The Organise guide to a good open letter

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Sending an open letter can be a great way to put some pressure on the right people to change something at your workplace. You can find out more about what an open letter is and why it can be really useful at the bottom of the page. But here are some top tips

Writing your letter - 5 top tips

  1. Keep it short - you want people, and your employer, to read and understand it, so keep it simple and to the point. If it’s longer than a side of A4 then it’s definitely too long.

  2. Have one ask, get to it quickly and repeat it - you need to keep things focused on what it is you want your employer to do, and be very clear what that thing is.

  3. Make it personal - let your employer know how this issue affects you personally, and how it is making your life difficult. It makes the letter much more compelling, and harder for your employer to respond with cold facts or policies.

  4. Explain how this change will benefit you, your colleagues and the company - for example, working unpaid overtime makes you tired and resentful, and leads to you not being able to do your job well.

  5. Very important this one: keep it professional - you might be feeling upset or angry at your employer, and it’s fine to say in your letter that you’re feeling like that. But if you want your employer to take it seriously, make sure it reads like a professional letter, not a rant or moan.

How to put your open letter together

The first 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.

Paragraphs 2 and 3

Try and think of 3 key points that support your argument, and make these in the middle of your letter.

Example: Jenny from X supermarket sent an open letter asking her employers to stop forcing people to do unpaid overtime. Her 3 key points were:

  1. People are working hard outside their hours and not being rewarded

  2. People do not have a say in the hours they are made to work

  3. People are tired, so staff morale is low, which means they’re not doing a good job for the company

Last paragraph - the conclusion

Wrap up your letter by repeating what it is you want your employer to change, and ask what the process is going to be to make it happen. 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 staff involved, etc.

You can find some examples of really good open letters here:

Maternity pay at Bernardo’s:

https://platform.organise.org.uk/campaigns/open-letter-barnardos

McDonald’s pay rise:

https://platform.organise.org.uk/campaigns/open-letter-mcdonalds-manchester

Good luck - and don’t forget to contact the Organise team if you need any advice or support. You can have a go here:

https://platform.organise.org.uk/surveys/letters-to-my-boss

 

What is an open letter?

An open letter is (you guessed it) a letter which is intended to be read by lots of people. It can be addressed to a person or company, but it is shared widely, for example by being published in a group online, in a newspaper or stuck on a notice board.  

Why is a public letter useful?

It puts the spotlight on the person it is addressed to, and ensures lots of people see it. By making it public or widely read, it means the person you’ve sent it to has to reply, and knows that you’ll make their reply public, so it means they’re under pressure to give an honest response. It’s also a great way to get lots of your colleagues involved, and if you ask them to sign it, it also gives them an easy way to support your campaign. An open letter can be anonymous too, so you don’t need to worry about getting into trouble with your employer.