Years ago, Matthew Bregman asked a colleague to write three paragraphs for a newsletter on a company recycling project. The employee spent days holed up in a conference room, and a week later produced four or five pages on the subject. The organization ran the story in the company newsletter, but he doubts anyone read the article besides the two of them.
These days, consumers usually find corporate newsletters they subscribe to in their email inboxes, skim over the shapes, colors and content, and delete the email. Editors and writers put much thought and detail into creating a successful newsletter that catches and maintains a reader’s attention, but the first and foremost step in creating a successful newsletter is conducting an audience analysis and keeping the reader’s goals and interests in mind. Strategy is key in keeping consumers updated about organizational affairs. The following points are crucial in producing a newsletter that will be opened and read:
- Produce real news suited to the audience’s interests
- Use aesthetically pleasing layout that follows design rules
- Measure, measure, measure performance
Communicate the message, not the art
While appealing layout is the first step to catching attention, it is not the end goal of the newsletter, write Bowles and Borden (275.) The most important step in creating effective newsletters is having news to communicate. Don’t spam your audience with sales or deals or self-promotion, because if you’ve destroyed your credibility, your readers will go elsewhere.
Don’t waste your audience’s time – efficiently give them the information they want to see, otherwise they won’t keep reading. Don’t write five pages on a story when it can be condensed into one page, because readers have little time. Determine what the audience wants to see in the newsletter, and cater the message to their preferences. The audiences may differ: some may interested in cutting-edge technology, while some may be stakeholders in a corporation, but all receive the newsletter because they want to stay in the loop. For a newsletter intended for younger people, use sans-serif fonts because they are more casual and easier to read on screen, which is where that crowd will likely be finding their newsletter. For an older crowd or a print newsletter, serif fonts will be easier to read and are more suitable for that audience.
Re: Can I have your attention?
Once the newsletter’s message is devised for the audience, marketing and branding tips are essential to catching initial attention. The video below explains the importance of a catchy subject line in an e-newsletter. Include a nugget of news in the subject to attract interest and show readers that your newsletter contains real content.
When producing an e-newsletter, Media Buzz recommends not exceeding 90 kilobytes. Spam filters generally claim emails with attachments exceeding 100 kilobytes, and attachments with too much data are slower to download and may deter readers from clicking the link or following through on reading.
Additionally, all four design principles should be applied to newsletter layout, whether print or electronic (266):
- Balance: The design doesn’t have to be symmetrical, but include white space and color
- Proportion: The ratio between elements on a page should be 3:5
- Contrast: Have a focal point, with smaller elements that don’t detract from the central image or text
- Unity: Carry the same design themes throughout all pages
Does it measure up?
Determining metrics for readership is the last step in creating a strategic newsletter. Software such as GroupMail Email Newsletter Software measure open rates for emails and can play a large role in creating effective future newsletters. Click-Through rates measure the amount of clicks on a link divided by how many times the impression is shown, and provide an effective metric for measuring newsletter readership. For an email newsletter, a Click-Through Rate of 10 to 20 percent is considered successful.
The number of unsubscribe requests per month also allow insight into the most successful and most boring newsletters. Editors should use these metrics to determine effective strategy, messages and layout for future newsletters to gain the highest readership possible among identified key audiences.