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When I had my website rebuilt last year I discovered that there’s something called the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. This is a digital archive of the World Wide Web you can use to go back in time and see what a website looked like at any time in the past.

Sometimes it’s fun to jump in our own personal wayback machines. Mine takes me back to when I went to college in the 1980s: MTV first aired in 1981, launching the careers of pop superstars like Madonna, Michael Jackson and Duran Duran. Home answering machines and microwave ovens became common in the mid-‘80s when everybody went to Blockbuster to rent movies we could watch at home on our VCRs.

This is also the decade when personal computers first came on the scene. I still used a typewriter in my college journalism classes in 1985, as well as the first couple of years in my first publishing job after college.

The company published newsletters that were stuffed into statements mailed out by banks and investment companies. Newsletter publishing wasn’t exactly my dream career, but I was thankful for a professional writing job. I ended up learning valuable skills in this job that have served me well ever since, including as a financial freelance writer nearly 40 years later.

Newsletter Publishing Still Works

Newsletters are still effective marketing tools, though they look different now than they did in 1985. A newsletter keeps you and your business top-of-mind with customers and prospects and positions you as an expert in your field. A newsletter also provides a steady source of fresh content you can use in other marketing initiatives, including social media.

The biggest newsletter change since the 1980s, of course, is the format: Most newsletters today are distributed electronically instead of ink on paper. Regardless of the delivery method, there are a few keys to publishing a great newsletter. Here are five newsletter publishing tips gleaned from nearly 40 years of industry experience:

1. Make It About Your Readers

This is probably the biggest mistake I see marketers make with newsletters — making it all about them and their business. News flash: Nobody really cares about your business and your award-winning, state-of-the-art, industry-leading products and services.

People care about one thing: How your business, products or services are going to meet their needs or solve their problem. That’s it. So make this the focus of your newsletter. Otherwise, nobody’s going to read it.

2. Publish Value-Added Content

This is similar to tip #1: The articles in your newsletter should be educational, not promotional. The term we use is “value-added” — your newsletter content should offer value to readers by teaching them things they don’t know based on your expertise in the area.

I encourage my newsletter clients to follow the 80-20 rule: 80% of the content (or more) should be value-added and 20% (or less) should be promotional. If you violate this rule, your newsletter will start to look less like a relationship building tool and more like a glorified advertisement.

3. Publish Your Newsletter Consistently

Consistency is critical to newsletter success. In fact, I believe that if you can’t commit to a consistent publishing schedule, you shouldn’t bother publishing a newsletter at all. Sending out your newsletter on a hit-or-miss basis can actually do more harm than good, IMHO.

So what’s the right consistency for publishing a newsletter? This varies based on your industry and resources. Most of the clients I work with publish monthly, weekly or biweekly. The most important thing is to choose your publishing frequency and then stick to it.

4. Provide More Than Just Information

Information nowadays is cheap. The internet places unlimited information at anyone’s fingertips, anytime they want it. Your newsletter is an opportunity to go beyond just information by sharing your own analysis and insights on a topic that people can’t get from Google or Bing. Even (or especially) if it’s a little bit controversial.

Also, don’t be afraid to give readers a glimpse at the person or people behind your business by sharing stories and anecdotes that reveal a little bit about yourself and your employees. This personal touch is a great way to set your business apart from competitors. After all, people want to do business with other people, not “corporations.”

5. Make Sure the Writing is Top-Notch

This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Your newsletter writing must be high-quality, without typos, misspellings or grammar errors. Anything less is a poor reflection of your business.

If you aren’t a good writer or don’t have writing resources on staff, hire a freelancer to write your newsletter for you. Try to find a writer who has expertise in your niche so he or she can hit the ground running quickly without too much handholding. Ask for current writing samples that are relevant to your industry.