The Newsletter: A Valuable PR Tool No Matter How You Deliver It

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Posted At: February 17, 2010 1:39 PM
by Haley Barr

All over the world, businesses and organizations are taking advantage of the benefits of newsletters. Newsletters come in many different forms and are typically produced by or for a business firm, nonprofit organization or government agency in order to communicate to key internal and external publics.

Newsletters are either print or electronic. Print newsletters give readers something tangible to read and don’t limit them to reading off the computer screen. On the other hand, electronic newsletters, or e-newsletters, are cost effective for the organization sending them out and convenient for readers who are online frequently.

Steven Spenser, principal of Praxis Communication in Seattle, prefers to receive print newsletters because they don’t clutter up his inbox, and he isn’t restricted to reading from the computer.

“Older recipients will probably prefer hard copies they can hold in their hands — offering a snail-mailed copy can sometimes be used as a benefit of paid membership — and read anywhere, while younger, tech-savvy readers will often be fine with an e-mailed version,” said Spenser.

Whether distributed electronically or through the mail, successful newsletters effectively reach an organization’s priority publics.

The print newsletter lives on

Dialog is The University of Alabama’s faculty and staff four-page newsletter that comes out every week during the academic year and periodically in the summer. According to Lisa Frederick, associate director of internal communications and Dialog editor, the printed newsletter is divided into four sections: the cover is a long story that highlights faculty and staff research, significant campus news or milestones, or other feature-style articles; the News page contains news articles and announcements; the Accolades page is dedicated to faculty and staff accomplishments; the back cover is Connections, which is used to share information about campus programs, development opportunities and other service-oriented content.

Frederick says Dialog is successful, because it is a tool that helps the editorial team tell the story of why UA is a rewarding place to live, work and learn. It keeps faculty and staff informed about what’s happening on campus and recognizes the achievements of UA employees, which encourages a connection among the faculty.

A newsletter will ultimately be unsuccessful if it fails to connect with its target public. If used correctly, a newsletter is a dependable vehicle to share important messaging that’s tailored to a specific audience in order to boost a sense of connection, according to Frederick. It is clear that Dialog is a successful newsletter that provides faculty and staff with information and resources needed for professional growth.

“First, it’s important to know your audience,” said Frederick. “If you’re not familiar with the topics that interest them and are useful to them, and if you’re unable to share news and information in a timely, regular manner, your newsletter won’t have as much impact. And, of course, you should pay attention to the basics — the writing should be clear and strike the right tone; the art and graphics should be appealing and appropriate; and the entire package should be visually engaging and easy to navigate.”

UA faculty and staff are interested in topics that are specific to UA, and Dialog is one of the most effective ways to share that information, says Frederick.

E-newsletters offer a different set of advantages

The United Way of Lee County, Ala., newsletter, Live United, is a nonprofit newsletter produced for supporters, volunteers, key community people and organizations. In the past, it has been produced on a quarterly basis and sent out in large mailings. However, this year United Way will begin sending out bi-monthly e-newsletters.

According to Joni Coffman, United Way of Lee County’s community resource development specialist, the newsletter is successful, because it helps readers know how to get and stay involved. It gives people the opportunity to stay informed with what’s going on within their own community.

A bi-monthly newsletter sent via e-mail is convenient, because readers don’t have to rely on going to the organization’s Web site for daily news and updates. United Way’s newsletter is beneficial, because the organization is on the community’s mind all year long. Coffman says it keeps the supporters updated with what United Way is doing on a regular basis instead of only during fundraising campaign time.

“We use our newsletter to offer volunteer services to our readers, to update them on any changes we may have within United Way and our partnering agencies, and also to keep them informed of human and health services provided throughout our community,” said Coffman.

United Way uses its e-newsletter effectively by constantly keeping its readers informed with what’s going on within the organization and community.

According to an article posted on advisorToday.com and written by Martin R. Baird, president of Advisor Marketing in Annapolis, Md., a newsletter is an effective tool that requires careful planning before taking the plunge and investing time and money.

“A newsletter is a great marketing tool,” said Baird. “Make sure you do your homework up front, however, and provide information that your target market really wants.”

As long as the organization maintains commitment for its causes and continues to connect with its target publics, does it really matter how the newsletter is delivered?

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