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Communicating Effectively
Through Your Association Newsletter

by Ulli Diemer

By Ulli Diemer

You are producing your newsletter because you have something important to communicate. You owe it to yourself and to your readers to make sure you communicate it effectively. Here are some pointers to help you achieve that:

Know Who You're Writing For

  • The more clearly you can define your intended audience(s), the better the job you can do producing a publication which suits your readers' interests and needs. Start with some general questions:
  • Who is your newsletter for? For the members of your own group or for the general public? For people who are already well-informed about the subject matter, or for those who are just learning about it?
  • Look at the subject matter, the language, the level of knowledge your publication presumes.
    Are they appropriate for your readership?
  • If your publication deals with a particular issue, does it relate that issue to the experience of readers with different ethnic or racial backgrounds? To women? To readers with handicaps? To the young or the old?

Stay In Touch With Your Readers

  • The day-to-day chores involved in producing a publication sometimes cause us to lose touch with our readers and what they want. Solicit their feedback regularly. Invite letters and comments. Consider sending out a questionnaire.
  • Ask readers what they think of the newsletter whenever you have a chance to speak to them personally. Always keep the reader in mind in everything you do.

Write Clearly And Directly

  • Don't expect your readers to read the publication out of a sense of duty. Make the writing as lively, interesting, and clear as you possibly can.
  • As you write, or edit someone else's writing, imagine the reader looking over your shoulder. When the reader would interrupt with: "Why did you say that?", or "What do you mean?", or "Who cares?", make sure that the article answers the reader's concerns.
  • Be sure that all articles -- even the editor's -- are read by someone else before being printed. Even the best writers find it difficult to be objective about their own writing.

Produce A Publication That Looks Good

  • Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that our subject matter is so important that we don't have to "dress it up".
  • Such an attitude may work against you. Even readers who are committed to a cause or interested in a subject are more likely to read an attractive, visually interesting publication.
  • The strategic use of photographs and drawings, white space, borders, bold headlines and other elements of effective design helps to involve readers and to keep them reading.

Publish Material That Is Informative And Interesting
Don't let your newsletter be repetitive, predictable, and dull! Work with your contributors to help them produce top-quality material. Give them constructive feedback. Set the goal of producing a publication readers look forward to receiving -- a publication containing genuinely useful information, and intelligently presented ideas and opinions. Infect everyone with your enthusiasm for excellence.

Include A Mix Of Articles
A publication offering an unrelenting diet of long serious articles can tax the enthusiasm of even the most committed reader. Strive for variety. Include some shorter, lighter pieces. Look for cartoons or illustrations that relate to your subject. If possible, include personal experiences and first-person accounts from a variety of perspectives.

Include Distribution In Your Planning
Distribution -- especially if you use the mail -- should be considered as you plan your publication. For example, adding a single extra page can add 45 cents per item to your mailing costs if it takes you into the next weight category. This can translate into an additional expenditure of hundreds of dollars per issue even for a newsletter with fewer than 1,000 subscribers. The size of the envelope used can have a similar effect. It can be very worthwhile to get expert advice on these questions.

Don't Try To Do It All Yourself
There are those who can single-handedly handle every aspect of producing a publication, from writing and editing through design, production, and distribution. For most of us, however, it makes sense to concentrate on those aspects we are best at, and find others to handle those tasks which are particularly time-consuming or which require specialized skills or equipment, such as desktop publishing. Trying to do everything can result in expensive mistakes or burned-out staff or volunteers.

Allow Enough Time
A publication takes time to produce. Trying to skimp on that time can result in shortcuts in quality, avoidable mistakes, increased costs, and frayed tempers. Develop a schedule for your newsletter. Plan when you want to have it appear, and calculate backwards from there. Allow time for unforeseen problems. Change the schedule for subsequent issues if it seems unrealistic.

TambiÉn disponible en español: Como Comunicarse De Manera Efectiva A TravÉs De Un BoletÍn Informativo.

Ulli Diemer
Phone: 416-964-5735.