3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Newsletter

Three questions-pageA newsletter is a great communications tool. At The JPT Group, they’re one of our specialties. And, with the advent of the electronic newsletter, they’ve never been easier or more cost effective.

But, they’re not for everyone. Before you start down that road, there are (at least) three questions that you need to ask yourself.

ONE:   Do we have enough content, and do we have the right kind of content?

While you may think you have an abundance of content, you need to pass this simple test. Try planning out the next six issues. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly schedule. Identifying topics for the next six issues should be relatively easy – not lasting more than 10-15 minutes. And if you can’t accomplish that, maybe you don’t have enough to say. Or – and this is very important – if your thought was to produce a monthly newsletter and you can’t fill out the first six issues, maybe it should be quarterly. Or, maybe you should consider some other vehicle.

The good news is that if you can identify subject matter for six issues, you’re not locked in to that schedule.  If something more timely breaks, fine.  Push everything else back one issue.  It’s always a good idea to keep several “evergreen” topics on the shelf that you can draw upon at a moment’s notice.

Again, there is good news. Examine your topics more carefully.  Are there topics that could be broken down into more than one article?  It’s not unusual to be able to divide a topic into two, three or even four separate articles.

Keep in mind also that you don’t want your newsletter to be too long. If there is too much there, no one will read it.  And, if that’s the case, you’ve accomplished nothing.

Just as important, is your content appropriate? Even though you think that you have gobs of things to say, does anyone really want to hear it? Don’t ever lose sight of the fact that your newsletter is for THEM – them the audience, whoever your audience is. No matter how important it may seem to you, if it doesn’t resonate with your audience, you got nuthin’!

TWO:   Are you adequately staffed to complete it?

Too often when organizations decide that “we” need a newsletter, the task is assigned to the royal “we”; or worse, to someone who has absolutely no time whatsoever to devote to it. Hunting down stories and researching them can be more time consuming than actually producing the finished product.  If accommodations are not put in place, very soon – possibly as early as the second edition – your newsletter may be postponed because someone “didn’t have the time.”

And, soliciting articles from staff can sound like an attractive approach – except that the staff – if they’re like most staffs these days – are already over worked and have no time to devote to it – simply blasting one email seeking submissions will not generate sufficient content for the first six issues.

THREE:   Are you committed?

The most important concept of all – are you really committed to doing it? Do you have the time, the people and the funds to pull this off? If you’re planning a monthly publication, do you realize that once you’ve finished with one, it’s probably time to start the next one?

A newsletter is a commitment – plain and simple. What’s more, for a newsletter to be effective, it has to be regular. If it’s monthly, make it monthly. Publishing in January, February, July and November is not monthly. If it’s going to be published the first week of every month, putting it out on the 20th of the month doesn’t cut it either. The worst part, is that you’re doing a disservice to your audience(s), all the while damaging your own reputation and credibility.

Newsletters can be enormously effective, but only if you have something interesting to say and if you are sufficiently committed to it so that it gets done, and that it gets done in a timely fashion. If not, you’re only hurting yourself and wasting a lot of people’s time and effort… and your money.

by Jim Tabaczynski, JPT Group