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Tips for Successful E-Newsletters

We are celebrating the fifth anniversary of Better Writing at Work, our monthly e-newsletter, or ezine. Given my five years of experience, I share these tips for creating and writing electronic newsletters. Please share your tips too.

  1. Be sure your content is practical, something your subscribers can use. Be honest: Readers can’t use an announcement that you have expanded into a new territory or achieved a milestone. They can use tips, guidelines, checklists, recipes, product recommendations, book reviews, and relevant business stories.
  2. Know your readers. Are they insurance adjusters? Homeowners? Creative writers? Product liability attorneys? Human resource managers? You can’t give them practical content unless you know who they are.
  3. Write to you, an individual reader–not to “all of you.” Each of your subscribers reads as an individual, not as a group.
  4. Make your content evergreen whenever possible. If your content doesn’t get out of date, your subscribers will save your newsletters and think of you often.
  5. Publish on a regular schedule that works for you and your readers. A monthly schedule is much easier to meet than a weekly one, and monthly newsletters are less likely to back up unread. However, short, valuable newsletters can come more frequently. Marcia Yudkin publishes her “Marketing Minute” every Wednesday, but it takes just a minute to read.
  6. Provide lots of content and little marketing. A newsletter without valuable content is an advertisement.
  7. Give your newsletter a consistent name and format so that it is easily recognized in an email inbox.
  8. Keep your readers happy by including the same features in each issue. Your readers will look forward to your word of the week, brainteaser, or case study.
  9. Don’t tease your reader with a juicy headline whose story is impossible to find. If your subject line is “How to Shorten Your Workday,” make sure workday-shortening secrets are visible in the first screen.
  10. Recognize that some subscribers want to print your newsletter to read in a hammock, on a bus, or at a cafe. Make it easy to both read and print.
  11. Some people will be reading a copy that has been forwarded to them. Include an easy way to subscribe in every issue.
  12. Don’t worry if your subscriber list isn’t huge, and don’t spam readers by adding them to your list without their permission. Take the long view, knowing that if your content is worth reading, subscribers will find you. I began with 9 subscribers in July 2004 and had just 219 subscribers in July 2005. But this July I have over 8,000.

Recognize that even when your subscriber list is short, you are creating valuable content to mine for future theme-based products. I just published Clarity, Conciseness, Zing, and More: 262 Ways to Take Business Writing Beyond the Basics, which includes 24 articles updated from my newsletter, along with 3 new ones–all focused on taking writing from so-so to superb. Read about the new guide here, and check out the table of contents for examples of ezine article ideas.

Do you have tips for creating e-newsletters? Or how about newsletters to recommend? Please share them!

Lynn
Syntax Training

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

4 comments on “Tips for Successful E-Newsletters”

  • Lynn – Thank you for the 12 helpful tips. The timing is just right for me, as I’m now focusing more of my attention on Business Writing Today’s e-newsletter. I agree with your recommendation to emphasize content over marketing and will try to maintain an 80-20 balance.

  • Lynn,

    Congratulations on your fifth anniversary!

    This in itself shows that you have tenacity and dependability, which are important business traits, quite apart from the content of your newsletter, which continues to be interesting and valuable.

    Here’s to the next five years!

  • Marcia, thanks for your good wishes and good advice over the years. You have certainly contributed to my success!

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