Friday, May 27, 2011

10 Tips on Publishing a Great Client Newsletter

 I just published my 4th e-news for Menlo Pilates and Yoga, my client, and since this is the first client I've published consecutive issues for, I thought I'd relate a few of the key points I've learned in publishing for a third party, and some tips to help you along the way, whether you are the client, or the consultant.

1. Have a Content Planning Meeting
While e-mail is convenient and certainly helpful for many client communications, I always strongly urge a one-on-one meeting with the client to go over the contents of the issue you are planning. This doesn't just mean story ideas, but links, photos, resources as appropriate, and discussion of any "pickup" stories from the last issue that might run again, such as coupons, contest winners, etc. For my meetings with Fran, I always kept detailed notes on my computer so everything was ready to go once I began creating the issue. I always resent her via e-mail the story lineup, just to be sure nothing had changed if a few days had passed.

2. Organize Photos and Graphics in Advance
I found it a huge timesaver to organizer all artwork in advance, that I kept in a dedicated folder for that issue on my desktop. Since events, promotions, and photo opps happened throughout the client experience, I needed a folder to organize it all anyway. This has proved a great timesaver, as the files were all ready to upload into Constant Contact once I started working.

Sample story lineup for Fran's newsletter
 3. Create Text in A Separate Document
It's important to create all your text files as a separate document. I like to use either Word, or the Notes application on a PC, or even the Sticky Note app on a Mac. You never know when a Cloud-based program can go down when you're in the middle of working, or sometimes the program can freeze, and you've lost your work! While the Constant Contact server is infinitely better then it used to be, I like having the text backup, just the same.

4. Keep It Simple
Your newsletter should be short and to the point, with no more then 4-5 photos or graphics, and the same number of links. Anything longer then that probably won't be read by your audience, since most onlime readers skim anyway, and they just want the most important points. You should also keep your stories brief, no longer then a few paragraphs. While it may be tempting to explore all the fun fonts your program offers, stick to no more then 2-3 fonts in an issue: one for body text, one for headlines, and another for captions or links.

5. Maximize Your Headlines and Formatting for Impact
Since online readers tend to skim more then most, your headlines and other formatting are crucial in grabbing reader attention. If you have a list of items, format them as a numbered list, or as bullet items. Make sure your stories are separated into blocks, or frames, depending on your design program, and that it is clear what artwork or graphic element goes with what story.

6. Publish Shorter Issues With Greater Frequency
Most readers will ignore a super long e-news, even if they only receive it once a month. You'll create more top of mind awareness for your brand if you publish 3 stories every week or 2 weeks, rather than ten at once.

7. Subject Lines Count
I've read hundreds of best practices tips on subject lines, and there really is a craft to writing ones that get reader attention. The trick is to offer something people want, and want to know more about. If your subject line is too specific, you may lose your readers. If it says, for example, "Write Your E-Book Today," and I have no plans to write one, I'm not going to open the e-mail. Make sure to keep the subject line short, as most e-mail programs truncate the line after a few words.

8. Offer Unique Content (Don't Just Recap Your Blog)
Newsletters that just summarize or offer links to past blog posts lack the immediacy you want to capture readers. Make your readers feel special by offering them unique promotions, discounts, or programs. You can also time your promotions so that your subscibers are the first to hear about them, and make sure they know this.

9. Try Different Publishing Schedules
Some say never to publish on Mondays, or on weekends, but I have received plenty of newsletters at all different times. The bottom lime is that if they are good, I'll read them. That being said, if you don't want to compete with in box overload, Tuesdays and Thursdays in the morning, or lunchtime, are considered optimal. The best approach is to check your open rates and determine what days of the week and times get the best results.

10. Be Shareable
There is so much social media integration with e-newsletters today, that sharing is almost automatic. That's, of course, a good thing, but if you want to grow your list, you need to encourage your readers to forward the newsletter to others. Having a contest or other reward is a good way to provide incentives for forwarding.

Are you thinking of starting a newsletter, or do you have any tips to share? Comment here!

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