Too many newsletters are boring, preachy and inaccessible. The publishers assume people will read them because it tells them things they need to know about the organisation. But just because someone should read something doesn’t mean they will.
For newsletters to be successful, the target audience has to want to read them. That means the editorial team has to create interesting and relevant content, written in a compelling and engaging way.
But before you even think about content, you need to decide whether or not you even need a newsletter and, if so, what kind of publication you want – and are able – to produce.
Top tips on writing newsletters
1. Do ask what readers want from a company publication. Senior management might see it as a tool for “communicating important company information” but if it’s as dull as dishwater, no one will want to read it.
2. Don’t be unrealistic. A simple, well written weekly emailer containing interesting, relevant information will be more effective than a glossy 64-page magazine that takes so long to come out, no one’s interested in the content.
3. Do use your chosen medium to its best advantage. Online is best for speed, tracking and linking to further information. Print is best for big features, great photos and important stories and events.
4. Don’t feel you have to do everything yourself. Use contributors from other sites or departments to feed you news and (if they can) write stories. Even a badly written first draft (that you can re-work) is better than nothing.
5. Do consider guest editors. They bring a freshness to publications and demonstrate inclusivity in a company.
6. Don’t spend too long on first drafts. Most newsletter copy goes through several people and many changes before the delight of the final edit. Get the facts in the right order, write with sincerity and put most effort into a polished final edit.
7. Do leave LOTS of time for editing and proofreading. Create and stick to a Production Schedule that is weighted towards time at the end, not the beginning. Use the early stages to gather photos, liaise with contributors and chase approvals.
8. Don’t return edited copy to contributors, managers, clients, etc. unless you have absolutely have to. People love to make changes and the copy they “signed off” last week suddenly needs a “few tweaks” once they see it again.
9. Do ask people to attach approved copy to an email and not simply say “yes, it’s okay”.
10. Don’t forget that the word “publish” means “to make public”. Even a document clearly titled “for internal use only” can make its way out into the wider world. If you don’t want people to know something, don’t put it in writing.