Company newsletters might be effective because they’re a cost-effective way of communicating with employees, current and prospective customers, and the public. They also might be effective because they indirectly boost employee productivity by improving employee morale or indirectly boost business by conveying a better image.
A large percentage of small- and medium-sized companies don’t produce newsletters for one reason: they cost money.
Not producing a newsletter, though, is dollar foolish. I’ve produced newsletters and I think I can help companies put together an effective newsletter. My tips include:
- Use In-House Writers: Many large companies use freelance writers for hire to produce their newsletters. Several have used me as one of their freelance writers. Small- and medium-sized companies can save money by finding an in-house employee to put together the newsletter. Finding the employee with the best writing and editing skills is important.
- Seek Out-of-House Printers: Your newsletter must convey professionalism. Self-publishing often doesn’t do that. I wouldn’t completely rule out self-publishing, but I would scrutinize the products of several printers’ newsletters or brochures, paying particular attention to the quality of their photographs.
- Size Is Important: The newsletter should be more tabloid than broadsheet so they’re easier to read—more New York Post than The New York Times. Pages shouldn’t be larger than 17 inches long and 11 inches wide. Smaller than that is better. You want customers to see the newsletter’s entire front page when it’s on a table in the office.
- Choose Regular Sections: I would produce an 8-page newsletter monthly or quarterly, have the same sections on each page in every newsletter, and identify each section with a banner headline. For example, you could have “Industry News” above the news on every page 5. “Company News,” “Employee News,” “Upcoming Events,” and “Monthly Feature” (on one standout employee) are other possible sections.
- Choose Photos Over Text: People won’t scrutinize most of your newsletter’s text. Each page should grab people’s attention of prospective customers. Thus, at least one photo on each page is preferable. Captions under photos are often just as effective in communicating news as stories with photos.
- Choose Briefs Over Stories: Eight 100-word briefs on eight employees in a two-page “Employee News” section are better than four 300-word stories. Note that I wrote that 800 words is better than 1,200 words. That’s because newsletters with lots of white space are better than crowded newsletters that squeeze in as much information as possible. Pages shouldn’t have more than 400 words of text. I’d also choose subheads and large-type breakouts highlighting important information over small-type text.
- Don’t Be an Egomaniac: Company presidents often make the mistake of making themselves the focus of newsletters by putting the “President’s Message” on page 1. This conveys that the newsletter is about them. I would put the president’s message if there is one on an inside page. Page 1 should have THE most important news.
- Other Tips: Page 1 should include a Table of Contents with a photo, no story should begin on one page and end on another, and if there is one news event that’s worth more than 400 words, you should break the story into two or more stories.
Martin Z is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.