Whether internal or external, standard print or digital e-newsletter, a newsletter should address communications goals and objectives and meet the needs of the receiving audience. Is your newsletter good PR? What are the building blocks of a newsletter folks will read and enjoy? Start with a few questions:
- What are the communications goals and objectives?
- How does this fit into business growth and communications strategy?
- What are the informational needs of the receivers?
- How will the newsletter inform, educate, engage, entertain and move people to action?
- How can you make it simple, brief, concise, meaningful, timely, relevant and fun?
At the end the day, we are all information consumers. It is said that we receive more information in one day than the average pioneer would have received in a whole year. So, it’s no surprise that we’ve all become pretty selective about what we read. If you want people to actually read your newsletter, you need a good recipe. Here are a few tips:
- Be brief and concise. The new media world has changed the message landscape and created a demand for extremely brief communications. Edit, edit, edit. Learn to say what the reader needs to hear in the most direct, brief and effective manner possible.
- Tell folks about something timely that offers a solution. Include an action item, a deadline and a track-able element. Immediately answer a “What’s in it for me?” question as it relates to the needs of the receiver. What do people need from you? How do your unique products or services solve a problem or make life better for your customers? What are your competitive advantages? When communicating with any audience, you should always be asking yourself two important questions: What do you want them to know? And, what do you want them to do? For example, you own a landscape services company. It’s autumn, and your objective is to increase revenue related to lawn aeration, leaf cleanup and mulch installation by 10% in the month of October and November, so in this section you might say, “Do you really want to rake those leaves and haul that mulch yourself? Let us help! Now through November 15, schedule leaf clean up, or mulch installation services and you’ll save 20%! Call now and mention code FALL2011 to get your discount!”
- What’s news? In this section, share some news about what’s happening now or will be happening in the near future. Will you be moving to a new building? Adding a new product or service? Have you hired a new team member? Accepted a new high-value client? Been recognized by your industry peers for your accomplishments? Joined the local Chamber of Commerce? Been nominated for an award? Share it here.
- “Did you know?” In this section, tell your audience something cool that positions your company as an expert, and is fun and free. Make it relevant to helping the reader and connect it to what you do best as a company. Gather some research, and add links to resources that support the facts. For example, perhaps your newsletter is for mothers with young children so you might include a fun fact related to child development like, “Did you know that research shows that babies must be held close to your face during the first several months of life so they can clearly see your eyes and facial expressions, and that doing this often while smiling improves bonding, brain development and language skills?”
- Ask your readers to share suggestions or testimonials, and feature a customer. This engages your audience as stakeholders in your business success. Provide a special email address for suggestions, and another for testimonials. You can even create a contest. For example, you could say, “Email your 100-word testimonial and a digital .jpg picture of you or the subject of your testimonial by the end of the month, and earn a chance to be featured as our Customer of the Month in the upcoming newsletter!” You can apply the same formula to suggestions. Why not include a Suggestion of the Month? If it’s a good suggestion, use it, and then let folks know you listened.
- Include some team news. This is a brief section that allows you to share something personal about your team and connect with folks on an emotional level. It’s a great place to congratulate a member of your team on a recent wedding, a new baby, a rescued dog, or community volunteer efforts. Give this section a fun name, and welcome reader feedback at a specified email address. You’ll be surprised at the great notes you’ll receive!
- In closing, include an option to “unsubscribe”. This is important for the digital e-newsletter. If you use a tool like Constant Contact, it’s usually integrated into the format. If not, include a simple statement like, “To be removed from our contact list, please email us at______, provide your name and contact information, and we will be happy to honor your request. Thank you!” Then, make sure you follow through.
The information you develop for each of these sections might also be repurposed for a variety of other communications channels like Facebook, Twitter, the company website, or even a direct mail piece. These are just a few suggestions to make your newsletter a valuable tool instead of a bit of office drudgery. Good luck, and let me know what you think!
Copyright 2011, Tracy L. Teuscher, APR