If you’re passionate about your work, you want to share it with others. You want to engage your followers, excite your fans, and move them to action. While tweets and blog posts can be highly effective parts of a good content strategy, some of your audience will appreciate getting a good chunk of information delivered at once. Done well, a newsletter can be a great content marketing technique for reaching out to that audience.
Here are a few things you’ll want to think about before you start publishing your newsletter.
The Big Picture & the Audience
Voice: Who’s talking in this thing? Is it the boss, the company as a whole, or a mix? Decide on a voice, and stick with it. Changing your voice too often will confuse your audience.
Goals: A newsletter that attempts to make a hard drive at generating sales will appear radically different from one that tries to inform an audience about company news. Decide what your objectives are, and you’ll have far fewer frustrations when you start writing issues two and three.
Timeline: Be realistic about how often you can publish. If you are the CEO, and you want to write the entire newsletter yourself, don’t count on publishing a 3,000-word newsletter every week. Also, how frequently can you publish from a content perspective?
Style: Just as your writing has a voice, the appearance of your newsletter should have a unified visual style. This doesn’t require any fancy graphics or design. Rather, it’s about consistency. Don’t start by answering a letter one week, and then begin with a feature article the next.
I’m talking to you: Know your audience. Is the newsletter directed to customers, industry peers, or people who know nothing about your business? This is an essential question for any kind of effective content marketing, newsletters certainly no exception.
I want you to hear ____: What are you telling your audience? There should be an overarching message that 90% of your content points toward. While it’s okay to break away from your standard message sometimes, try to keep the big picture message consistent.
Incentivize: You have a group of people that has asked to receive your newsletter. These people want to hear what you have to say. Awesome! Now, give them something! Maybe it’s a 10% discount, maybe it’s a guide you wrote that you charge most customers for. Pick something, and use it to incentivize.
Encourage action: Maybe you’re trying to make a sale; maybe you’re trying to get people involved in your company’s interests. You have an audience, so make sure you’re encouraging them to do something. Knowing what that something is should be determined early on when you sit down to think about goals.
Thank: Acknowledge that your audience is giving you their time and their participation. Thank them for it in your newsletter. Offering incentives is a great way of saying “thank you.”
Who’s Writing & Designing This Thing?
You: If you can write (double check with someone!), and you have the time, great. Go for it! You’re the expert about what your company does, so who better to share it?
Your team: Have your staff write articles on occasion. Everyone has something to share. Plus, your readers will appreciate the variety offered by new voices and fresh perspectives. Remember to keep things unified though!
Guest Posts: Guest posts are a great way to get other industry experts involved with your company. It makes you look credible, it gives your guest writer increased exposure, and you look like a stand up guy! Talk about great content strategy!
Encourage hype: You want industry people to ask you if they can do a column or guest post. Get the ball rolling by inviting guest posters first. Once you have a few people agree, you’ll find that others start asking for the opportunity.
Offer Bylines: Guest posters should always get bylines, but make sure you’re giving them to your own staff writers. When your staff has bylines they can promote themselves, which can only help your company.
The pros: If you can’t write or don’t have the time, hire the professionals to do it. If you need convincing about why a writing service may be just what you need, check out one of our favorites, Benefits of a Writing Service. We happen to know of a good content marketing service: ourselves.
Editors: Get an editor. No matter how meticulous you are, you’re going to slip up. A good editor will catch your mistakes, and keep the face of your company looking professional.
Nobody’s designing: This is a problem. Somebody has got to take charge on the visual look of the newsletter. How detailed the design gets is your call, but you should have a company logo at the least.
My friend has InDesign: Stop. Get a professional. Readers see through amateur design just as clearly as they see through amateur writing. At least pay a one time fee for a design framework you can base future newsletters on.
The pros: Hire professional designers. We hate to see good writing rendered ineffective by bad (or no) design structuring it. Don’t let this happen to your newsletter.
Targeting: Strategize on how you’re going to reach your audience. Are you creating a field on your website for users to sign up? Are you reaching out to them on Twitter, encouraging them to get your newsletter? Figure out how to market, and go for it!
Educate: Your newsletter should educate. Whether you’re writing to the industry or your customers, you have the knowledge to educate others. Share what you have learned, and how it’s affected what you do.
Inform: You should also be informing your audience. You aren’t just educating, you’re also a news source. Keep everybody current on things going on in your company and in the industry.
You: People are reading your newsletter because they want to know what you are up to. Be personal with your newsletter. Share “irrelevant” anecdotes occasionally to stay personable.
The Competition: Don’t knock the competition. Don’t avoid them altogether either. When you can say something nice and friendly about your competition, it makes you look good and it works toward those goals of educating and informing.
Being Effective: Are you saying something that is best said in a newsletter? If not, reconsider including it. As a writer, you hate to make cuts. But, if something doesn’t need to be in the newsletter, nix it. People have short attention spans; no fluff.
Headlines: There are a million articles that can teach you how to write effective headlines. We’ll just send you over to Copyblogger, and leave it at that!
Content: The real meat of your newsletter. Above all else, write effective content. Without well-written information, your newsletter is worth nothing.
Flow and regularity: Does your newsletter move in a logical way? For example, start with a letter from the CEO, give some company news, post your main feature, and then finish with some smaller articles and an op-ed. But, that’s just one of an infinite number of strategies. Just make sure the flow is logical and appears consistent.
Sharing content: Share (with permission, of course!) other writers’ and business’s content. If someone’s already said it well, there’s no reason to try and reinvent the wheel. Besides, you could attempt a reinvention at the risk of plagiarizing.
Contact Info: A no-brainer, but often forgotten; make sure you include all of your contact information. That includes social media profiles and blogs that your company operates!
Get Feedback: It’s a little bit easier to engage when using a social media platform, but no matter what platform your newsletter appears on, encourage feedback. Ask questions. Ask for stories. Get people talking!
Getting It Out There
Snail mail: Hey, don’t laugh! For some businesses, a small snail mail newsletter operation can be a great content strategy! At the very least, consider it!
Link through your site: Link to your newsletter through your company’s website. While you want people to subscribe, it’s okay to just share it directly, too!
Blog: If your blog and newsletter audiences don’t overlap much, repurpose the content back and forth between the two. Be careful. You don’t want to bore anyone. Also, use your blog to encourage newsletter subscriptions.
Email: Clearly, a big one here. Make sure you push email as one of your main avenues for subscribers. Plenty of great programs are out there to help you get the ball rolling.
Spam check: Spam check all of your newsletters. A killer newsletter won’t make it anywhere if it is loaded with spammy buzz words! We can’t emphasize this one enough.
Facebook: Lastly, Facebook is still a terrific way to release that newsletter. Take advantage of all the “subscribers” you already have on Facebook.
Whew! That should be enough to get you started! What are we missing? Any essential points for publishing a newsletter?