctuation, capitalisation, etc.
...and good on you for doing something!
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