Creating an Effective Newsletter: Dos and Don’ts

03/30/2020

Creating an effective newsletter can accomplish a number of goals, from building an enthusiastic audience to collecting user data. 

If your organization has assessed the benefits of newsletters, you might be tempted to dive right in. It’s important to know, however, that there are some serious newsletter blunders to avoid if you want your newsletter to help your brand instead of harm it. Even with high-quality, exclusive content and the right email list, there are a few common newsletter mistakes that might easily lead recipients to delete or unsubscribe.

The following tips for creating an effective newsletter will help you hook your readers and keep them hooked on the reliable and unique content your organization offers, while keeping them informed and educated about your products and services. 

DO make your newsletter personal and insightful

While you want your website to feel polished and professional, that’s not the best tone or approach for a newsletter. Instead, appeal to your readers on a personal level. Using an informal, friendly tone will draw your readers in. Write it like a letter!

DON’T use your newsletter to sell things

Again, your website should focus on generating leads and hawking your goods. Newsletters, on the other hand, should provide useful information to readers. While products and services might also benefit your recipients, your newsletter will quickly end up in the trash if you attempt to use it solely as a sales platform. Creating an effective newsletter means connecting with your audience about what’s meaningful to them, not pushing your goods. It’s not a catalog. 

DO use an email marketing platform

Platforms like Constant Contact, Tiny Letter, Mail Chimp, and Substack will save your organization time—especially if you have a large email list. Email marketing platforms not only house your lists, but can track opens and clicks, automate unsubscribing, and notify you regarding bounced emails and defunct accounts. Additionally, the programs make it easy to format and add images or design elements.  

DON’T use your email account

The BCC email field can be a huge help in sending out mass emails, but when you’re sending a newsletter regularly, this method of mass mailing can quickly turn into a nightmare. Bounced emails will clog your inbox and make it difficult to stay on top of requests to unsubscribe. Even if you have a very small list to start with, it will hopefully grow over time. 

DO send your newsletter regularly

After you’ve built your list and decided how you want to focus content for your particular audience, it’s important to set a regular schedule for sending your newsletter out. Newsletters that arrive regularly will remind your readers of your organization’s important work and the exclusive benefits they receive by subscribing. If you send your newsletter sporadically, you will likely find yourself losing your subscribers as they turn their attention to other things.

DON’T send it TOO regularly

Determining a schedule for your newsletter can be very tricky. You want your organization’s name to show up in your recipients’ inboxes frequently—but not too frequently! Emailing twice a week, in most cases, will likely lead to readers unsubscribing en masse. Unfortunately, there’s no formula for setting the perfect newsletter schedule. Instead, let your content guide the frequency. Consider how your content will be useful to your readers and how often they might be able to practically digest the news, tips, or stories you are sending.

Some organizations may find that a monthly newsletter is optional. Others, who have a lot more to report, such as news or media organizations, may send daily newsletters.

DO offer fresh content

While newsletters make it easy to repurpose content you’ve already created for your website and social media platforms, you’ll lose readers quickly if that’s all you provide. Sustaining newsletter subscribers requires offering content they cannot find on any of your other platforms. Ideally, your newsletter should contain at least 50 percent fresh content. Alternately, consider repurposing content by presenting a story with a different angle and  an update.

Creating an effective newsletter takes time and energy, but that time and energy can pay off in tons of ways. 

DON’T offer only repurposed content

Building a newsletter email list can be a slow and gradual process. Most people don’t willingly sign up to receive more email in their inboxes unless they know they’ll be receiving exclusive content. If you only send out repurposed content that your subscribers can easily find online, your list will dwindle far faster than it took to build.

DO tailor your newsletter to your audience

As mentioned above, a newsletter should feel informal and personal. Be sure you know who’s on your contact list and why they want to receive information from your organization. If you have a mix of people on your list, use your content management platform to divide your list into demographics. This will help you deliver the kind of content your readers want to receive.

DON’T try to target everyone

Sending out a newsletter with “a little something for everyone” sounds good in theory, but it’s yet another way to lose readers quickly. If you have a diverse range of subscribers, what will appeal to board members, for example, may not appeal equally to partner organizations. It can take some time to segment out your contact list into distinct audiences with distinct needs, but it’s worth the effort.

DO encourage sharing

Creating an effective newsletter means producing content that’s remarkable enough for people to pass on. 

Building your email list is a task your organization will want to sustain. Asking subscribers to share the newsletter with friends can help you continue to add emails to your list. This is important because you will want to sustain your reach and engagement and also because a percentage of your readers will unsubscribe.

DON’T hide the “unsubscribe” option

Nothing will make a subscriber more unhappy than having to hunt for the unsubscribe link. Keep your subscribers by providing quality content—not by holding them hostage. Every newsletter is bound to lose some readers. The readers who remain engaged will just ignore the unsubscribe link. 

There’s an art to newsletters. Timing, tone, and approach are all important in sustaining readership. Getting it right will make the difference between soaring and sinking. Be sure to take some time to figure out what your organization’s distinct approach to newsletters should be. It could take some trial and error but the resulting engagement from your subscribers will make it worthwhile. 

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Emily Withnall

Emily Withnall is a freelance writer and editor. She also teaches poetry in public schools in the Missoula area as well as at the Missoula County Detention Center. Some of her work is available at emilywithnall.com.