My very first professional job after I graduated college in 1985 was with a newsletter publishing company. Of course, this was back when newsletters were printed on paper and sent out to readers via snail mail.
I’ve been working on newsletters ever since then. I guess you could say that kind of makes me a newsletter “expert,” though I chafe a little bit at that word. I mean, everybody today thinks they’re an expert at something, don’t they?
Whether I’m considered an expert or not, hopefully I’ve learned a few things over the course of my career about what makes an effective newsletter. Here are some of my top “expert” tips for creating and writing great newsletters.
1. Remember that it’s not about you — it’s about them. This is by far the most important tip, which is why I’m listing it first. The fact is, most readers don’t really care about you, or your business, or your great products or awesome services.
They care about one thing: How your business or your products/services are going to help them solve a problem — or alleviate a “pain point,” using one of my least-favorite jargon terms. Always keep this rule top-of-mind when planning your newsletter content.
2. Publish value-added, not self-serving, content. This is the logical follow-up to my first tip. Your newsletter content should primarily be educational, not promotional.
For example, I’ve been publishing this newsletter for more than a decade and I’ve never once said anything about why someone should hire me as a freelance copywriter. Instead, I create useful and educational content about writing and marketing.
My goal is to position myself as an expert (there’s that word again!) when it comes to writing and content creation so when someone needs these services, I’m the first person he or she will think of.
3. Don’t be afraid to give information away for “free.” Some businesses are worried that if they share too much useful information in their newsletter, their readers won’t need to hire them. This might seem like a legitimate concern at first, but it’s really not.
Think about it: If a business needs to create and publish a newsletter, do you think they’ll learn everything they need to know by reading this article? Of course not. But if they decide to hire someone to help them, there’s a good chance they’ll give me a call.
4. Let your personality come through in your newsletter. My friend and fellow newsletter guru Michael Katz puts it this way: “Who you are matters more than what you know.”
The fact is, information about anything today is a Google search or YouTube video away. When hiring, most businesses aren’t looking for the smartest, most knowledgeable service provider or company out there. Of course, you have to know what you’re doing and have at least a minimum skill and knowledge level, but these things are table stakes.
Your newsletter is an opportunity to show readers a glimpse of person or people who are behind the business. So don’t be afraid to share stories and anecdotes that reveal a little bit about yourself personally and your personality. This may be what sets you apart from your competitor who knows just as much and is just as skilled as you are.
5. Commit to a regular publishing schedule. If you’re not going to publish consistently, then don’t bother publishing at all. Sending out a newsletter haphazardly or “whenever you have time” could actually do more harm than good by revealing a lack of consistency and follow-through.
The next obvious question is how often should you publish your newsletter? This depends on several different factors, especially your industry and your manpower. The most important thing is to choose a publishing frequency that you can manage and then stick to it.
For most businesses, once or twice a month is a good frequency to shoot for. Publishing any more frequently than this might be overkill and cause some people to hit the unsubscribe button, while if you publish less frequently, your newsletter probably won’t be noticed.
6. Invest in quality writing. Of course, you’d expect me to say this as a freelance writer. But that doesn’t make it any less true. Your newsletter is a reflection of your business — so what does it say about your company if it’s poorly written and full of bad grammar, misspelled words and typos?
If you aren’t a good writer or don’t have expert writing resources on staff, hire a professional to write your newsletter for you. At the least, hire someone to proofread or edit your content. Ideally, look for a writer with expertise in your industry or niche — this will help ensure that the content speaks the language of your readers and also save you time and frustration from having to rewrite the copy.