Before you decide to do a newsletter…

So, you’ve decided your company needs a newsletter. You’d like to connect with your clients and customers, keep them updated about innovations or changes at your firm, and you think a newsletter would tick several of those boxes.

I’ve worked with several companies on their newsletters, and we always run up against the same obstacles. So here are some pointers to consider before you put yours together.

1 Assign a responsible person. The obvious person is someone in the marketing department, but smaller films might not have a dedicated marketing person or division. In that case, the trick is to choose someone who has a basic understanding – or even a knack – for marketing. And they need to be enthusiastic about the concept, because a newsletter comes around faster than you imagine it will, so you want someone who will really drive the process. Finally, ensure they are a stickler for quality control – you don’t want to put out a newsletter full of typos and other errors.

2 Get the frequency right. We live in an age of information overload – and I hate to be the one to break it to you, but customers are less interested in your company than you think they are. So go monthly, or even bimonthly – if you are popping newsletters into their already cluttered inbox once a week, they’re not going to love you.

3 Understand your audience. This requires that you walk in their moccasins. Think about what they might need to know rather than what you want to tell them. At least consider how they might benefit from what you are telling them. This is known as the WIIFM principle: What’s In It For Me?

4 Plan your content. This is where most newsletters fall down – they begin with a bang and fade to a whimper when the next deadline rolls around and you’re scrambling for stuff to say. Keep a central file where everyone in the company can contribute ideas as they occur, or think about possible themes you could assign per newsletter. Make a note of upcoming events or specials, and communicate any staff changes when they happen.

5 Honour your deadlines. Remember that news has a shelf life – even your company news. Stories from six or eight months ago aren’t really relevant anymore. So stick to your deadlines and ensure your content is fresh.

6 Short is sweet. People don’t have time to wade through long articles. Keep them to a few paragraphs or you can be guaranteed your efforts will end up in the Trash faster than you can say, “Read all about it!”

7 Pictures really are worth a thousand words. Ensure someone is taking pictures at every company event, and don’t forget to write down the names of any external people in the photos. If you have a new staff member, or someone has been promoted, add their picture to the news – it puts a human face on your business.

Newsletters, done well, can be great marketing tools. The key is to ensure they are regular, easy to read and contain news that will add real value to your readers’ lives: that takes planning, skill and commitment.

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