Marketing & Communications Centre > Marketing Essentials > Help Sheets > Producing a Newsletter: The Basics

Producing a Newsletter: The Basics

A newsletter can be an effective way of marketing your community group or organisation, its messages and activities.

But to ensure your newsletter gets read – and doesn't end up in the bin – it needs to capture and keep the attention of recipients. A newsletter won't achieve what you want it to if no-one reads it.

To achieve this you need to know your goals and your audience, need to organise helpers to put it out and decide on distribution methods.


Know your Goals

The first thing you need to do when producing a newsletter is to figure out what you want from it.

Do you want it to:
•    Tell your members what you're doing.
•    Tell your friends what's going on out there.
•    Advocate for your cause.
•    Recruit and maintain members, volunteers and donors or.
•    Be used as a fundraising tool.

It's a good idea if your group or organisation narrows the focus of its newsletter down to one or two of these goals.

Certainly your newsletter can touch on "a bit of everything", but for it to be an attractive and informative read, your group should write everything with its underlying goals for the newsletter in mind.


Know your Audience

Knowing what the focus of your newsletter will be goes a long way towards deciding who its audience is.

Each of the goals listed above involves a slightly different group - and your eventual audience is going to be mixed - but you should still have a general idea of what they're like, what they want, what their expectations are, why they signed up for the newsletter and what you want them to know.

Pitch your message to that audience.

Enlisting some Help

You may need to round up some fellow group members, or call in favours from friends and family, to draw the parts of your newsletter together.

The size or complexity of your newsletter could see a half-dozen people involved. Alternatively, maybe your group can only spare the efforts of a couple of members or volunteers.

Some of the jobs you'll have to do before putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) include:

Selecting an Editor
You will need someone to organise publication and oversee the content of your newsletter. This person is going to be the key to the success or failure of the newsletter so choose carefully. It will also be a job best suited to a person who can put a good deal of time into it.

Finding writers
Try to involve as wide a range of people as possible to write for the newsletter – the more variety in the writing, and the more voices heard, the better.

Find a desk, a computer, and a photocopier
You will also need a desk, a computer and a printer.

Most small organisations are able to photocopy, collate, staple and mail their newsletters. While there are options if you want your newsletter to be a bit fancier, they always come at a cost. Keep it simple to start with.

Remember with email these days, it is easier to get your newsletter out at almost zero cost, so ask people if they would prefer to receive by email.

What about layout?
Probably the best option for a smaller community group or organisation is to use good page layout software – for example, Microsoft Word – to look after layout. Look at other newsletters for design ideas or inspiration as well.


A Price?

Compiling and printing a newsletter involves costs – both in the time of those doing the job and in money through printing and mailing (although emailed versions of the newsletter can reduce the latter).

You need to decide whether it is worth subsidising the publication of the newsletter, and if so – how? Do you want to add a small extra charge to your membership fees, for example?

On the other hand, if your newsletter does a good job marketing your group and retaining/bringing in members, donors, volunteers, fundrasiers or supporters, your group may see these types of growth – and the opportunities they open up – as subsidisation enough, and decide to make your newsletter a "freebie" available to all.

Think about Circulation

Electronic or hard copy?
Electronic newsletters (sent by email) are in most respects the same as printed newsletters, only cheaper. However, remember that having an electronic newsletter does not mean that you can dispense with your print edition entirely.

For example, there may be people who do not have email access, or others that just prefer to read your newsletter in print. And it also helps to be able to send a newsletter out in an information kit promoting your group.

Promote your Newsletter
Give the newsletter a positive mention on your web page, and maybe offer the opportunity to download an edition from the recent past.

When you email people for other reasons, ask them if they'd like to get the newsletter. Mention it in your other publications.

Regularity
Put out a new edition of your newsletter at least four times a year. Any less than that and you lose many of the benefits.

It is important to be punctual. If the newsletter doesn't arrive on time this makes you look inefficient, and that's bad publicity you're actually circulating at your own expense. Also, be realistic and don't set a schedule that you can't keep.

Refer to the second part of this help sheet for more information on the style and content of your newsletter.



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