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As most entrepreneurs will tell you, a newsletter is a great marketing tool. Publishing a newsletter lets you keep in touch with your readers. It gives you the opportunity to tell your clients about new products and services. And, if you do it right, it will help you build a loyal base of supporters who email copies to their friends.
Many people associate electronic publishing with an online business. However, even entrepreneurs without an online presence, can benefit from this marketing tool. Whether you’re business is online or offline or both, you’ll find electronic publishing a cost effective way to reach out to your clients.
But, despite all the advantages, launching a newsletter is not the right move for everyone. Even the simplest plain text mailing takes time and considerable effort. Once you begin publishing in HTML your investment increases. Before you decide to jump on the publishing bandwagon there are several things to think about. Here are a few to get you started.
The first step is to decide what your newsletter will be about. Get started by reading a few issues of your favorite ezines. Each has a particular focus or theme: this is the reason you subscribed to them in the first place.
Generally, small and/or narrowly focused businesses publish one newsletter. If you are a consultant specializing in a particular area, like professional image or public relations, this step will be less complicated than if your business targets a more general audience.
Consultants often stick to their area of expertise. Joan Stewart aka The Publicity Hound, for example, publishes a free weekly newsletter that focuses on public relations. Each issue contains information on generating publicity. Many include media leads. Stewart also includes promos for her latest products (the ebooks and reports which are sold on her site) and a calendar of her upcoming appearances.
Companies with a broader scope cover a broader range of topics. The Career Intelligencer, for example, alternates between career-intelligence.com’s various channels. All of our articles are work-related. However, one issue may cover job interviews (Transition) and getting ahead at the office (Management), the next issue may include articles on writing a business plan (Small Business Services) and choosing a new career (Assessment).
Big businesses, designed to attract a mass market frequently produce several publications. For example, because they appeal to such a large demographic, iVillage has created newsletters for specific audience segments: health, work, beauty, etc.
Once you establish your readership, it’s important to stay true to your original concept. It’s OK to cover peripheral topics from time to time. But, try not to deviate too much.
Once you’ve developed a concept it’s time to consider what type of content you’ll have and how you will develop your content. First let’s consider the types of content.
When they think newsletter, most people think articles. But, content comes in many forms. Many publishers use one or more of the following:
Articles, of course, are the mainstay of many newsletters. If you decide to use articles in your ezine, however, be prepared to invest additional time and/or money. Most publishes get articles one of three ways: they write it, they barter it or they buy it.
Write it – Lots of publishers, with varying degrees of experience, write their own articles. Some of their work is wonderful. Some of it is not.
Many articles have enough good information that people are willing to read them regardless of their overall quality. But, before you begin using your work make sure it is clear enough for your reader to understand you. The good news is that one of the best ways to become a better writer is to write.
Barter it – There are many content exchange sites where publishers can pick up articles for reprint. I refer to this as bartering because the publisher gets free content in exchange for giving the writer free visibility. Whether or not to use free articles is a difficult decision.
Yes, there are some interesting, well-written pieces available. That’s the problem. Often several publishers pick up a really good article. One week I read the same article in three different newsletters. And each publication lost a little credibility.
Buy it – Writers are always looking for places to sell their work. New or unpublished writers may exchange their articles for the opportunity to be published (known as getting clips). Experienced writers can be expensive.
Either way, expect to make a significant investment. Even polished professionals can benefit from judicious editing; working with inexperienced writers can take a lot of time. But, paying experienced writers can cost you a bundle. Remember, unless the writer works directly for you (known as work-for-hire) they retain the copyright to their work.
It’s important to consider how you’ll develop your content before moving to the next planning phase. This decision will effect how often you publish and which format you choose.
Coming up with a concept and deciding how you’ll develop content are only the first two steps of the planning phase. Before launching you’ll need to consider several other factors including frequency (how often), delivery (list management) and format (HTML and/or Text).
Many of those not in the know think electronic publishing is easy. Online publishers, however, will tell you that developing and delivering a quality product are not. Electronic publishing takes time and effort. But, with a little planning you can do it.
It doesn’t matter if you’re not a professional writer. It doesn’t matter if the closest you’ve come to publishing is reading Self. What matters is that you design a newsletter suited to your style and ability.
About Annette Richmond, MA
Annette Richmond, MA, CARW, CCELW, is a Certified Resume Writer, Certified LinkedIn Profile Writer, and former recruiter. Her career advice has been featured by Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Business Insider, Monster, Vault, and WSJ. She helps motivated, senior level professionals tell their unique career story. She also serves as executive editor of career-intelligence.com.