19 Ways to Revitalize Your Employee Newsletter
This essential channel has lots of potential. But you need to keep it fresh.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Newsletters are hardly a new way to communicate with employees--in fact, in one form or another (look up "house organ"), internal newsletters have been around for a very long time.
But that doesn't mean that newsletters are obsolete.
In fact, marketing experts know that newsletters are still an essential way to reach a target audience with valuable information. For instance, Michael Katz, founder of Blue Penguin Development, writes that he's been "waiting for more than 10 years for a marketing tool to come along that's more effective than a regularly published, well written, useful and engaging email newsletter. I'm still waiting."
And when my firm asks for feedback about internal newsletters, employees usually given the channel a strong thumbs up. Employees say that a good newsletter is convenient and helps reduce information overload.
Still, you need to work hard to make sure your newsletter doesn't become stale, degrading into "same old, same old." Here are 19 ways to make your employee newsletter interesting, compelling and contemporary:
- Focus on employee needs. Always answer the question: "What does this mean to me?"
- Decide which format (print or electronic) works best for your employee population. Sometimes you need both a print version for non-wired workers (in manufacturing, retail, transportation, service) and an e-version for knowledge workers.
- Publish frequently and consistently. It's better to send a short version more often rather than an extensive newsletter published infrequently.
- Include unique information that employees can't find anywhere else. Even if your newsletter is mostly a digest of intranet posts, make sure there's something about the newsletter that's special.
- Provide advice that helps employees solve a problem, tackle a challenge or work better.
- Curate content, so the newsletter is short and purposeful--not an encyclopedia of everything you've got.
- Write punchy, appealing subject lines if you're sending the newsletter via email. "April Newsletter Issue" just doesn't cut it.
- Use links (for e-newsletters) to give employees a chance to find more information on that topic.
- Speak employees' language. Use words that every employee (including the new guy) instantly understands. Avoid jargon and corporate speak.
- Focus on "the letter more than the news," advises Ann Handley, marketing newsletter expert and partner at MediaProfs. "Your letter should feel more like a letter than a distribution strategy."
- Create a distinct voice. "The best newsletters have a recognizable point of view," says Handley in a PR Strategist article. And I say: An employee newsletter is not investigative journalism. So there's no reason not to write with a friendly, approachable tone.
- Write for skimming. Create bite-sized chunks of information and use bulleted lists to organize content into short, scannable pieces.
- Give a lot of clues. Draw in employees with compelling headlines, multiple subheads, callouts, pictures and sentences that tell the story.
- Use quick takes. Provide a taste of the smart ideas found in your articles by writing one- or two-sentence summaries that capture the essence of each piece. Then include the quick take as a callout next to each article and create a section on your home page or newsletter front page for all quick takes.
- Make a list (like this one). Lists promise a payoff for the reader. According to Muhammed Saleem at Copyblogger, list articles make it clear "what the reader is in for, and the structure itself reinforces the perceived value of the return on attention invested." And employees find lists easy to digest. List articles aren't overwhelming like a buffet; they're snackable, like canaps or tapas.
- Create powerful headlines. Nothing is more important than the headline. It's the first thing employees notice. It grabs their attention. It offers the solution to a problem.
- Quote interesting people who say interesting things. Don't make the quotes sound formal and corporate--capture the wonderful point of view of the people you quote.
- Make facts fun. Create callouts and snazzy infographics.
- Think Instagram, not high school yearbook, when choosing photos. In a world where nearly everyone has a great camera on his/her smart phone, there's no excuse for bad photos.
Yes, there are more techniques you can use to improve your newsletter (such as introducing more white space, using icons and rethinking leader messages). The point is this: Keep it fresh by continuing to make improvements.