A hard-copy printed newsletter was ideal for taking to exhibitions and handing out to visitors. It could be slotted into press packs to give journalists vital background information and it was a useful tool for announcing the very latest developments within the business – including new contracts and employee achievements and awards.
Then came the advent of the electronic newsletter, which made perfect economic sense given the cost of printing all those newsletters and the logistics of transporting them around in cardboard boxes. However, it’s true to say that there still remains a serious question mark over how well read an e-newsletter is when attached to someone’s e-mail. The technology may be very clever these days in that you can ‘turn’ virtual pages, even with the sound of the paper simulated, but unless the reader has a significantly large screen, reading the type can prove difficult and zooming in and out can be awkward.
With all of this in mind, if a company believes that a newsletter is definitely the right way to go, there are six issues that we believe are crucial:
1. What is it for? You say you want a newsletter, but why? Do you just want a form of internal communication within your business or do you want to speak to the wider world? Before embarking on the time-consuming exercise of a newsletter, consider whether it will achieve your goals and – if not – if there is an alternative method you could use.
2. What will be in it? It sounds obvious but any newsletter has to be worth reading. This means its content must be directly relevant to the audience and easy to digest. If you are thinking of an internal newsletter why not ask your staff what they would want in it. And if you want prospects and customers to receive the newsletter, ask yourself what you would like in a newsletter that informed every time it came through the mail or e-mail. There is no point producing something that people either skip through or ignore altogether. A well-written newsletter with content that is beneficial to the reader can be a very powerful sales and customer support tool.
3. Be consistent. If you say your newsletter will be produced monthly, you must stick to this timeline. If you say it will always include an interesting case study, you must make sure that it does. Which means you must have the material to meet your promises. Consider whether you will have enough good stories to maintain a monthly output or will you be struggling? If you struggle, the project will suffer and inevitably fail. Consider a bi-monthly or quarterly newsletter if this would be easier.
4. Encourage feedback. If you want to communicate with your staff or your customers, make sure they can get back to you – and easily. Allowing two-way communication means people feel involved, it shows that you care about what they think, and it highlights what sections of the newsletter people find most interesting. Once you know that, you know if you are on the right track or if you need to make any changes to your newsletter content or format.
5. As mentioned earlier, you need to decide whether to go down the road of a newsletter in print or digital format. If you want the newsletter to be interactive – ie your readers can watch video or use targeted apps or respond to your Twitter feed – then digital is the only option. Likewise, if you want to send your newsletter to thousands of people, this is easier done electronically (indeed, automatically). However, you might consider how much you personally like to hold what you are reading in your hand. Do you like reading a digital version of your favourite newspaper on your tablet or ‘phone or do you prefer to have a printed copy? What do you believe is best? You will often find that what you prefer is also what your clients would prefer.
you need to decide what ‘voice’ you are going to adopt in the newsletter. Will it be chatty or will it be formal? Do you want to use headlines that are informative or funny (these often don’t work, though, because everyone’s humour is different)? Decide on your typeface – and choose one that is fairly common and easy to read, not a fancy one that gives people headaches after a couple of paragraphs. You must also decide on the length of pieces in the newsletter. Short is best but you may need to include something a little longer sometimes. And finally, decide if you want to ‘signpost’ the newsletter’s content, for example by including a simple contents page that allows the reader to see what is on offer and to navigate the newsletter easily.
To do the job properly, you would need someone whose role it is to create and collate the newsletter’s content, you would need a decent design creating and you would need someone familiar with inserting content into a newsletter template. Then, of course, you need someone to co-ordinate distribution and deal with ‘returns’, for example if the intended recipient has moved or they no longer want to receive the newsletter.
Essentially, the decision is yours – compare the effort and expense that you will need to put into a good quality newsletter with the rewards that you expect to gain. If the latter outweighs the former, you have your answer.