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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. Serve kids better in [COUNTY]!

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. This is also a good place to mention your state or local community, so your advocates feel connected to the issue.

Dear [NAME],

If you’re a parent, you know just how busy life is. Between juggling work schedules and children’s activities, our families are eating out more than ever. But too often, restaurants are treating us to meals that are high in calories, sodium, sugar, and saturated fat, with too few fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Troublingly, the kids’ meals are some of the worst offenders. In fact, on average, kids are getting 25 percent of their daily calories from restaurant meals, most of which fail to meet basic USDA nutrition standards. We believe something must be done to make it easier for parents to make healthier choices for their kids when eating out.

Will you help get restaurants to improve the nutritional quality of kids’ meals in [STATE]? Click here to learn how you can help.

One-third of kids in the United States at an increased risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers,  and restaurants are contributing to that number by selling high-calorie, low-nutrition kids’ meals and spending more than $714 million a year on marketing to children.

Restaurants have the opportunity work with parents to reverse this trend. By providing healthier kids’ meals, restaurants can play a role in supporting our children’s health. Instead of selling unhealthy meals, restaurants can serve kids better and help parents by offering healthy menu items, replacing unhealthy default sides for healthier options such as apples or carrots, incorporating more whole grains, and taking sugary drinks off the kid’s menu.

Include a hyperlink here to give people another opportunity to get involved.

Our children deserve to be served well in restaurants, so they can learn healthy habits that will serve them for a lifetime. Please join us as we look to make restaurant kids’ meals healthier in our state.

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 healthy kids’ meals in your area, 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 “support healthy options for children” refers to a specific bill. For example, if there’s a bill being debated in the legislature that would provide guidelines for health kids’ meals, and you urged supporters to contact their legislators with the message to take a stand for the cause, 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 the local leaders to support healthier meals in restaurants”—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. [STATE/COMMUNITY] kids need our help now!

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.

Dear [NAME],

We have an opportunity to improve child health and nutrition in [STATE]—but we need your help!

One-third of American children are at an increased risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even certain cancers. And restaurants are only contributing to this number by selling and marketing high-calorie, low-nutrition meals to kids.

Thankfully, there is a solution. By offering healthier kids’ meal options, restaurants can support children’s health and parents’ ability to feed their children well. But we need your help to make this a reality.

Contact your legislators to ask that they stand with us to ensure that in [STATE], restaurant children’s meals meet basic nutritional standards. [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]