Newsletter Rebuttal: Jumpstart your Comms with this Weekly Practice

Who Did It?

NJ 11th for Change is a grassroots coalition whose activism pushed the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee to not seek re-election despite winning the 2016 election by 19 points and having held the office for 23 years.  This piece of advice is proved by the organization’s co-Executive Director, Elizabeth Juviler.

What’s the Tactic?

According to the Indivisible Guide, every MoC has an e-newsletter, and many of them are emailed out weekly.  This is extremely useful for citizen activist groups because you can use it to create a weekly “counter-newsletter” that challenges and debunks the official newsletter.  This alternative version you create is the newsletter rebuttal.

Why Try It?

  • It’s reliable.  Much of what your group will need to respond to will be unexpected.  You won’t be able to plan for it or structure work around it.  The e-newsletter is an exception.  You know it’s coming every week (or month or what have you).  You can use it to structure communications.  You can use it to structure group work.  Embrace it!
  • It’s an opportunity to change the narrativeNJ 11th for Change use Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s weekly newsletter to write their own weekly rebuttal: The Rodney Report.  (See image bel0w.)  They take the elements of his newsletter – his votes, bills he supports – and give their own perspective.  Passing the National Defense Authorization Act becomes “funding the war machine.”  His use of phrases like “dangerous criminal aliens” to describe undocumented immigrants becomes a teaching moment on how words dehumanize.
  • It’s an opportunity for collaboration.  Writing a strong newsletter rebuttal requires teamwork.  Rep. Freylinghuysen sends out his e-newsletter every Friday.  That same day, a small group of two to eight writers starts chatting on Basecamp about who will respond to each section. They then divide tasks, write over the weekend, and publish on Monday.
  • It’ll get you deep into policy.  Rebutting your MoC’s talking points is a great way for you to get into the details of law and policy.  When the e-newsletter sang the praises of HR 1215, The Protecting Access To Care Act, and said it would curtail “rampant medical malpractice lawsuits,” the author of that section of the rebuttal researched news coverage of the bill and found that it is “much more concerned with protecting providers of questionable care from lawsuits by the poor and/or elderly” thank solving a problem of rampant lawsuits.
  • It’ll give you tons of content.  NJ 11th for Change posts their newsletter to their blog and on their public Facebook page.  You could also break the content into much smaller pieces on Twitter or break the newsletter into multiple Facebook posts.  For example, you could present the MoC’s position, your group’s position, and ask members what they think.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

How To Do It

  1. Sign up for your MoC’s newsletter.  You can do this on your representative’s or senator’s website.
  2. Identify at least one other person to co-write with you.  A well-functioning writing group should have two to eight members who take turns writing from week to week.
  3. Identify a means of communication. If your group doesn’t use project management software like Basecamp, no worries.  You can use a chat platform like Slack or even a simple email or group text thread.
  4. Create a routine.  NJ 11th for Change receives their MoC’s newsletter on Friday and starts dividing up tasks that day on Basecamp.  They then write over the weekend and publish the rebuttal to their blog and Facebook page on Monday.
  5. Track metrics.  Are people reading the newsletter?  Are they commenting?  Are they sharing?  Look at analytics for any platforms you publish content on and compare results between newsletters and between the newsletter and other types of content.
  6. Make improvements.  Are people more likely to read on Facebook than on your blog?  Are they more likely to comment on short pieces of content than the whole newsletter?  Since maximizing readership (shares, views) helps you shape the narrative and getting more “engagement” (comments, other forms of interaction) keeps your members interested in your group, you’ll want to make changes to the way you present your content to maximize these outcomes.

Tell us how it worked (or ask questions) in the comments below.

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