How to write an action alert

Need to rally the troops? Action Alerts are a terrific way to get the word out — but only when they are carefully written, about a page in length and quickly bring the message home. Too often, an Action Alert doesn’t have a clear message, does little to help readers actually take action and is longer than War and Peace.

Never issue an Alert without having at least one other person, preferably someone with a background in editing, review the material. Run a spell-check program, and take the time to polish your writing.

Organize Your Alert

Title. This needs to be short and to the point. It should reveal the nature of the problem.

Opening Paragraph. Ideally just two or three sentences, the lead paragraph will introduce the issue at hand, name the involved parties and describe the result you hope to achieve by issuing the Alert.

Call to Action and Deadline. Clearly state what you want your audience to do ‹ write comments, sign an online petition, place a phone call, etc. Be very clear. Include all relevant deadlines, such as when letters must be postmarked or when emails should be received.

Contact Information. List email and postal addresses as well as phone numbers or websites where comments or calls should be sent.

Background Information. In one or two paragraphs, try to provide enough history, related problems, additional consequences and other information to help produce well-informed responses from your constituents. Avoid over-describing the situation: Alerts are meant to produce action, not to document every nuance of the situation.

Talking Points. Provide your audience with succinct talking points. Bullet-points are often the best format. Offer more talking points than a single writer would use. This will add some diversity to people’s responses and let them customize their message. An effective Action Alert will provide people with all the necessary resources to respond.