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 Kids

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 active kids learn better, but staying healthy and active isn’t easy for kids these days. With physical education decreasing in schools, many of our children aren’t getting the physical activity they need each day to stay physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. To make up for this, some areas across the country have found a solution that works: [INFORMATIONAL RESOURCES LINK]

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

Nearly one-third of young people ages 2 to 19 are at risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Lower-income communities are especially affected by this because they often lack the facilities, equipment, and space for children to be active. Physical education can be just what [STATE OR LOCAL COMMUNITY] needs to help our kids grow up healthy and equip children and adolescents with the knowledge and opportunity to lead a more active, healthy life.

Physical education equips students with the knowledge they need to live healthy lives and also provides them with a convenient, safe environment to play and be active during the school day. Together we can improve the health of our children by working with our government officials and school district leaders in support of effective physical education programs in schools.

Physical education equips students with the knowledge they need to live healthy lives and also provides them with a convenient, safe environment to play and be active during the school day. Together we can improve the health of our children by working with our government officials and school district leaders in support of physical education programs in schools.

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

Please join us in our effort to protect physical education in your community.

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 physical education (PE) programs 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 “protect physical education programs” refers to a specific bill. For example, if there’s a bill being debated in the legislature that would gut funding for PE programs, and you urged supporters to contact their legislators with the message to protect school PE programs, 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 State Schools Superintendent to expand school PE programs”—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],

Kids do better in school when they are physically active. However, physical education (PE) programs in schools have been decreasing over the years. Now only 4% of elementary, 8% of middle, and 2% of high schools provide daily PE or its equivalent throughout the entire school year.

As parents and leaders in our community, we can change these statistics and set our kids up for success. Act now and make sure your local elected officials know about the value of evidence-based physical education programs in improving the health and academic success of our kids in [CITY/TOWN/STATE].

One thing we can all agree on is that when children get more time for physical education, they do better physically, mentally, and emotionally, which is good for schools too.

Help us make sure schools and local governments work together to protect physical education by asking your lawmaker to stand with us. Click here to tell [LEGISLATOR] to protect physical education programs in our schools! [REPEAT 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]