3 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Newsletter

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Communications is a big part of the care and feeding of a business, and rightly so. You want to make sure that your customers, your investors — any stakeholder, really — knows about all the great things you’re doing.

So you push information out any which way you can: a website, social media, weekly emails, maybe some print ads. Oh, and a Pinterest board!

Before you know it, your communications “plan” has grown a bit bloated. Then one day you think to yourself, “We should do a newsletter!”

INSERT RECORD-SCRATCHING NOISE HERE.

Stop. Put down that desktop publishing program.

Good. Now slowly back away.

These days, hardly anyone needs a newsletter — and this is coming from someone who makes part of their living writing for and laying out newsletters. So before you go nuts picking out clip art images and dreaming up clever story titles, ask yourself these questions:

1. How often are you already reaching out to customers/stakeholders?

If you’re sending out a regular news email, or have a website, chances are you already have places for your newsletter stories to live. When your content can exist in your other established channels, investing in a newsletter simply doesn’t make sense.

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IF you’re not actively reaching out to people on a regular basis, THEN a newsletter or magazine can be a good way of catching people up on your latest news all at once. However…

2. Do you have the funds to do a newsletter well?

Note that the operating word in that sentence is “well.” These days, most consumers can spot low-cost production from a mile away, practically making professional layout and well-composed, high-resolution photos a requirement.

If you don’t have the funds for this, no matter how great your product or mission is, your newsletter could cheapen it. But even if you have the money…

3. Do you have the time or the manpower to produce a newsletter on a dependable schedule?

Newsletters are serial in nature. Whether they’re produced monthly, quarterly or annually, they’re time consuming — especially those that are more like a magazine. There’s outlining and organization, writing and layout, and if you have a board of trustees or a CEO, they’ll likely want to sign off on everything.

Finally, if you’re printing your newsletter as a magazine, prepare to get bids and build in extra time (and money) for printing, shipping and mailing. In my experience, by the time one newsletter goes out, it’s time to start planning the next one.

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All that said…

If you’ve read this far and are undaunted, maybe a newsletter is for you after all. They can be incredibly fulfilling, when done right. The most successful newsletters or magazines I’ve worked on allowed me to meet some really fun and interesting folks, and the positive feedback from readers always made me feel proud — not just of my own handiwork, but of the organization I worked for.

Just be sure to follow best practices from the get-go, and put a thoughtful amount of time and money into your effort.


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