Do Not Write Your Own Newsletter
We Already Know: You're The Experts
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 general revenue: These seem intuitive. When it comes to producing newsletters, though, many self-marketers’ intuition leads them astray. Let’s see what goes wrong and how to do better.
senior partners & smartest geeks
Particularly in service-based, trust-oriented businesses, a good newsletter can help to develop and maintain loyalty and referrals among hundreds or thousands of qualified contacts. Even so, many commit the error of believing that the firm’s senior people and experts must write the core content of every issue of their newsletter. Their reasoning: Nobody is better qualified.
where key people’s minds belong
Yet, experience eventually shows that the time and effort of senior people and top experts is best invested in their own highest-value activities; not in newsletter writing. In addition to the time-management and creativity-on-demand challenges of writing creating newsletters, the recognition of this problem inevitably creates an existential crisis for the newsletter itself.
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 a marketer considering a newsletter, here is a good business practice that avoids having to choose either of those two options: Resisting the temptation to write your own newsletter, plan each issue in collaboration with a newsletter specialist, then supply complete raw material to a consummate wordsmith who'll write it for you. Layout, final approval by the senior people and experts, and distribution may then follow.
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 shifts from personal time and effort in all aspects of its production to higher-level initial input and final approval.
the top two 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 marketing. Our in-house talent remains best for our own newsletter.” Thus, the preference for a do-it-ourselves approach endures.
a hard lesson
Before long, the net costs and mediocre effectiveness of a newsletter whose weakness as a tool of client relationship management persists bring decision-makers back to the search for a better way. Often, they then shift responsibilities to lower-cost personnel who continue to produce persistently under-performing newsletters with varying earnestness. Eventually, this returns many newsletter issuers to the option “just give up.” Their newsletters continue not to work.
newsletter-specific expertise required
The belief that in-house subject-matter experts and marketing talent are 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
No wonder why many newsletters are cancelled after a few issues, despite adaptive attempts to better fulfil their potential. The seldom-recognized underlying cause: Either the wrong people planned and created it or the right people applied faulty thinking about how to make it really work.
the horse-racing model
Consider how professional horse racing works. No racehorse is 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 practices with the horse-racing model, they improve their chances of newsletter success dramatically.
get the right focus
Just as there is more involved in winning horse races than holding the reins and saying “giddy up,” there is more involved in truly effective newsletters than experts expressing themselves – no matter how authoritative their expertise 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 a newsletter to reinforce that.
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 perceptions validated. Good newsletters focus less on reporting to readers than on maintaining rapport with them.
an alliance of specialists
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:
Where newsletters are concerned, good business practice in horseracing resembles 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 with a BA in Latin. 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.
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