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Tell Them What You Think


Do you love what you’re seeing on the screen?

Most moms have limited amounts of time and money to invest in entertainment.  When we go to the movies, there is a lot riding on the evening.  By the time we hire a babysitter, pay for parking, buy the movie tickets, popcorn and a drink, we’re paying $75-100 to see that movie.  When we take the kids to a movie we’re not paying a babysitter, but we’re buying more tickets and more concessions.  A family of four can expect to pay $75-100 for a night at the movies.  How many movies are really worth $100 to you? 

It’s not much different with television programming.  When we sit down to watch television with your kids, we want to be entertained in a family friendly way.  But how many of us have been caught off guard by characters talking about oral sex on network television at 8:05pm.  Or, when we finally get the kids to bed and sit down to watch a little television we want entertainment that satisfies us.  But how many of the programs that you watch regularly leave you feeling that it was time well spent?  

Do you ever wonder who decides which films are produced, or which television shows make it to the air?  For the most part, they’re people just like us.  They have families and friends who love them.  They’re juggling their finances to pay mortgages and student loans.  They get flat tires and runny noses.  Their parents get sick and die.  Their children grow up and leave them with an empty nest.  But through all of these events, everybody who works in the entertainment industry has one thing on their mind at all times:    

They want to give you what you want!

It’s one of the most basic rules of business – give the customer what they want.  So, late at night when you’re curled up in bed, Hollywood executives are burning the midnight oil, struggling to interpret the results of the latest test screenings and focus groups and ratings and box office results.  You see, these executives hope that somewhere in those numbers are clues that will help them understand what you want to watch and read and listen to.

I’m going to let you in on the biggest secret in Hollywood.  Most of the time, they don’t have the slightest idea what you want.  So, every programming decision is based on somebody’s best guess. 

Isn’t it time we tell them what we want?

For as long as I can remember, special interest groups organized campaigns to protest programs and movies that violated the sensibilities of its members.  Threats were made.  Boycotts were announced against the products and services advertised on the programs in question.  In some instances, pickets were set up around the networks and studios.  While this kind of campaign is frequently effective, it boils down to bully tactics.  How do you feel about bullies?  How do you tell your kids to respond to bullies?  Would you want to be perceived as being a bully? I think there’s a better way for us to get our points across.   

Stop complaining!  Start complimenting!

The old aphorism is true – you CAN catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.  Imagine you’re running a business.  You get a hundred letters every day.  Which letters will you pay more attention to – the letters that tell you you’re doing a horrible job or the letters that thank you for doing something that somebody appreciates? 

But let’s bring the lesson closer to home.  If your child brings home a B+ on a test, will you congratulate them for doing a good job or complain because they didn’t get an A?  Chances are that you’ll congratulate them because you know that if they start to feel like their best isn’t good enough they might just give up.  But if they feel your appreciation they are more likely to try harder to get an A on the next test. 

So, let’s take the same approach with the Hollywood executives.  Let’s congratulate them when they do a good job so they are more likely to try harder. 

It all begins with you!

The first thing you have to do is decide what you like.  Make a list of your favorite movies and television series.  Decide which news broadcast you prefer to watch.  What ads or commercials for products or services have given your great information and/or entertained you?  Write it all down.

But it’s not enough to just make lists.  You really have to figure out the reason(s) why you appreciate them.  Is it because they support your personal beliefs?  Do you enjoy spending time with the characters?  Do the stories inspire you?  You have to define at least one specific point about each of your favorites.

Write a Thank You note!

One of the biggest problems with letter writing campaigns is that they let people take the lazy way out.  We’ve all received one or more of those mailings that ask us to sign our name to a post card and mail it to someone in government.  There is no quality to that act – merely an act of quantity.  Consequently, the recipient of these postcards will probably see one postcard attached to a staff-written memo that gives a number of the total cards received.  The impact is greatly diminished.      

The better way to be heard is to take the time to write a personal letter that compliments the network, the studio, the newspaper, the magazine or the recording label that did something you appreciate.  It is interesting to note that politicians have created a formula for the way they respond to letters like this.  Each time someone takes the time to send them a personal letter, they assume that letter represents the feelings of 100 more people who feel the same way but didn’t have the time or inclination to write a letter.  These personal letters are read.  Their message is received. 

When you take the time to write a positive letter to an executive in the entertainment industry, your letter will most likely be a bright spot in their daily mail.  A thank you note will get their attention far better than a letter that rants about what a terrible job they’re doing. 

