Does the slightest mention of newsletters bring to mind a paper based pre-internet world?

Do you have to physically stop yourself from running screaming into the bathroom with your tablet, smart phone and laptop where upon having locked yourself in you spend the rest of the day tweeting and posting status updates on Facebook detailing how the thought of living in an age other than now is just horrible?

If this is you then it is probably best if you take a break from reading the rest of this blog and log off your computer, put down your mobile gadgets, go outside and speak to another person. Oh and yes, Siri doesn’t count.

In case you were wondering I was only joking (!) but there is however no getting round the fact that unless you have happened to read a newsletter on-line over the past few years then the image you will probably have of newsletters will be a bit dated now. Printed on paper for a start and probably a little bit dog eared by the time it has made its way round the office or from the bottom of your son or daughters school bag. A relic of the pre-internet age newsletters maybe, but they are increasingly popping up in a digital form as part of companies communication, marketing and website content creation strategy.

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Medal Frenzy

A triple whammy. In the good old days they could only ever qualify for the first two of those, communication and marketing. Not now though. Newsletters are a bonafide content creation medal winner. Sorry, I had to get an Olympics reference in having missed the opportunity in my last blog in this series on content creation.

The e-newsletter might be screen based going out via email and not in the post (or your child’s school bag) but essentially the principals remain the same as always. They are a cheap and relatively simple way for you to stay in touch with the people that matter to you – members, customers, current clients, past clients, associated companies, suppliers etc…

The content creation bit comes in once the newsletter has been emailed out to your mailing list. It can then be put up on your site and then when the next edition is ready to go out the existing edition can be archived. Simple. A top tip is to make sure that the past editions are not just left tucked away in a dark corner but can be accessed by visitors to the site. Then you get hot content and a worthwhile archive for new visitors.

Accessing archives at the click of a button is in my opinion one of the greatest features of websites today whether you are looking for photos, reports, newsletters or anything produced and published periodically or in-frequently.

Come Back Pleaseee…. I’ve Changed!

Before the internet was even a figment of Tim Berners-Lee’s extraordinary imagination, the humble newsletter was one of the primary means for organisations and companies, large and small to shout, boast and hail their achievements. It worked so well that it is still popular now and will probably never go out of use completely in its paper form.

In a world where the website rules it is a struggle to connect to your stakeholders even though you have got a fantastic website which you have invested tons of time and cash in. This can be pretty frustrating but from their point of view it kind of makes sense.

Les Pretend

Imagine you are the stressed out boss of a small company (some of you reading this may not have to imagine) where keeping abreast of development and changes in your partner organisations, competitors and industry as a whole is time consuming and therefore often second or third to running the company and keeping things going. Time to read stuff is limited and time to surf the net and check out the relevant websites is bordering on non-existent.

The e-newsletter is the ideal solution. Once you are on the mailing list then you don’t have to go and find the news and information but simply wait for it to come to you. People like this. Busy people love this whatever walk of life they are in.

More and more websites are using the ’email subscription’ approach nowadays a good example being sites like Design Taxi, which sends out a review of the latest design world artists portfolios and images.

If It Ain’t Broke…

These e-newsletters don’t appear to be that different from paper newsletters surprisingly enough given that the format has gone electronic but then if you think about it for a moment why should the format need to change. You are trying to condense the latest news and information you want to report into an easily digestible format whether it is to be read on screen or printed on paper. Like a paper newsletter  it gives an update on activities, events, performance, future plans, photos and whatever else you want to put in.

Ideally the e-newsletter should be readable in one go as unfortunately the one problem of e-newsletters unlike the paper versions is that you will get probably only get one shot at your recipient reading it before it will get lost in the black hole that is the inbox. Despite peoples best intentions, once you have read part of an e-newsletter then put it to one side saying to yourself, ‘I’ll finish that off later

you have to ask yourself how often do you actually go back and finish it off? In the meantime you will receive a stack more emails and it will be lost.

