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Newsletters, Part 1:
by Tod Snodgrass
Editor's Note: The second part of this series will appear in July's issue.
Millions of companies and corporations annually distribute billions of newsletters to their customers/clients. Most deal, in whole or in part, with industry-specific issues. Many of these vendor-to-customer newsletters have been around for a decade or longer. Smart marketers have discovered that distributing a high quality newsletter can be an effective tool for reaching their target markets. Compared to other marketing mediums (TV, radio, or print media such as magazine ads), newsletters are very cost effective.
Also, a newsletter carries with it a certain legitimacy that doesn't exist with paid ads, assuming it delivers good, timely information. However, the most obvious reason that vendors create and distribute newsletters is simple: These types of publications enhance their sales effort; they provide the vendor with a vehicle they can use to disseminate important product or service information in a "non-pushy" way. Think a newsletter might fit into your marketing plans? Here is information you need to know.
Securing high quality content, on a consistent basis, is one of two key challenges faced by most newsletter editors. The second hurdle is to produce a printed product that end-users actually want to read. As far as editorial material is concerned, you may want to explore the following sources:
Your own experience, expertise and education. For example, have you ever been published? Think about using material from a book, article, thesis or dissertation in your newsletter.
If you are a public speaker, you may be able to draw upon material in your possession. Perhaps you have given a talk or keynote address, delivered a speech, conducted a seminar, been a teacher or professor, etc.
Using the written or spoken word(s) of others in your field (competitors, government officials), as well as experts or gurus in your field. They may be willing to write articles for your publication, for free or for a fee.
Articles that reside in the public domain, especially on the internet.
Copyrighted work: Often the author will sign a limited release (of their material) if you provide them with appropriate attribution.
Additional sources of material include
"War stories" from your own background, your staff or sales people. Also, interview the movers and shakers in your field (regulators, local officials, politicians, newspaper or magazine reporters). People love to talk about themselves.
Material from your suppliers or customers/clients
Draw upon reference material from your trade association(s) or the local library. Timely facts, figures, surveys, polls, industry reports, analysis, commentary and expert opinion are always good standbys when everything else fails.
Contact the local college or university. Ask the professors for editorial advice.
As a last resort, you can retain a public relations firm or advertising agency to research and write the material (usually at no small cost).
Creating The Right Look
Three characteristics that most high quality newsletters share include:
The initial design and layout of your newsletter should be a high priority. As the old saying goes: you don't get a second chance to make a good first impression. The good news is that layouts and design ideas abound. For inspiration, look through newsletters, magazines, journals, etc. that you currently receive. Another source for design ideas are the templates included with most desktop publishing software (PageMaker, Word, etc.)
Also, try surfing the (World Wide) Web to see what others (inside and outside your industry) are doing. You may even be able to share material with (friendly) competitors in a different region of the country. Graphic designers are another option.
Design decisions include one or more of the following: logos, graphics, photos,
overall page setup and layout, type styles and sizes, number of columns on a
page, total number of pages in the newsletter, as well as the page size itself.
Also, you need to decide on ink colors and the paper stock and you want to
use: coated or uncoated, the weight of the stock, etc.
About the Author:
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