Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not here to criticize newsletters. Far from it – I love them. I started my journalistic career working on a newsletter and, to this day, (despite the advent of rolling news and social media), I still believe that they are an extremely powerful tool for businesses.
However, I see so many newsletters that fall far short of powerful. Indeed, I would argue that some actually damage the brand that they are designed to promote.
The good news is that, if your newsletter falls into this category, it is never too late to make a change.
In this article, you will discover the five ways to tell if your newsletter has a one way ticket to the trash folder. We will then look at ways to turn your newsletter from a zero read to a must read.
One mistake that many newsletters make is all to do with tone. All too many newsletters have a very dry, corporate style. This even applies to those publications whose audience is fun, friendly and engaged. However serious the subject matter, your newsletter is (hopefully) going to be read by human beings and you should make sure that you are human when producing it.
Get to know your audience. Find out what inspires them, what irritates them and what entertains them. Then write content based on those three areas.
For example, a few years ago, I was writing a newsletter for the parents of a school. One September issue, I wrote about how the month of September always makes me want to go out and buy fresh pencils. I got an amazing amount of engagement from parents who shared my new school year stationary obsession!
Later on in the year, the school decided to host a movie night for its pupils. I was involved in choosing the movie and I decided to ask for feedback from parents via the school’s newsletter. Instead of simply asking parents for film ideas, I started my article with a story.
The night I was planning my newsletter, I was home alone. Well, my kids were upstairs asleep but apart from that I was alone. Well, unless you count my Labrador and cat and, in this instance, I didn’t. I was flicking through the TV channels in search of a movie when I happened upon Paranormal Activity. Now, I used to be fine to watch all manner of scary movies but something has happened to me in recent years and I am a big wuss now.
Anyway, I started to watch this film even though I knew it was stupid and even though I knew I should be watching the Kitten TV channel. Of course, after the film finished, my imagination ran wild and I was like a rabbit in the headlights every time I heard the slightest creak or bump.
The next morning, after a very fitful night’s sleep, I laughed at myself for being so silly and used this very human experience to start my newsletter where I then discussed the merits of a suitable film choice.
Once again, the newsletter saw record amounts of engagement. Parents were drawn into the conversation by the fact that I had shared something personal. They then also shared something personal and gave me their ideas.
I know that Paranormal Activity is a walk in the park when faced with the prospect of sharing our human, vulnerable side. I was all too aware that I could have been laughed at or thought ridiculous. But, do you know what, I would have survived. We are all human and the world is a better place when we show it.
Many newsletters just feel like they are going through the motions. They are a task to be completed and nothing more.
If your newsletter has heretofore been a bit of a chore you may find that it is doing your business more harm than good. Don’t just pile a load of old blog posts into your newsletter. Don’t just use your publication to sell sell sell.
Value your newsletter distribution list and give your audience added value too. You can do this by publishing brand new content in your newsletter or by giving your readership the first look at the results of a survey that you have commissioned.
If you want your newsletter to be read rather than trashed, make it worth the read. Treat your audience like members of a special, insider club. If you discover a new tool, share it with your newsletter audience first. If you have a sale or discount, share it with your newsletter’s audience before anyone else. Value your publication and your readers will too.
Newsletter production can sometimes seem like one more thing in a long list of tasks that we haven’t really got time for. This can lead to premature publishing syndrome. By this I mean sending your newsletter out to your audience before it has been edited.
Nothing is going to damage your brand as much as a shoddy newsletter that is just littered with spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and bad links. Publishing a newsletter, much like with a blog, is a process that needs the time it takes.
Once you have created your content and placed it into your newsletter, you need to walk away. Take a break for if you edit now you will see the content that you intended rather than what is actually there.
Then come back and edit your content, proof read your articles and test your links. If you can, ask someone else in your business to read the newsletter. Then publish safe in the knowledge that your newsletter represents your business.
If you publish a newsletter on a regular basis, just take a moment to consider design. Is your publication pleasing to the eye? Look at the colours that you have used. Do they tie in with your brand colours? Do you have long streams of text with very few images?
Design is crucial. I worked on a magazine once that had just the highest quality content imaginable. It was amazing stuff and yet we struggled to get enough advertising revenue. Finally, the editor at the time asked some of the potential advertisers what their issue was. It was simple - image. They wanted to advertise in a magazine that looked high end as well as contained high end content. One redesign later and this magazine secured the advertising bucks that it so desperately needed.
Okay, so we had a graphic design team on board with us at this magazine. However, any business no matter how small can create stunning visuals for their newsletter using free online tools such as Canva and Picmonkey. They are fantastic and so easy to use – go on, give them a try and revamp your newsletter! Do let me know how you get on.
In a way, engagement lies at the core of a great newsletter. If you publish a newsletter, you need to understand your audience and produce content that they will find unmissable. To produce a newsletter that is truly successful and a credit to your brand, make it become part of your community.
You can do this by involving your audience. Ask them questions, conduct surveys and make them feel involved in the articles that you publish. You can even ask your audience to contribute content in the form of guest articles or thought pieces.
Newsletters are an effective asset for any brand. However, they can damage your brand if you don’t take them seriously. By spending just a little extra time on your tone, value, editing, design and engagement you will soon enjoy the benefits of this extremely powerful business tool.
Do you have any advice that you would like to share on this topic? Please do feel free to impart your wisdom in the comments section below.
Thanks for reading!
Take care, Jane x