Make an impact with a short, snappy and interesting newsletter. A couple of sides will be plenty so that if it is printed people will not run out of paper and it can be pinned up on the staff notice board. Having read countless newsletters and helped produce a few too it is easy to spot one that is padded out with filler which ultimately achieves nothing.

Lower The Anchor

I hate having to write about the disadvantages of an approach I am waxing on about  but if I didn’t then this wouldn’t be an honest and hopefully useful blog. However, for every con (the inbox black-hole) there is a pro….

Anchor text to the rescue! This really is the trump card for the e-newsletter over the traditional paper variety. With cleverly placed anchor text you can link through to other parts of your website thus giving huge depth to your e-newsletter the likes of which a paper newsletter could only dream of. Why not throw in a video link which appears as a still on the screen in front of the reader and if printed will appear as a photo. Like all anchor text links it is for the reader to decide on whether to investigate further but this gives you flexibility and the reader more information at the click of a button. Win win situation.

The Christmas Card Phenomenon

Before Facebook and the era of social networking there were of course letters and at Christmas time, the humble and still hugely popular Christmas card. Then as now people still send Christmas cards to people they don’t see anymore or at best infrequently due to living hundreds of miles apart, in different countries or even on separate continents. This is an admirable tradition and one that continues without apparent fear of letting up despite the huge changes to the world of communication in ‘the computer age’.

E-newsletters are a bit like the Christmas card in that they keep you in touch with those people that you may not have had any dealings with for months or even years and with all the will in the world are unlikely to head onto your site and check out the news section. You want them to know what your company or organisation are up to though and as is now pretty clear or at least should be, the e-newsletter does this perfectly without forcing them into setting a reminder on their phone to check out your site every few months.

The Mailing List Trawling Net

A side effect of getting people signed up to receive your newsletter is that you will be able to send them with their permission (when they sign up) other stuff as well as newsletters. Special offers; dates of your next sale; re-launched websites… Whatever it is you need to publicise in a one off email to your mailing list subscribers.

If your e-newsletter is good then people will read it (durh… thanks for that one Ade) but it is important to remember this as if it is not worth bothering with then it will reflect on your company or organisation as a whole and in turn devalue any other publicity emails you send out. Busy people that have signed up to one to many e-newsletters can sometimes be a bit to fast to hit delete when checking their emails… Watch out!

 

Fetch My Monkey

Mail Chimp is a cracking system for designing e-newsletters and then helping you to share them using mailing lists and other social networking platforms whilst linking everything in with your website. It is nice and easy to use and very versatile. I am not going to bang on anymore about it here but suggest you head over to the website and see for yourself what you can do with it.

Cheap Publicity

Once you have your mailing list and a well organised and written e-newsletter you will have scored a cost saving goal. E-newsletters are not expensive yet their reach and influence is significant. They help to maintain awareness of your main website and your very existence and for this most companies would be happy to pay good money but with an e-newsletter the costs are even lower than their paper cousin thanks to there being no printing costs and no postage costs. Not bad!

Watch This Space

Content creation comes in many forms. We have now covered five different types in this blog series all of which are effective in their own way. Fear not, there are many more to come. Arrgggghhhh…..

E-newsletters are special because they cross over into the printed world from the celluloid and cyber world. They are cheap to produce. An existing format is used so you don’t even have to invent something, in fact you may already have a paper newsletter in-circulation that can simply be put on-line. You have the option to add layers of information through using anchor text making the readers experience more fulfilling and connecting them back to other parts of your site and your mailing list will get a new lease of life. A strong archive of past editions will develop which will enrich the content of your site and provide curious visitors with a ready supply of past news and information at the click of a mouse button.

And finally, my favourite newsletter isn’t actually a real one. Strange as this may sound it is the pretend one in the satirical magazine, Private Eye detailing the news and views of ‘The New Coalition Academy’ (in other words, the Government). If you are not a reader of this brilliant magazine then take a look at this extract from the magazines current edition on sale in your local newsagent. This is one newsletter I always read. Make yours the newsletter everyone reads and don’t delete no matter how busy they are.

 

Images courtesy of stock.xchng

 

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