Do Not Write Your Own Newsletter
We Already Know: You're An Expert
Some principles of good business practice seem self-evident. For example, the buy low, sell high principle. It’s common sense. Likewise, thanking clients for their referrals and segregating taxes collected from your own revenue: These seem intuitive. When it comes to newsletter content, though, many marketers’ intuition guides them astray. Let’s see what goes wrong and how to do better.
senior partners & smartest geeks as newsletter authors
Particularly in service-based, trust-oriented businesses a good newsletter can help to develop and maintain loyalty and referrals among hundreds or thousands of contacts. Even so, many commit the error of believing that the firm’s senior people and experts must themselves write most of the content for every issue of their newsletter. Their intuition: Nobody else is qualified.
Key people’s minds belong on other matters.
Yet, typically their experience eventually shows that the time and effort of senior people and experts is better invested in high-value specialist activities. In addition to the time-management and creativity-on-demand challenges that this situation poses, the recognition of this problem creates an existential crisis for the newsletter.
an unwelcome choice
Attempts to adapt generally trigger reputation-management concerns and can lead to delegation difficulties. A new fork in the road then arises:
For marketers considering newsletters, there is a good business practice that avoids having to choose either of those two options: Resist the temptation to write your own newsletter. Rather, plan each issue in collaboration with a newsletter specialist, then supply raw material to a newsletter wordsmith to write it. Layout, final approval by the senior people and experts, and distribution may then follow.
Launch or re-launch with new confidence.
This route typically involves a newsletter re-launch. This may stimulate new interest among readers and herald new hope for those whose investment in the newsletter readjusts.
the top two in-house objections
For some, this is not intuitive. Their main objection: “Nobody else has our top people’s expert perspectives or experience in our industry.” Another: “Our marketing people know all about direct mail. Our design team can make anything look great. Our in-house talent is still best for our newsletter.” In either case, the do-it-ourselves approach remains preferred.
a hard lesson
Often, the same people learn otherwise – the hard way. They suffer the net costs and brand-diminishing effects of a newsletter that's downright weak as a tool of client relationship management. After shifting responsibilities to low-cost resources, below-potential newsletters are produced with varying earnestness. Eventually, many newsletter issuers return to the option “just give up.” Their newsletters do not work.
newsletter-specific expertise required
The belief that in-house subject-matter experts and marketing talent are the best to create the newsletter is typically the crux of the problem. Subject-matter experts and seasoned marketers are often good writers. Yet, anybody responsible for a newsletter’s success needs a better understanding of the newsletter as a medium in the context of the relationship between the newsletter issuer and intended newsletter reader.
four brand effects
Even when newsletter recipients do not read each issue, all newsletters affect the issuer’s reputation. Any newsletter will:
as seen in a recycle bin near you
What about newsletters deleted from e-mail accounts still unread? How can a newsletter shape the issuer's reputation if recycled before it’s even read?
At the moment of discarding a newsletter, the intended reader forms or confirms an impression of the issuer. Even to passers-by, a newsletter noticed in the blue box forms or confirms an impression of the issuer. These impressions matter.
as the envelope is tossed…
Typical thoughts at the moment of discarding a newsletter:
Clicking "unsubscribe" is not an act of brand loyalty. Nobody wants or expects to trigger this response. Though unspoken, it becomes clearer every time.
newsletter-specific expertise required
Many newsletters are cancelled after a few issues. The seldom-expected underlying cause: The wrong people planned and wrote the content.
Consider how professional horse racing works. There are no racehorses bred, owned, trained, groomed, and raced by the same person. The qualities and practices that make a top breeder do not also make a race-winning jockey. Typically, breeders, owners, trainers, grooms, and jockeys are all different people, each focused on a distinct role.
When a newsletter issuer aligns their business practices with how horse races are won, they improve their chances of newsletter success.
Get the right focus.
Many in service-focused business believe that their contacts deserve the subject-matter expertise of their organization's top people in their newsletter. As a newsletter expert, I agree wholeheartedly.
However, just as there is more involved in winning horse races than holding the reins and saying “giddy up,” so there is more involved in effective newsletters than experts expressing themselves – no matter how authoritative their writing might be.
about client experience
Because all newsletters shape recipients’ perceptions, unless you’re willing to be known as the people who clutter up people’s in-boxes, your newsletter should focus on the recipient’s perspective. Focus on real clients’ experience of and perceptions of your work for them.
“We already know you’re the experts.”
Clients of professional-services firms expect the firm to have professional expertise and advanced knowledge in their field. They do not need it proven further in a newsletter.
Meaningful, relationship-enhancing communication through a newsletter seldom comes from expert perspectives on industry matters. Rather, everybody likes to have their own values confirmed; their own experience validated.
an alliance of experts
Envision this: a decision-making insider who deals with clients works with an experienced newsletter specialist. Together they plan a newsletter’s client-focused formula for content, then agree on a collaborative process to create each issue. That process includes correct, complete notes going to a newsletter wordsmith to craft the content, then approved content going to layout in a custom template, then final approval and distribution on schedule.
Where newsletters are concerned, good business practice in horseracing aligns with good business practice in client relationship management. Resist the temptation to write your own newsletter. The right person playing each role in an on-going process can yield a consistently better experience for newsletter readers; for the newsletter issuer, the development and maintenance of loyalty and referrals among more engaged contacts. In time, the common sense of this approach becomes self-evident.
- Glenn R Harrington, Articulate Consultants Inc.
Glenn R Harrington began working in the family hardware store at age 13. At age 20, he worked in Stock Trading on Toronto’s Bay Street. After, he graduated from the University of Western Ontario. In January, 1996, he founded the marketing consulting firm Articulate Consultants whose first client was an investment advisor in need of newsletter rescue. Harrington has continued as a newsletter specialist since then.
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