Everyone can produce a newsletter, but how many of those are actually being read?
Back when paper was king, newsletters were a must for companies to communicate with customers. The animal nutrition industry was not any different than any other industry in this regard.
Newsletters were produced mostly every month and they were mailed out by regular post. If fact, most recipients awaited them with eagerness as they provided a window to the world that was their business. As such, this captive audience – or rather, readership, consumed newsletters from cover to cover as the thirst for news and knowledge exceeded available means.
The internet has changed all that. No longer is your audience captive, and no longer is information scarce. With the click of a few buttons, one can find loads of information on any topic. Going through all such information and drawing a true conclusion is another matter. Without a captive audience, modern newsletters have had to adapt in order to captivate the fleeting interest of readers, and compete with other information channels and the ever-shrinking time allocated to each extra word printed or typed in the global media industry.
So, how do we captivate our newsletter readers to get our message across? We can start by avoiding the following seven mistakes most newsletters commit almost invariably.
1. Keep it short
Anything beyond four pages is anything but a newsletter. Everything needs to be short and to the point, which is easier said than done because succint writing is more difficult than writing an essay. It is more difficult to explain in a single paragraph why Napoleon lost Waterloo than write a chapter on the battle events. To this end, topics need to be rather narrowly defined so as to allow a brief description. Anything longer than half a page needs to be shortened.
2. Keep it marketing free
Some believe newsletters are ideal places for marketing. This is a recipe for failure as nothing destroys attention like a poorly placed marketing pitch. If you need to communicate your marketing materials, either mail or attach the relevant leaflet, but do not include it inside your newsletter; that is just bad taste. Of course, you can and should talk about new advances and development regarding your products and services, but without using a sales angle.
3. Keep it coming
Do not post a newsletter only when you have time to write it. Decide on a normal publication time and dedicate time, labor and effort to produce it on time. Pick a date, the last day of each month for example, and send your newsletter out saying, “Here’s what happened in our company last month.” You must make your presence a constant in the lives of your readers, otherwise they will forget about it.
4. Keep it interesting
Here I have in mind a specific newsletter that is the very definition of boring. The reason is simple: It always talks about one single product, from every possible angle. I don’t know anything about the company, its people, its activities – in fact, I do not even remember the company’s brand name. I just delete the newsletter as soon as I see it in my email box. So, variety is key in keeping interest alive and revolving. This is an ever-changing industry, and it needs fresh material.
5. Keep it valuable
Newsletters are about the activities, products, people, etc. of a specific organization. If you are selling pig feed only, then there is no reason to write about the problems faced by beef cattle feeders, right? Correct. But you can write about other topics of pig nutrition that do not pertain exactly to your products. There are so many problems out there, and providing some valuable and certainly no-strings-attached information can and will vastly improve your image in the minds of your readers.
6. Keep it readable for everyone
If it is a printed newsletter, then use large enough font size so people without an eagle’s-eye view can read it. Not everybody is still 25 years old and, in fact, your readers are probably much older than that. So, do not fall in the trap of reducing font size only to squeeze more material in. Less is more, as long as readers take the time to read it. And nothing deters readers more than very small letter size. Even internet-based publications have learned that a crammed page acts as a sure deterrent to a non-captive audience.
7. Keep it flowing
Everybody can write. Each day, we all write countless emails and text messages, but again, to a captive audience. When it comes to a non-captive audience, then writing needs to conform to different norms. Your short story about something needs to be written in a way that readers take it in a single breath. It needs to flow without distractions. And, speaking of which, grammar and typos stop the flow of reading.
As a closing remark, I would like to say that an editor and a writer are two different species. One cannot replace the other and both are needed. A technical or businessperson – or anyone who has any kind of valuable information – is not necessarily the best candidate to write down such information in a way that attracts and maintains the interest of readers, let alone pass along a subtle message. Think again about your own newsletter and the reason you want to have it.