Newsletters Shouldn’t Be Snoozeletters

"The contents of the e-letter or newsletter should be shaped by the audience."

By David P. Kowal

If properly developed, an e-letter or newsletter can be a valuable tool in any company’s marketing program. Unlike most communications, e-letters and newsletters can keep you in contact with your market on a regular basis. They can make your services tangible, enhance your image and help to position your company as a leader in its field.

But e-letters and newsletters often fail to accomplish these goals. Most newsletters are snoozeletters. The typical newsletter is a two-color rehash of company press releases and is filled with the kind of photos no other publication would print – the slightly out-of-focus photos of people shaking hands and smiling at the camera.

To work effectively, newsletters should be stimulating, not sedating. Companies that would rather use their newsletters to keep the competition awake at night than to put their customers to sleep should heed the following advice:

Set a schedule and stick to it. If you’re not going to publish regularly, don’t bother. The worst thing to do with a newsletter is to publish an issue or two, then to lose interest.

Newsletters require an ongoing commitment of time and resources. Outsourcing the work is often a good way to ensure that the newsletter is published regularly. The agency or freelancer producing the newsletter should keep the newsletter on schedule, because it has a financial incentive to do so.

Write for your audience. The contents of the e-letter or newsletter should be shaped by the audience. An employee newsletter obviously will have different information than a newsletter for potential and existing customers. Once you’ve identified your target audience, interview members of your audience to determine the type of information they would like to read in your newsletter.

Newsletter content should be both informational and promotional. Your newsletter should include information that will make reading it worth the recipients’ valuable time. Remember that if there’s no “news” in it, it’s not a newsletter.

Differentiate by design. Somehow, you need to make recipients aware immediately that your newsletter merits their attention. If your newsletter looks like everyone else’s, forget about anyone reading it. Few people will even notice who it came from before deleting it or tossing it in the recycling bin.

Your newsletter has to grab the recipient visually. Consider printing it on an odd stock size. Use color wisely. Choose photography carefully. Few companies have the resources to use color photography, but duotones can also add zing to a newsletter. If you don’t have professional photography to use, rely on other visuals, such as illustrations, charts, graphs and “call out” quotes.

Be creative with copy. Newsletters should not be staid and boring. It’s OK to include product and personnel announcements, but also include content that is useful, informative and provocative.

In general, copy should be short, but consider including a single in-depth feature that jumps from the front page, so that readers will be taken inside your newsletter. Always keep the newsletter’s goals and objectives in mind. Can your objectives best be met with case studies? Customer profiles? “How to” articles? Trend articles?

Print extra copies – and use them. Many companies still print newsletters and mail them to clients and prospects. Consider an online version to supplement or replace your newsletter. You’ll save money and potentially reach more people. You’ll also be able to expand your database with little cost or effort.

If you print your newsletter, consider including it in your sales kits and press kits. If appropriate, hand them out at trade shows and seminars, and consider mailing them to editors on your media list.

For your newsletter or e-letter to succeed, you will need to give it your attention regularly. If your company doesn’t pay attention to its newsletter, neither will your customers.

David P. Kowal is President of Kowal Communications, Inc. of Northboro, Mass. He can be reached at kowal@kowal.com.