Newsletters Are Not Advertising
Newsletters are always sent to a community of subscribers who share a specific, common interest. Further, the subscribers must have specifically opted-in to receive the newsletters. Newsletters should never be seen as advertising or self-serving. They must always be seen as promoting the common interests of a defined community.
Adopt a Standard ‘Look and Feel’
Newsletters need to have a consistent format. This includes the masthead, the font, line spacing, number of columns on the pages, the use and placement of pictures, colors, the number of pages, the size of the paper, the frequency of publication, etc. When a reader glances at a newsletter, she should immediately recognize it as a publication of general interest from an organization she belongs to.
The newsletter should have a standard set of sections that are placed in much the same location in every publication. These sections could include, for example, the President’s Corner, Upcoming Events, Letters to the Editor, Review of Recent Events, Industry Wide Issues, Book Review, Financial Statement, etc.
A wall of black ink of narrative discourages all but the most committed newsletter readers. Good newsletters allocate between 25% and 50% of their space to photographs, logos, schematics, charts, graphs, and other images that grab attention and reinforce the messages in the narrative. The graphics need to engage the reader. Having said this, recognize that the written content is the key to a good newsletter.
Check Your Facts
Nothing destroys the value of a newsletter faster than getting the facts wrong. Check them and check them again. Address all the issues any good newspaper article handles: who, what, when, where, and why. Name your source; if you are summarizing a speech or another article, identify it so interested readers can read the original if they choose to.
Make It Easy to read
Newsletter readers rarely spend more than a few minutes skimming a newsletter. They are not going to study the document closely. It has to be relevant, interesting, and easy to read. Use simple language and short sentences.
Have Several Contributors
Ideally, every member of the executive committee of the organization will write an article or column for the newsletter. The editor is always welcome to clean up the language, trim it down, or tailor it to suit the purposes of the publication. More than that, the editor should encourage thought leaders in the organization to write articles as well. Having several contributors helps build the sense of community that is so vital to every organization.