Posted on | October 13, 2009 | No Comments
News stand image by Qfamily. Creative Commons license for commercial use.
Whether you’re just starting out or you already have an ongoing newsletter, that old rule of thumb for creating content for news releases can come in handy for creating an effective newsletter plan. I’m talking about the “5Ws and an H” rule that professors drilled into our heads when we were in communications or journalism school or that we learned on the job. Answering the “who, what, when, where, why and how” questions can be helpful in planning your newsletter program and can keep it on track. Let’s review how these six consonants can spell ‘success’ for you.
WHO? In writing a news release, “who” refers to the people in the news. In your newsletter plan, however, “who” requires you to look outward, not inward. The “who” here is your target audience. Before you start writing, you need to clearly identify who you’re writing for: employees, customers, prospects, partners, volunteers, association members, event attendees, or some other group. Define as fully as possible who these people are by segment and, if possible, create a ‘persona’ description for your target group. A ‘persona’ description might include things like: typical age, title, type of job they hold, where they shop, how they consume information, types of products they purchase, what they wear, typical mode of transportation, etc. These provide queues about your targets’ interests and possible reading or information consumption habits. And remember: one newsletter per group, otherwise, you’ll be delivering information that doesn’t meet a portion of your readers’ needs.
WHAT? With the lens on your target audience, think about their specific information needs. What would they be most interested in hearing about? They may not care whether your company has published a new brochure or annual report, but they might be interested in knowing that your products will now be available via free overnight delivery. They might not be interested in knowing that your HR department won an award but they might like to know that your VP of engineering has been recognized as one of the world’s top ten Internet gurus. We talked about how you can survey readers in a previous post to determine what interests them. Research the “what” carefully because it will determine your open rates as well as how frequently your newsletters will be passed along.
WHEN? They say that half of success comes from just showing up. But if you show up irregularly, it’s as if you weren’t there at all since no one will be anticipating your arrival. When you publish is important. You should outline when the best time is for your readers; if they are salespeople, stay away from end of month or end of quarter. Plan your delivery schedule accordingly and make sure you can hold to it!
WHERE? This question actually has a lot of aspects. It not only applies to where you will distribute your newsletter – online, offline, both – it also applies to geographic location. Are your readers in different countries for which translation is necessary? Will they have different content needs because of the areas in which they live or operate? These factors impact your content and your delivery plan. Considering these issues ahead of time can help you develop a delivery schedule that is realistic.
WHY? This is the most important question of all: why are you creating a newsletter in the first place? You should frame the answers to this question from both your company’s perspective and from the perspective of your reader: why do you want to do this, what do you hope to achieve, as well as what does the reader get out of it, why would they want to receive this information? If you can’t define measurable goals for this exercise – both from your company’s viewpoint and from your readers’, maybe you should not do it.
HOW? Like the preceding question, “how” has numerous facets. The big one is: how does your target audience want to receive information from you? What is the most popular way for them to consume content: from online sources, from email, from printed documents, etc. Also, ask yourself how you will actually deliver a targeted and well-written and designed newsletter to your readers on a regular basis. Do you have resources inhouse who can do this or would you be better off using outside help? If your analysis suggests an online newsletter, you may want to research an outside email service provider who can help you deliver on a consistent basis. If so – shameless plug – consider Ennect!