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

E-mail Subject Line

Ex. YOU can improve the health of Green County’s employees and families

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.

Dear [NAME],

Studies show that people want to eat healthier, but for the millions of employees and families who find themselves at public parks, recreation centers, libraries, and other county buildings, this is not always easy. Meals and snacks provided at these publicly-owned facilities provide few options.

But we can change that now, by telling our county leaders that it’s time to Restock our Future™ with healthy choices.

We’ve seen this effort already taking place across the country [LINK TO SUCCESS STORIES], and we know it can be a reality in [STATE/TOWN].

Be sure to mention your state or local community so your advocates feel connected to the issue.

Increased healthy food and beverage options in vending machines and throughout public buildings and facilities will help families and employees make healthy nutrition choices, decreasing their risk for heart disease and diabetes. The [STATE/TOWN] Health Department currently spends valuable resources educating children and families about the importance of physical activity and nutrition. It’s time that our county facilities allow us to put those lessons into practice when we’re out and about in our community.

Include a hyperlink here to give people another opportunity to get involved and clearly articulate your call-to-action.

Visit our website to learn more and get involved. [LINK TO ORGANIZATION WEBSITE]

Please join us in our effort to provide healthier food choices in public places throughout our community. [LINK TO ACTION PAGE]

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 healthier snack options in your local public spaces, 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 “provide healthy options in public spaces” refers to a specific bill. For example, if there’s a bill being debated in the legislature that would provide healthy options in vending machines, and you urged supporters to contact their legislators with the message to stand up for nutritious choices, 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 stand for healthier vending machine options”—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. Texas employees and families need our help now!

Be sure to include hyperlinks and visuals to draw your reader’s attention and get them to click-through to learn more.

Most people want to eat healthier at home, as well as out in the community. However, people who visit and work in public parks, recreation centers, libraries, and other state and city buildings don’t always have that option: vending machines, concession stands, and cafeterias on public property often lack ample healthy food and beverage options. Studies show people tend to eat what’s available.

Isn’t it time we spoke up for a healthy change? [ORGANIZATION WEBSITE]

Include statistics and research to show how this issue has a detrimental impact on your community.

Seventy-one percent of consumers are actively trying to eat healthier; however, a lack of nutritious food options available in public places undermines our efforts.

Reference that we can work together to resolve this issue, but that we also need our elected officials to be involved in creating change as well.

We see an opportunity to change this for families, workers, and the general public in our community by calling on our decision makers to Restock our Future™!

We’ve already made progress in educating our kids about the importance of health, nutrition, and physical activity at home and in our schools. We can’t let these lessons go to waste when it comes to visiting places in our state and communities.

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.

Help us make sure healthier choices are offered in [STATE] by asking your lawmaker to stand with us. Tell your decision makers to include healthier foods and beverages in our public spaces today! [LINK TO ACTION]

Thank you,

[ORGANIZATION LEADER OR MAIN POINT OF CONTACT]