Extra! Extra! Make Your Newsletter Newsworthy
The newsletter: it can be management’s Nirvana and a communicator’s nightmare. But with a little planning, understanding, and talent, you can create newsletters that deliver.
Newsletters, executed effectively, can be a valuable tool to connect with both your internal and external audiences. As companies grow in size, it can be tough to keep everyone inside the organization up to date on changes, new items, and team successes. And for customers, you have a limited time frame and opportunity to capture their attention. You may have great stories, but if you can’t engage with your readers that content won’t matter.
The key to success? Treat your newsletter like a newspaper.
Write for the reader
Whether you’re developing a newsletter for your customers or your employees, make sure that you focus on what THEY want to read. And make sure that you do it in a way that’s entertaining to them.
Approaching each story like a reporter would is the foundation to good story writing. Find the “What’s in it for me?” aspect of the piece and focus on it. Write to educate and entertain. It will also help you avoid the all-too-often corporate pitfall of writing what you THINK people will want to read, as opposed to what they actually WANT to read. This technique will also help you reduce jargon, eliminate superfluous content, and stay on target.
Don’t bury the lede
In a corporate setting, newsletter writers often act as undertakers. The lede is buried so deep that you’d need an archeologist to find it. Part of using newspaper techniques to writing content is to use your lede (the introductory part of a news article that is designed to share the essence of the story) to actually lead your readers into the remainder of the story.
Unfortunately, many businesses feel that they’re the most important part of the story – not the people, the action, or the “What’s in it for me (WIIFM)?” offer. That’s why you’ll see, in both newsletters and press releases, introductory statements like this:
“Executive A, the Vice-President of Marketing and Communications at Company X, the world-wide leader in widget manufacturing and distribution, based out of Anytown, Anycountry, is pleased to announce that Company X’s proprietary widget cleaning solution Product Z is shipping to partner distribution networks across North America as part of its continued efforts to rectify the challenges posed by widget grime build up reported last quarter.”
This collection of biz speak is hardly enticing to the reader. Instead, a focus on the WIIFM is far more engaging and will lead your reader into the story.
“Dirty widgets making it hard to see the way to success? With the launch of Product Z, the solution is clear!” Then you can use the next technique to develop the story.
Focus on people
First off, like any good reporter you should take the time to interview your article’s subjects. And once you’ve done that, simply let your interviewees tell the story.
Use quotes effectively, integrate them throughout the story with good transitions. You’re not writing an opinion column, you’re sharing a story with your readers. Your role is less about interpreting that story for them and more about providing an accessible way for the principles involved to share their stories.
Whether you’re talking about a news item or a product release, the most important aspect of it always revolves around people: how are people affected, what motivated people to create this product, what challenges did they have to overcome, and – of course – what’s in it for me?
There’s a reason why newspapers rarely have quote-free articles. We want to know what the people involved think. For an internal newsletter, this gives your employees the chance to shine by sharing their knowledge and experience; for an external newsletter, the focus on people is far more engaging and humanizes your business.
Use images well
Images can be used to catch one’s eye, to summarize complex data, and to break up the monotony of text.
Photos can complement stories by illustrating what the text is explaining; graphics and charts can make it easy for your readers to quickly and easily digest complex statistics; and showing people in natural environments is an engaging way to draw in your reader.
Of course, you have to be careful with photos. Even if you stage photos, you don’t want them to appear staged.
And for regular features in your newsletter, whether that’s special offers to your customers, or regularly updated content for your internal audience, consider using icons. Icons and graphics provide your regular readers with a built-in frame of reference that will carry over from issue to issue.
Create expectations and deliver upon them
Commit to a delivery schedule but be realistic about your expectations. A weekly newsletter may not be sustainable. And, depending on the business, you may not generate enough content to justify a weekly (or even monthly) newsletter.
Be honest with yourself. How much time is it going to take for you to piece together an interesting and informative newsletter? That includes interviewing, sourcing or taking photos, developing graphics and images, and finding interesting content that is more than just filler.
More is not always better. If you’re providing your customers with the same content every issue, eventually they’re going to tune out. If you’re not giving your employees valuable and engaging information each time you share a newsletter, then they’re going to stop reading.
And if you don’t prioritize getting newsletters out on time, then people are going to stop caring. It’s too easy to slip into a “we’ll get to that later” mentality. When that happens, your quarterly newsletter suddenly only comes out once in a blue moon.
Just be honest with yourself. We’re all pressed for time; we all have competing priorities and responsibilities. It’s all well and good that you want to publish weekly, but if you can’t deliver on that promise, you’re setting yourself up to fail.
The Key to Success
Your management team may suggest that putting out six issues a year, or highlighting these seven priorities are acceptable success metrics. To me, the only metric that matters is this: that your newsletter is read.
You can publish an article outlining the way to the Fountain of Youth, but if no one’s reading it, then how valuable is that information, truly?
Treating the production of your newsletter the same way that you would a newspaper is the first step towards success. And by keeping the “What’s in it for me?” ideal on the horizon, you’ll find your pathway to newsletter success!
Now over to you. What do you look for in a newsletter? How many do you actually read? How many have you signed up for that lie dormant in your inbox? What works for you? Comments are open!
How do I write a good newsletter?
What content should I put in a newsletter?