Company newsletters are a great way of staying in touch with customers, staff or shareholders. They’re a valuable means of letting customers know about offers, events, new products and changes to the business, or keeping staff and shareholders informed, updated and motivated.
In 2013, the Content Marketing Institute found that 78% of respondents used newsletters. Research firm Nielsen Norman Group found that 90% of respondents preferred to receive company updates from newsletters than social media. These figures demonstrate why more and more businesses are using newsletters as a marketing and communication tool.
And while images and layout are important aspects of a newsletter, the written content is the biggest factor in determining how successful it is at achieving its goals. Here are five ways of maximising that success:
1. Specify the purpose and audience of your newsletter
Do you want your newsletter to persuade customers to buy or prospects to invest? Or do you want it to keep staff or shareholders informed and productive? These are different objectives with different audiences. A newsletter that tries to appeal to all these audiences is unlikely to appeal to any of them.
For instance, customers don’t want to know about employee birthdays, internal policy changes or job advancement opportunities. And if you’re writing for shareholders, you probably want to adopt a more formal tone and use more industry jargon than if you’re writing for customers. So pick a target audience and write specifically for them, or produce several newsletters, each one tailored to its respective purpose and reader base.
2. Make it newsworthy
The late great copywriter Victor Schwab, author of How to Write a Good Advertisement, said this:
“People don’t want to read advertising. The person has bought the publication for news, entertainment or instruction which is of a helpful personal value.”
And it’s true. How many of us gloss over the ads in a newspaper or magazine? I know I do. Occasionally they will catch my eye, if it’s something I’m interested in. But what I’m after are the news and features.
But this weakness of ads is a strength of news stories and gives copywriters who produce newsletters an incredible advantage. By producing a news story that someone is more inclined to read, you get to do some soft selling. Soft selling uses subtle persuasion, the antithesis of in-your-face hard selling, which people generally find more irritating.
News stories aren’t supposed to be salesy at all. Just like a press release, a newsletter article should contain genuine news. It should be factual, bereft of any flowery or promotional language, and address five key points — who, what, where, when and why. If you adhere to all this, your readers won’t know they’re being sold to. If your article is about your business having opened a new store, your customers are getting the facts. By telling them about the benefits of visiting this new store, you’re communicating subtle sales messages at the same time.
3. Include attention-grabbing headlines
Think of a company newsletter article as being like any other newspaper article. Why do you read it? Because the headline gets your attention. For example, Ready to face the future or Going from strength to strength are platitudes, not newspaper headlines. They’re trite, non-specific and uninteresting.
The secret of a good headline is to add a fact, a question, a number or the name of a person. Readers love words like “new” and “now”, and using verbs helps make headlines more forceful.
4. Don’t make your articles too long
The average article in a typical popular newspaper is less than 200 words long, but lengthy articles are a common mistake with newsletter copywriters. If a newspaper doesn’t think its readers will read more than 200 words about murder and political scandal, it’s unlikely your readers will get through more than 200 words about a new product.
There are obviously some instances where a longer article is appropriate, particularly if you’re addressing staff or shareholders. But try and make it as readable as you can. Break it up with subheadings, or split it up into several smaller articles. You might also consider putting some points into boxes next to the main article.
5. Add variety
You want your newsletter to be interesting and your readers to look forward to receiving it. Be creative. Alongside your news articles, consider a humorous cartoon or comic strip. Add a quiz or competition. Include an interview with the managing director or a department head. Have a letters section and encourage your readers to write in offering comments and feedback — this is a great way of engaging with your readers, and you can incentivise them by offering a prize for the best letter.
Make sure you include some regular features as well, like a news round-up, customer case study or a note from the Chairman’s Office. Regular features give newsletters consistency and help reinforce a company’s brand.
If you don’t already have a newsletter, consider hiring a freelance copywriter to help you set one up. A copywriter can draw up a plan, settle on a title, devise some regular features, source images, and most importantly, find, select and write your stories.
If you already have a newsletter in place, but you’re struggling to find time to write them, a copywriter can do that for you. The benefit of hiring a copywriter is that they are trained to write features, interviews and news stories that grab attention, entertain and subtly influence readers to buy into your brand.
For more information about how I can help you produce entertaining, newsworthy and persuasive newsletters, give me a call on 07411 331721 or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find out more about my work, my clients and why you should hire me to write for you.