Communicating Effectively Through
Your Association Newsletter
By Ulli Diemer
You are producing your newsletter because you have something important
to communicate. You owe it to yourself and to your readers to make
sure you communicate it effectively. Here are some pointers to help
you achieve that:
Know Who You're Writing For
- The more clearly you can define your intended audience(s), the
better the job you can do producing a publication which suits
your readers' interests and needs. Start with some general questions:
- Who is your newsletter for? For the members of your own group
or for the general public? For people who are already well-informed
about the subject matter, or for those who are just learning about
- Look at the subject matter, the language, the level of knowledge
your publication presumes.
Are they appropriate for your readership?
- If your publication deals with a particular issue, does it relate
that issue to the experience of readers with different ethnic
or racial backgrounds? To women? To readers with handicaps? To
the young or the old?
Stay In Touch With Your Readers
- The day-to-day chores involved in producing a publication sometimes
cause us to lose touch with our readers and what they want. Solicit
their feedback regularly. Invite letters and comments. Consider
sending out a questionnaire.
- Ask readers what they think of the newsletter whenever you have
a chance to speak to them personally. Always keep the reader in
mind in everything you do.
Write Clearly And Directly
- Don't expect your readers to read the publication out of a sense
of duty. Make the writing as lively, interesting, and clear as
- As you write, or edit someone else's writing, imagine the reader
looking over your shoulder. When the reader would interrupt with:
"Why did you say that?", or "What do you mean?",
or "Who cares?", make sure that the article answers
the reader's concerns.
- Be sure that all articles -- even the editor's -- are read by
someone else before being printed. Even the best writers find
it difficult to be objective about their own writing.
Produce A Publication That Looks Good
- Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that our subject matter
is so important that we don't have to "dress it up".
- Such an attitude may work against you. Even readers who are
committed to a cause or interested in a subject are more likely
to read an attractive, visually interesting publication.
- The strategic use of photographs and drawings, white space,
borders, bold headlines and other elements of effective design
helps to involve readers and to keep them reading.
Publish Material That Is Informative And Interesting
Don't let your newsletter be repetitive, predictable, and dull!
Work with your contributors to help them produce top-quality material.
Give them constructive feedback. Set the goal of producing a publication
readers look forward to receiving -- a publication containing genuinely
useful information, and intelligently presented ideas and opinions.
Infect everyone with your enthusiasm for excellence.
Include A Mix Of Articles
A publication offering an unrelenting diet of long serious articles
can tax the enthusiasm of even the most committed reader. Strive
for variety. Include some shorter, lighter pieces. Look for cartoons
or illustrations that relate to your subject. If possible, include
personal experiences and first-person accounts from a variety of
Include Distribution In Your Planning
Distribution -- especially if you use the mail -- should be considered
as you plan your publication. For example, adding a single extra
page can add 45 cents per item to your mailing costs if it takes
you into the next weight category. This can translate into an additional
expenditure of hundreds of dollars per issue even for a newsletter
with fewer than 1,000 subscribers. The size of the envelope used
can have a similar effect. It can be very worthwhile to get expert
advice on these questions.
Don't Try To Do It All Yourself
There are those who can single-handedly handle every aspect of producing
a publication, from writing and editing through design, production,
and distribution. For most of us, however, it makes sense to concentrate
on those aspects we are best at, and find others to handle those
tasks which are particularly time-consuming or which require specialized
skills or equipment, such as desktop publishing. Trying to do everything
can result in expensive mistakes or burned-out staff or volunteers.
Allow Enough Time
A publication takes time to produce. Trying to skimp on that time
can result in shortcuts in quality, avoidable mistakes, increased
costs, and frayed tempers. Develop a schedule for your newsletter.
Plan when you want to have it appear, and calculate backwards from
there. Allow time for unforeseen problems. Change the schedule for
subsequent issues if it seems unrealistic.
Published in the Connexions
Digest and in The Sources
También disponible en español: Como Comunicarse De Manera Efectiva
A Través De Un Boletín Informativo.
Ulli Diemer is a freelance writer.
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