Write Your Own Action Alerts

What’s an Action Alert?

Action alerts are messages that spur your advocates and the general public to get involved with your campaign. Whether by e-mail, a letter, phone call, or even on Facebook, action alerts can be used to accomplish a variety of goals: 1) To educate residents in your community about your issue; 2) To strengthen advocates’ engagement with your campaign; or 3) To put your advocates in direct touch with public officials to prompt policy change.

We’ve included two different examples of action alerts below, an “Issue Introduction” alert and a “Contact Your Legislator” alert, to guide you through the process of writing your own. Before we get started, here are a few general tips to keep in mind:

  • Know your audience! This will help you determine the appropriate frame, tone, activation, and messenger for your alert.
  • Subject lines determine whether someone opens your message, so make sure to keep them short, include a sense of urgency, and provide a preview of your message to tap into the reader’s curiosity. There are free resources online that will help test how likely your subject line is to be seen as spam as well as other key metrics. www.subjectline.com is one option, but do an online search to find the one that is right for you.
  • Make sure to include the name of the person you’re contacting. Depending on how you are sending your message, this may need to be done manually, or through a merge field from your online contact database.
  • Include a brief background or update on your campaign to reinforce your goals and help your advocates understand your cause. Creating a base level sense of understanding will connect your audience to your campaign and encourage them to take a specific action, like signing a petition or reaching out to decision makers.
  • Clear action links should be included in your message. Using bolded text and call-out boxes can help draw readers’ attention to the goal.
  • Include the state, town, or county in the subject line and/or body of the message to make the message more relevant for your audience.
  • Consider the story arc and narrative flow of your message to clearly identify the issue, how your campaign is working to resolve it, and how the reader can get involved. Strategically include compelling statistics, links to resources, and clear calls-to-action to help tell a story.

Problem, Solution, Urgency! Write your action alert in a way that first highlights the problem, then offers a solution and tells the reader why they should take action now.

Now, let’s walk through two examples!

“Issue Introduction” Action Alert

Include language that makes your piece urgent and relevant geographically for the reader, whether it’s town, city, or state.

E-mail Subject Line

Ex. A sweeter solution for [TOWN]

This is a good place to mention your state or local community, so your advocates feel connected to the issue.Include a link to your informational resources, organization website,or blog.

 

Dear [NAME],

We live in a wonderful town, but like many cities across our state, we’re struggling to pay for things that are important for the health and safety of our kids. Our children need new equipment on the playgrounds, we need trails where we can walk, jog, or ride our bikes, our schools need updated water fountains and water bottle filling stations to provide access to clean, safe water.

 

At the same time, our nation is in the midst of a childhood health crisis: nearly 32 percent of kids in America are at risk for developing chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. It’s time to start changing that today.

These diseases have multiple causes, but sugary drinks play a significant role. Sugary drinks are the single largest source of added sugars in the U. S. diet and are associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that children over the age of 2 have no more than one 8-ounce sugary drink a week. Yet children today are consuming as much as 10 times that amount.

A tax on sugary drinks could fund these important projects in our town, plus it could encourage people to rethink what they drink and make a healthier choice.

Include a link to your informational resources, organization website, blog, or sign-up sheet. If someone is interested in your cause, give them the opportunity to get involved right away.

Find out the facts about sugary beverages and how we can help promote healthier options. [LINK TO INFORMATIONAL RESOURCES]

 

Be sure to include multiple opportunities for your readers to click through to the action or relevant website to learn more and get involved.

Sugary drinks don’t help our kids grow up strong—they just fill diets with empty, unnecessary calories.

It’s time to take a stand. Learn more today about how we can improve the fiscal health of our town and the physical health of our kids! [LINK TO INFORMATIONAL RESOURCES]

If you’re the leader of your campaign, include your name here. If someone else is the main point of contact, and you’re writing this action alert on behalf of a larger group, make sure to include that person’s name and/or the name of your organization. If you are using someone else’s name, be sure to have them review the text and provide you with their approval before the message is sent.

Thank you,

[ORGANIZATION LEADER OR MAIN POINT OF CONTACT]

“Contact Your Legislator” Action Alert

If legislative change is needed to create more support for a tax on sugary beverages, then be sure to reach out to your elected officials to educate them about your cause and tell them how they can be involved. Use this kind of action alert to empower your advocates to send letters to their legislators either about a specific bill (lobbying) or to support your cause in general (non-lobbying).

If there is a bill pending in the legislature, then the following action alert would be grassroots lobbying, because it is a communication to the public that reflects a view on specific legislation and includes a call-to-action. If there is no pending bill and the email is simply asking legislators to support a general policy—then it would not be lobbying and you may use VFHK non-lobbying dollars to pay for all related costs.

The following action alert would be non-lobbying unless it’s clear that “a sugary drink tax” refers to a specific bill. For example, if there’s a bill being debated in the legislature that would instate a tax on sugary beverages, and you urged supporters to contact their legislators with the message to increase support for that bill, that would be viewed as lobbying. But if the message does not clearly reference a bill, then it would not be lobbying. Similarly, your message could say “tell your legislator to urge healthy drink options for our children”—that would not be lobbying because it refers to administrative action, not to legislation.

Be sure to check out the Lobbying vs. Non-Lobbying Checklist for full guidelines.

Create a sense of urgency in your subject line to spark immediate action, and include the state or local community to make the message more personal.

E-mail Subject Line

Ex. A sweeter solution for [TOWN]

Dear [NAME],

Too many kids and families in our state are suffering from preventable chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and tooth decay.  Our state budget is in dire straits. A sugary drink tax can improve the financial health of our state and the physical health of our children.

Today, 21 percent of all health care costs are due to the treatment of obesity-related diseases. And with nearly 32 percent of children in America at risk for developing chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, those costs don’t seem like they’ll be lowered anytime soon—unless we start acting now.

 

Make it specific that you are asking the advocates at this time to contact their elected officials in order to bring change to their community.

Join us in our effort to reduce consumption of drinks with added sugar. Click here to contact your state representative to take action. [LINK TO ACTION]

Let’s show our kids that water, milk, and 100 percent juice are the sweetest choices around. Contact your representative today! [LINK TO ACTION]

If you’re the leader of your campaign, include your name here. If someone else is the main point of contact, and you’re writing this action alert on behalf of a larger group, make sure to include that person’s name and/or the name of the organization you represent. If you are using someone else’s name, be sure to have them review the text and provide you with their approval before the message is sent.

Thank you,

[ORGANIZATION LEADER OR MAIN POINT OF CONTACT]