Write an effective letter!

Start by purchasing some simple but lovely stationary.  If you want your letter to be noticed, it should be handwritten with legible penmanship.  Use black or blue ink and don’t write too small.  If your handwriting is absolutely unreadable, you can type your letter and print it out on the stationary.  In this case, you might consider using a font that resembles handwriting.  It will stand out from the other correspondence on the executive’s desk and send a subliminal message that reinforces the personal nature of the letter.    

It’s a good idea to have your name, address and phone number printed at the top of the page.  If you’re going to write it by hand, run the stationary through the printer first.  If you’re going to print the letter from your computer, you might want to use a different font for this information. 

The best letters are simple.  They should only cover one side of one page.  Like every good story, your letter should have a beginning, middle and end.  In this case, the paragraphs should follow a basic template:

Paragraph 1: Tell them who you are and what you are writing about.

Paragraph 2:  Express your appreciation simply.  It will be more effective if you describe your emotional response.  If you were moved to tears by a specific scene, tell them that.  If a movie or a program offered a “teachable moment” that you could discuss with your kids let them know that, too. 

Paragraph 3:  Now that you’ve got their attention, tell them what they are desperate to know – tell them what you want!  Be specific. 

Your signature is like the icing on the cake.  End it simply.  Say the words “thank you” and then sign your name. 

Send your letter to the right person!

It’s very easy to obtain a mailing address for anyone who works in the entertainment industry.  Every television network and studio has a website.  Somewhere in that website is a link that says “contact us.”  That link will lead you to a mailing address. 

There should be another link on the site that will give you the names and some additional information about the executives.  You might need to look in the area designated for “press” or “media” – both of which should be easily accessed from the home page.

Frequently, there will be press releases that include quotes from individual executives.  There might also be text reproductions from articles that have been printed in journalistic venues.  These articles should also include the names of the top executives. 

If you’re writing to a producer or director, you might visit and enter the title of the project in the search bar.  In most instances, there will be a list of the cast and crew.  You might have to scroll down to the end of the actors list and click on the “more” link to get to the next page.  There, you will scroll down past the actors again – but you’ll find listings of the production team in greater detail. 

It might be more challenging to find an address for a producer or a director.  The first thing you should do is click on their name and go to their personal page.  That will lead you to their individual list of credits.  Many pages will have a production company listed with the mailing list.  If there is no production company, they might have an agent, manager or attorney listed under “contacts.”  If you send your letter this way, be sure to put their name on the top line, followed by c/o ______ on the second line. 

No matter how tempting it is, do not write to an actor.  Your letter will be considered fan mail and will go directly to the professional service that handles the actor’s mail.  You might get an autographed picture in return mail, but your comments won’t make a difference because they won’t be seen by anyone who is empowered to take action in response. 

Now that you have a name and an address, you’re ready to mail your letter.  Make sure you use the proper postage and that your return address is legible. 

Make the time to write often!

Think about all the time we spend waiting.  We get into the school pick-up line and wait for the bell to ring.  Then, we wait for our kids to get out of the schoolyard and into our cars.  We wait in the pediatrician’s office.  We wait in the playground while our kids frolic.  We wait while our kids take lessons or play organized sports.  There’s a simple way to turn these waits into productive time.

Many stationary companies put letter paper and envelopes into box-like folios.  These folios serve the dual purpose of protecting the stationary from becoming wrinkled AND giving you a hard surface on which to write your letter. 

If you haven’t made the techno-leap to a Blackberry or similar organizer, chances are that you carry a Filofax or Day Timer schedule system.  If so, you can keep stationary in one of the pockets.  I like to fold pieces of blank stationary and slide them inside the envelopes.  That way it fits conveniently into the system without the ends sticking out.  If you plan ahead, you can enter the addresses of the networks and studios into the address book section of your schedule system.  At times when you know you’re going to be playing the waiting game, you can get those letters written.  Most of the books for scheduling systems have a pocket that can hold postage stamps. 

Planning ahead will enable you to set up the equivalent of a portable office in your Filofax or Day Timer.  That way, when you’re on your way out the door to play the waiting game, you can grab your book and know that your time will be well spent.  When the other moms ask you what you’re doing, let them know how important you believe it is to speak up for what you think is important.  You might convince them to start writing letters, too.  Last, but not least, you’ll also be sending a message to your kids – it’s worth taking the time to let people know what you think.    

Tell them what you think!
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