Recently, our blog took a look at the basics of newsletter writing. We covered some material that we’ve stressed time and time again: make sure the content is well written, pay attention to presentation, and tie it into the brand without going by rote. This is part of our message that quality always matters, and that every venture put forward should return to the same basic principles. Building on these lessons, this article highlights specific ways that a newsletter can be turned from a seemingly redundant tangent into a valuable marketing tool that speaks for itself while supporting the organization’s core mission.
The basic function of the newsletter is of course to be informative. Information needs to reach a large number of people, and a newsletter is a great way of making sure people are on the same page. Yes, in theory an email can be CC’d and BCC’d to everyone on the relevant lists, but there is something psychologically distinctive about the release of a physical publication for wide review. The trick then is to make sure the information contained in the letter goes beyond the basics and into actually targeting its audience.
In short, a newsletter has to take advantage of its role as a distinct and noteworthy publication in order to create a greater sense of identity for the organization as a whole.
Option #1 – Editorialize
As we mentioned, email has effectively replaced hardcopy for general communications. It takes up less space, doesn’t create mountains of trash unless you count the spam folder, and is exponentially more efficient. With general communication taken care of, the newsletter now has room for broader subjects such as opinion and editorial.
This option can be particularly interesting for businesses with extensive connections, such as financial institutions or delivery services. Articles of this stripe can revolve around goings-on in general, or discussing the results of the latest big initiative. Upper level managers can explain some of the reasoning behind specific decisions, while frontline workers might get a chance to explain the impact a particular policy has had on work efficiency.
Of course, all editorial runs the same risk as any opinion-based piece of writing. Make sure to keep within company guidelines and civil behavior. After all, the goal is to increase company identity, not foster company conflict.
Option # 2 – Have a Laugh
Business communications frequently tend to be sterile and reserved, especially in larger organizations. Some of the most frustrating moments working for big companies stem from a perceived lack of identity. Humor is an excellent way to help break down this disconnect between work and workers. For internal company newsletters, knowing that the boss is good for a laugh now and again can help ease tensions, or promote greater cooperation between coworkers.
Predominantly this approach requires keeping the humor topical. A call center for example might host a contest for the strangest call received and list the winning story in the newsletter. A certain widespread fast food corporation might run a bit of satire complaining about the fact that they haven’t achieved complete control of the market. In either case the humor is derived from familiarity with the company, and helps foster a good-natured approach to the job.
Option #3 – Reflect and Review
As mentioned, one of the strongest merits of the newsletter format is its distinctiveness. With more people focusing on email, receiving a newsletter almost always causes at least a moment of attention, if only to ask what it is. Take advantage of this by using the newsletter as a way to call people to review past accomplishments and current goals, and release it at times that the company warrants such a review. This will help associate the newsletter with a distinct purpose, and when it arrives people will know it’s time to put on their thinking caps.
Option #4 – Fabulous Prizes
This may sound dubious, but it remains a viable option. People like contests and prizes, and if there’s something to be won in the newsletter they’re more likely to read it. For example a company newsletter could include free raffle tickets to the next big sporting event. More people are likely to respond if they figure they can win a prize. Pick an incentive that you know is appropriate to your group, and put it in the newsletter to keep interest high.
The key here is to avoid making it a gimmick. Advertise the contest clearly, but resist the urge to splatter it across the front page in bright fonts. Use good humor and reserve, and let people get as excited as they wish.
A hard copy newsletter is not always appropriate. Email frequently suffices, and in many cases company newsletters have shifted to email delivery. When you evaluate your organization’s newsletter, whether one you already have or one you intend to start, ask yourself what specific purpose it would serve. Newsletters can help any organization or business stay top of mind and open communication lines.