President’s News and Notes

By Leah Scampoli

Recently, my department at work has been deciding how to update our newsletter. In researching best practices for business to business electronic newsletters, I found that although there are many sites that touch on the topic, relatively few have a concise but complete list. I thought I would share a couple of websites that I visited and some of the tips I gleaned. Of course, as each project has different needs and audiences, not all of the tips may apply to your own enewsletter circumstances.

    • Skimming and Scanning Along–Most people read online content by jumping around the page and only stopping when they pick up something of interest. One stat I saw was that people spend under a minute (!) reading a newsletter. To facilitate this type of reading, think about how you can make it easy to quickly review a page to find the information that is most important and applicable to the reader. For instance, make use of descriptive headers to jump to sections of interest, bold and underline styles for important information, and plenty of whitespace to avoid crowding. As is for mobile and online writing, short paragraphs are key.
    • Short is Sweet–Building upon the idea of short paragraphs being easier to scroll through and comprehend, having a shorter article and even entire newsletter length is also advantageous. The suggested number of articles and words per article vary, but the idea remains the same: people can only absorb so much information. I know that when I look at a newsletter and it seems long and overwhelming, I’m more likely to skip completely that muddle through. Of course, this all depends on the purpose and audience of the newsletter. Speaking of…
    • Know Thy Audience–This idea came up quite frequently among the top tips lists I read. Of course, being technical writers, I think we all have this tattooed in our memories. So, no need to elaborate.
    • Give them a Call (to Action)–Sometimes it’s hard to remember that amongst all the great information you’ve laid out for a reader, it’s not completely obvious what they need to do next. But, to get the response you want, you need to tell the audience what they need to do in no uncertain terms. For me, I always think about those medical benefit or financial letters I receive. There seems to be a lot of information that may or may not be useful, so I’m always grateful for that bolded text “There is no action needed on your part” or “You must complete this form.” Maybe the call to action is more vague (Join us on Twitter!) but audiences appreciate knowing what they need to do nonetheless.
    • Image isn’t Everything–Sure, fancy graphics and background make the final product look pretty. But, it’s not always the best move. For one thing, too many images can distract from the content. In other cases, for compatibility or security reasons, email services block images. So, all that time spent turns into empty boxes. This isn’t saying that you shouldn’t consider the aesthetics of the final version, but, like a lot of things, don’t overdo it.
    • Keep it Fresh–No one likes stale content. And, enewsletters shouldn’t be different. Even if you want to mix older pieces in with the new stuff, make sure there’s a distinction and the more current content is more prominently displayed. That last point is important and brings us to…
    • Remember the Triangle–As anyone who took Journalism 101 will tell you, the inverted pyramid is king (or pharaoh) of article construction. Front load the story to have the big takeaway, the latest news, and the 5 Ws in the first ‘graph (to continue using the lingo). If people only read one thing (and sometimes they will), at least they have the most important information. Expanding this to the entire newsletter, put the most important stories up top (or use a table of content with hyperlinks). This becomes even more vital for how enewsletters are first read: in a preview pane. If that small box doesn’t have something that catches a reader’s eye, off to the trash folder it goes, unread.

 

Want to keep reading up on this? Here are some of the websites I visited:

I hope this helped you if you were considering how to best update your enewsletter. Do you have any advice or suggestions to share? Email info@stc-sf.org.

Thanks, Leah

 

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