A lot of organizations get this fabulous idea that they should have a newsletter and then charge off in ten different directions at once without giving any thought to what they are getting themselves into. Before you start down that newsletter trail, there are several different scenarios that must be thought through. I’ve boiled them down to three basic areas.
First, the good news: A newsletter is a great communications tool. What’s more, they’ve never been easier or more cost effective to produce and distribute. With today’s technology, if you choose to produce an electronic newsletter, it’s also amazingly easy to track your newsletter’s performance.
But how about electronic vs hard-copy print? Should your newsletter be printed or be digital? There’s a lot that goes into that question making it another topic for another day.
Second, the bad news: They’re not for everyone. If you can honestly answer these questions, you should know whether or not a newsletter is right for your organization.
“Do you have enough content, and do you have the right kind of content?” That may seem like an obvious question, but that’s not necessarily the case.
Can your content pass this simple test? Try planning out the first six issues. Identifying which stories will run and when they’ll run is a good indicator. (Many organizations have seasonal or holiday stories to tell which may help the process.) If you’re planning on three or four items per issue, can you fill up the first six issues?
Over and above that, it’s always a good idea to keep several “evergreen” topics on the shelf. These are stories that can run in any issue regardless of timing. You never know when you might come up short and have to pull something off the shelf.
To help ease your schedule, are there topics that are sufficiently substantial so that they could be broken down into more than one article? You can build reader interest with “The first of three installments.”
In the end, does your content resonate with your audience(s)? Just as important, is your content appropriate? Does anyone really want to hear it? Does it pass the “so what” test? When someone sees your newsletter and what’s in it, do they say “so what.”
Remember – and this sometimes is the most difficult hurdle for some companies to clear – is what you’re including in your newsletter important to you, or to them? At the end of the day, it’s all about THEM. Them the audience, whoever your audience is.
Regarding your audience, determine upfront precisely who will be on your distribution list… or lists. And, always include yourself on your own distribution list. You want to make certain that your newsletter has, in fact, been delivered… and it arrives how you want it to.
TWO: The royal we vs The ultimate who
A newsletter is a great idea, but who is going to do it? Are you adequately staffed to complete it – and complete it in a timely fashion?
A lot of companies think that they will simply solicit articles from staff. That may work but keep in mind that those staff members still have their regular duties to perform. When people are working full time, do they have the additional time necessary to research and write newsletter articles? You don’t want your newsletter to be postponed – or cancelled – because someone “didn’t have the time” to complete their article.
And what about your overall project management? Who will plan the content, the editing, layout, production and distribution? Does your marketing staff or PR person have the time to assume a major, new commitment? Or will you have to outsource much of the work? And do you have the budget for that?
As soon as you finish one edition, start working on the next one.
We always hear a lot about commitment. Are you going to be committed to your newsletter?
This may be the most important concept of all – are you really committed to doing a newsletter? Plain and simple, a newsletter is a commitment. Of time. Of people. Of resources.
This raises the notion that plagues many newsletter novices, “how often should we produce our newsletter?” The poignant answer is, “As often as you have something relevant or important to say.” It could be quarterly, monthly, or weekly. There even are those who publish daily. Doing a good job on the first question (regarding relevant content), should strongly suggest how often you publish.
Whatever schedule is right for you – stick to it! We know of someone who sends out a monthly newsletter on the first of every month. He’s so regular that you can set your calendar by it. On the morning of the first of every month (even New Year’s Day, January 1st), there it is. Like clockwork.
If you’re not sure about the timing, always opt for the less frequent. Your audience will be more impressed if you change to publishing more often, than having to cut back.
There are many more things to consider, but these are the three biggies. If you can get past these issues, you’ll be well on your way.
In the end, to be successful, a newsletter must:
• Be relevant. Your audience must be interested in what you have to say.
• Be regular. Monthly, quarterly, whenever. Can you meet that deadline?
• Be professional. A newsletter is a reflection of your organization. How do you want to be perceived?