Allowing the writer to address a specific person or topic, the open letter is a statement piece of writing that has saturated blogs and social media in recent times.
Classic characteristics of open letters are often full of humour, gratitude or criticism. Whether you want to ask David Benioff and D.B. Weiss why they killed off your favourite Game of Thrones character or thank your parents for putting up with your teenage angst (which you now experience with your own children) – the open letter is the perfect tool to address your recipient or topic and is widely relatable for many readers.
In terms of PR, the open letter can be the ideal opinion piece, especially if it focuses on something or a topic that creates hype. With the popularity of the craze on social media, an open letter could be published on a blog or website and then republished across the likes of Facebook and Twitter, even finding its way into the news. So no matter what you’re browsing – you’ll know about it.
Celebrities adopt the open letter strategy in order to make a point, knowing that their millions of fans and followers will talk about it. This month, actress Pamela Anderson has penned her own open letter to reality star Kim Kardashian. Published on her website, Anderson opened her letter with compliments before pleading with Kardashian to stop wearing fur. The statement has been supported by PETA but as of yet has seen no response from Kim. Despite the lack of response, Anderson has successfully communicated her passion for animal rights and her discomfort with the fur industry.
Taylor Swift famously wrote an open letter to the tech giant that is Apple Music to address its unfair payment policy for writers, producers and artists that put their music on the streaming site. For Swift, (topping charts and working her way up to a whopping $280 million NET worth) payments from Apple Music are not a matter of life or death. By standing up to such a big company for lesser-known artists, she created a very public narrative that led Apple Music to change its payment policy – and improved her reputation with her fans, as well as within the music industry.
Not everyone is a fan of the open letter though, with some arguing that its narrative is self-important and has an ultimately pointless aim. The nature of a traditional letter intended to be personal, conflicts with the publication of letters on social media for many. The personal letter may be becoming extinct. But how would we know for sure? It’s a private matter between the writer and the recipient.
All we know for sure is that we now live in an intrusive society. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter et al have created a generation of ‘nosy parkers’. This may be the key factor in the rise of Open Letter popularity. We want to know everything, at all times, about people that we barely, or completely don’t know. That is why we are so excited by it.
The question we ask ourselves at HROC is ‘Will the Open Letter play a major role in the future of PR practice?’ Only time will tell, but for now, we’ll keep a close eye on the trend whilst conducting a more traditional approach for our clients.
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