Tactic: Writing letters to the editor to expose PepsiCo’s woeful action plan
Thanks for writing a letter to the editor! Big companies like PepsiCo hate nothing more than bad press, so we’re writing to local newspapers around the world to call out PepsiCo on its flawed palm oil ‘action plan.’
Why: We must expose PepsiCo’s ‘action plan’ for what it is––nothing more than spin! You can help let consumers all over the world know that PepsiCo is unwilling to take real action to halt rainforest destruction, forest fires and human rights abuses in Indonesia by writing letters to the editors of newspapers or magazines. The opinion section is often the most widely read part of a local paper and it's easier than you might think to reach thousands of readers.
Here is an example that you can use to guide the writing of your letter:
To the Editor:
Re: PepsiCo, November 2015
PepsiCo is linked to the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests
My daughter is ten years old and I’m shocked to learn that the palm oil in her favorite snacks has been produced through destroying Indonesia’s rainforests. Palm oil is in half of the products sold in a grocery store, including snack foods made by PepsiCo. PepsiCo’s products are made using palm oil that is grown in Indonesia by companies associated with the destruction and burning of pristine rainforests. Right now, the intentional burning of forests to clear land for more palm oil plantations is displacing thousands of people, leaving millions at risk of respiratory illness and proving deadly in some cases. I just found out that PepsiCo is refusing to take necessary action while Indonesia is literally burning. It has just released a so-called ‘action plan’ that falls woefully short and doesn't address the deadly crises that results from its use of Conflict Palm Oil.
These rainforests are the last homes for the Sumatran tiger, elephant, rhinos and orangutans, and they produce the oxygen we breathe and help fight climate change by pulling dangerous greenhouse gas pollution out of the atmosphere. Clean air, a stable climate and biodiversity are going to be crucial for my daughter’s future, so I am going to use my voice to tell PepsiCo that it must take real action and cut Conflict Palm Oil from its products. I hope you will join me.
Writing a letter to the editor (LTE) is really simple, here are a few tips to get your letter published:
INCLUDE CONTACT INFORMATION: Include your full name, city, state, phone #
BE CLEAR: Make one main point.
BE CONCISE: 1- 3 paragraphs, 3-8 sentences, 40-100 words.
BE ACCURATE: Letters that are factually inaccurate are not printed.
BE RELEVANT: If you can, write your letter within a day of an article that is connected to the fires, Indonesia or PepsiCo and make your letter a response to that article
BE INTERESTING: Get your reader’s attention and keep it to the end of your letter. Open with an interesting fact or strong statement about palm oil and keep your points as interesting as possible.
AVOID PERSONAL ATTACKS: Show respect for the opposite opinion. Let people know how you feel and tie your message to something local and relevant to your community. Because palm oil is everywhere, it is an issue that affects everyone––even if they don’t know it yet.
PROOFREAD: Re-read your letter. Check for grammar and spelling mistakes. If possible, ask another person to read your letter for accuracy and clarity.
WRITE TO A NUMBER OF NEWSPAPERS: Don't just send letters to the biggest paper in town. The smaller the paper, the better the chances of getting your letter printed. Small weekly papers can help you reach hundreds or even thousands of people.
INCLUDE AN ASK: Finish with giving people something to do! Ask them to read labels on their products or suggest that people take action to remove controversial palm oil from their lives.
WRITE AN OP ED: If you have expertise or a public profile you may have the chance to write an opinion piece for the local paper, especially if you are involved in a controversial campaign. These are longer articles of 500 to 800 words that summarize an issue, develop an argument, and propose a solution. Send the article to the editorial page editor with a cover letter explaining why it should be printed. The opinion piece has a better chance of getting printed if it is signed by someone prominent, even if you wrote it for him or her.
Organizing your own #ChallengePepsi event is as easy as pie. (Conflict Palm Oil free pie, of course.)
This is an all hands on deck moment in the fight against Conflict Palm Oil and you can help by organizing an event in your community. After years of public pressure, PepsiCo has finally adopted a new palm oil policy. But it leaves a loophole big enough to drive a bulldozer through and threatens Indonesia’s people and forests.
That’s why people across the world are declaring PepsiCo’s vending machines, soda machines, and store displays “Out of Order” to demand they close this destructive loophole and prevent further deforestation, human rights abuses and climate pollution. Get everything you need to take action here.
Thank you for posting an “Out of Order” sign and sharing it on social media. This small action makes a difference. If we’re going to get one of the largest snack food corporations on the planet to change their destructive ways, we’re going to need a lot more small actions around the world. That’s why we encourage you to get your friends and family to help out. (Plus, everything is more fun when you do it as a team!)
There are lots of different ways to creatively engage people through events in your community and recruit others to help plaster every PepsiCo vending machine, soda machine or store display near you. Basically think of anything that will bring people together and launch into action. Whatever your event is, be sure to have lots of “Out of Order” signs on hand that you can distribute and get people to commit to posting them right away.
Here’s a few fun event ideas to get you started:
House Party - Bring people together in someone’s home. It can be a potluck or discussion for folks interested in getting more involved. Focus on folks connecting with one another, building community and mobilizing for action.
Scavenger Hunt - You can make it a fun game and have participants get prizes for which team can locate and post “Out of Order” signs on the most PepsiCo machines in your community.
Movie Screening - Set up a screening of a documentary at someone’s house or a community space. This can include a discussion afterward and an action component for all those in attendance.
Teach-In - Set up a teach-in about Conflict Palm Oil at a local high school, college class, or club. Here’s some key messages and facts. For younger students you can make it fun with arts and crafts like making their own “Out of Order” signs.
Guerilla Theater - Put together a little skit with your friends to educate passers-by about PepsiCo’s use of Conflict Palm Oil. Afterward you can distribute “Out of Order” signs to the crowd and engage people to post them on vending machines, soda machines, and store displays.
Here’s a few event organizing tips:
Promotion - Get the word out through your networks. Send your event invite to listserves, post on community forums/calendars, create an open event on Facebook and encourage people to invite their friends. Don’t forget to share event photos on social media and tag them #ChallengePepsi
Food - People love free food and will come to any event for some free eats. Consider making it a potluck to build community and have everyone pitch in.
Prepare - Before the event be sure to make a checklist of everything you need to make the event a success. Prep all materials ahead of time so you’re ready to launch people directly into action at the end.
Build a Team - Don’t try to be a hero and do it all by yourself. We’re working to build a social movement and that means asking for help and using resources in your community to get others involved.
Action - A good event will not only engage people but give them the positive, empowering experience of launching directly into action.
Sign In Sheet - Always have everyone in attendance fill out a sign-in sheet with name, phone, and email so you can be sure to follow up with them and continue to build your network and team for your next event. You can also sign up to join our global Palm Oil Action Team here.
Between now and the end of October, we have an opportunity to stand with communities fighting to protect their lands, livelihoods and Indonesia’s rainforests from companies driving the expansion of the palm oil used in PepsiCo’s snack foods.
The sky’s the limit so get creative and have fun! You know what kind of event will work best in your community.
Want any help organizing your event? Don’t hesitate to drop us a line firstname.lastname@example.org