Newsletter Writing 101: Answering the Crucial Questions

So at the last staff meeting someone on your team—maybe your boss?—suggested putting out a newsletter.

Great idea!

Wait, um, you want me to manage it? Edit it?

…Write it?

[cue crickets chirping]

Oh, sure. Of course I can. Yep.

Can vs. Should: Three Questions

Of course you can. That is, you’re a skilled professional and you know how to do your job. But before you dive in to this project, step back for a moment and ask yourself three questions:

1. Why should we publish a newsletter? We’re all busy; we all have too much to read. So it is essential for your newsletter to have a clear purpose—a raison d’être that ties back to your business. Maybe it’s “We want to educate readers about the joys of raising miniature ferrets in the cloud.” Or “We want to share information about platform-independent mobile caffeine-distribution apps.”

2. Why should our readers care? The should question cuts both ways. What can you offer readers that they value, that they will then associate positively with your brand? You want readers coming away feeling like you’re in their corner, that you’ve given them information they can use.

3. What can we offer that is unique to us? Best of all, what can you give readers that no one else can? This is the foundation of your relationship with your customers.

  • Good: “Ferrets are great, and I need a cup of coffee.”
  • Better: “FerretBoost can help me raise healthier ferrets and caffeinate them more successfully—even on the go!”

In It for the Long Haul

Once you know what you have to offer, remember that a newsletter is not a one-off. If you want to build an ongoing relationship with your readers, you need to be sure you can create appealing, useful content on a regular basis. Before you publish your first issue, lay the groundwork by deciding on the following:

  • Naming. Brand your newsletter with an identifiable name, and maybe a descriptor or slogan. (Mobile Ferret News: Tools for High-Energy Breeders On the Go.)
  • Article ideas and types. Come up with at least two issues worth of article ideas. How might you present the information. (Tips, how-to piece, industry analysis, case study? Narrative, bulleted list, Q&A, infographic, even video?)
  • Editorial calendar. Decide how often you’ll publish and how many pieces in each issue. Then map out at least a year’s worth of issues, with story ideas for each.
  • Stakeholders and creators. Articles on Bluetooth-enabled chai reception don’t write themselves. Get buy-in from your team, from stakeholders and subject-matter experts throughout your company, and from those you want to write your content. You’ll also need people to manage, edit, design, lay out, and distribute what you write.
  • Success metrics. How will you know if your newsletter is doing its job? You’ll need to keep track of stats like open rates and clickthroughs, of course. But you’ll also want to talk to your target audience. How useful is the information you’re giving them? What would they like to see discussed? If clients or partners feel strongly about something, might they be interested in writing a guest post?
  • The big picture. Finally, think about how your newsletter fits into your company’s overall marketing arsenal. Does it reinforce important messaging with its voice, look, and content? Does it drive readers to your website or other marketing resources such as white papers and conferences?

The Content Bureau: Your Secret Weapon

At this point, it should be clear that it takes time, ideas, and resources to produce high-quality targeted newsletter content on a regular basis. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, don’t despair. At the Content Bureau, we’re experts in newsletter planning, writing, and design. We can help you launch a new newsletter, or revitalize an old one. And whatever the topic, we can tackle it with the tenacity of a small furry creature on a double espresso.

By Lisa Stonestreet