In a steady, pervasive way, our economy has shifted from one where the greatest value is produced in the manufacture of goods and services to one where the greatest value is mined from data, ideas and knowledge. In such an information age, being generous with your knowledge and expertise carries a great reward. Get that information, advice, data and news out to your public with a newsletter – one that is printed, mailed and cross-purposed into an e-mail resource. You can compile the newsletter from your online blog content, or work in reverse… build your blog with the information you have gathered for your newsletter communications. While information about sales, new product lines and commerce is important, the talent and technical education you and your staff have in your field is perhaps even more valuable to your clients. Sharing it with them will make you trusted and remembered.
Content is king
For sure, all of this can be time-consuming. As small business owners, that time is precious and often scarce both for you and your staff. To help, below are some helpful tips for gathering and preparing great newsletter content.
- Name your newsletter. You don’t have to be overly catchy or clever, but think of your newsletter as your own magazine, with a unique title and a clear editorial focus. A suitable, memorable name will allow it to stand out and be recognized once you have loyal readers.
- Share your personality. No matter how clinical or technical your field, relay your excitement and interest in what you do for a living in a human voice. Inject your personality into the copy and let readers feel there is a person behind what is being written. Consider including a photo of yourself or your staff as well to establish that human connection with your readers.
- Write what you know – use who you know. The information you already possess in running your successful business is your richest source for content. Write about your company’s mission, goals, decision making process, failures and successes. And be sure to rely on your staff as well. Every employee is a source for topic ideas and stories based on their unique experience and knowledge within the company. At the very least, require each employee to submit one story idea a month. Make contacts with other industry blogs online and ask to “guest-blog” an article for them in exchange for one of their own.
- Take lots of photos – use them wisely. While stock photography serves a great purpose, nothing is more authentic than photographs you have taken yourself of relevant scenes, people, and products. Since you most likely have a great camera in your smartphone, remember to use it throught your work day. They can be used to illustrate your articles.
- Establish serialized columns. Familiarity is an asset when you are vying for a reader’s time. Set up one or two features that appear in every issue of your newsletter. For instance, “FAQ’s” or “Did You Know….” or “Ask an Expert” are all regular column ideas that people are comfortable with and can easily browse.
- Write smart headlines. To catch someone’s eye, headlines and graphics are at the top of the list. But remember a good headline also needs to accurately describes the topic of the article. I notice many publications rely on an incessant use of puns, song and movie titles or catchy “plays on words” as headlines. For instance, a story wind velocity and roof repair gets called “Gone With the Wind.” Is it really that funny? No. Does it explain what the article is about? Well, beyond the fact that it involves wind, no. It’s clear an editorial choice has been made that requires each article use this device as a headline. It becomes tiresome and misleading. A great pun can work well as a headline – feel free to get creative – but straight talk can also do the job.
- Be accessbile. Use your newsletter to provide as many ways as possible for someone to reach you: phone numbers, web addresses and links, maps to your locations both online and in the real world. Let people know you want them to be in touch.
- Do not think of your newsletter as a piece of paper. Yes, you will want to print, mail and distribute physical copies of your newsletters to employees, current clients and the public. But begin to think of the newsletter as the information itself. It will take the form of a printed piece, but can also be repurposed into blog posts, e-newsletters, and website information. Just be sure to learn the rules for email marketing and don’t let yourself inadvertently run afoul of the CAN-SPAM act.
- Employ social media and the internet. Staying in touch with your industry peers online through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and relevant trade association or industry websites provides you with a wealth of topic information and inspiration for your content, as well as serving as an avenue to promote your newsletter/blog/website. Check out exmples of other newsletters and a plethora of blog posts like this one giving advice on how to write, design and distribute your newsletters. Stay connected.
- Be consistent. If you plan to publish a monthly newsletter, stick to your schedule. Do not miss a month, especially early on when you are hoping to gain reader loyalty. Also, be consistent in your editorial approach.
Rely on your printer for advice and direction in creating and distributing your newsletters, by mail or online. They should be able to provide you with everything from encouragement all the way to the complete design, layout, copywriting, production, multi-purposing and distribution of your periodic marketing outreach. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!