Thinking of starting a newsletter? Planning your course is often more complicated than actually doing it. Explore the steps to creating your own newsletter before actually doing so.
Remember, communicating through printed means is sometimes necessary. Not everyone is hooked to the Web. The more avenues you have to distribute, though, the more likely your information will be received.
1. Do you need a newsletter?
Before you start planning a newsletter, make sure a newsletter will work for your needs. What information do you need to share? Is it enough to put out a newsletter? What action do you want your audience to take from your newsletter? You should have specific, measurable goals. Make a general list of items you would like to incorporate in your newsletter. Look at each item critically and ask yourself if a newsletter is the best way to distribute your information.
2. Your voice.
When I had my first child, we did a quarterly newsletter to share with our family. We used the words my daughter was using, made a lot of spelling mistakes and looked for photos that showed her personality. Another type of personal newsletter is a Christmas newsletter in lieu of Christmas cards for your family and friends.
Professional newsletters can include those for corporations, hospitals and organizations. Professional newsletters not only contain a lot of information for the recipient, they are often commercially printed. There are usually many people involved in their creation. You’ll see “calls to action” which get the recipient involved with the newsletter provider in some way.
Newsletters for troops, groups and schools fall between these two extremes. They are not as formal as a professional newsletter, but you don’t want to share personal information. You need to determine how formal or informal you want to appear. Review your list from Step 1. Determine the “voice” of your newsletter.
3. Your audience.
Who will read your newsletter? If it’s for kids, you may want to include coloring pages and puzzles. Adults look more for information they need and / or want. Family and friends will be more forgiving if your facts are not correct or if you go for a very informal tone. If you’re looking to get funds from outside sources, you’ll want to provide facts and figures to show your group is a great place to make a donation.
Each one of these audiences will need a different focus not only on material provided in your pages, but the information you present as well. Create a list of people you intend to be your “audience.”
4. What do others communicate?
Look at newsletters similar to the one you plan on creating. List what information, graphics, puzzles and other elements they have. Is there a mix of immediately needed information and later reference material? Are there references to other locations to find information? How long are the articles? How do they address their audience? Compare what’s in their newsletter and your idea list. Adjust your idea list if you see anything you might want to include.
5. Brainstorm topics.
These can be very general to start. Remember that if you want your audience to keep your newsletter, you need to include
something worth keeping. If you’re just publishing a schedule, it will be in the trash as soon as the dates are gone. Adding “Ten Sites to Help Earn Badges” will give your readers a reason to save it.
In addition, newsletters are released on a schedule. You need a pool of ideas for future issues so you always have something available to include. You can go back to your brainstorm list for ideas or to help kick start your creativity.
6. Keeping files.
At the beginning of creating a newsletter, you’ll have plenty of material. Your excitement will help you get it out the door. However, will you still have something to talk about in six months? What about a year after you begin? You have your brainstormed topics to start with, but sometimes that won’t be enough.
As ideas come to you, write them down or type them into a document. Keep clippings of interest that you might want to include or images and information from the Web. This will help you when you can’t think of anything to include.
If you are asking for contributions, you will need to provide a list of items you are looking to include. You can use Steps 1, 4 and 5 to help you create this list. You will also need to provide dates when you are accepting contributions. Will you pay for submissions? Are you expecting donations? Is there something you can provide contributors other than money?
8. Who is responsible?
If you are doing all the work yourself, you are responsible. However, if you need others to help, each person needs to have their own list of responsibilities so that nothing is missed. This should include due dates as well. Make a list of responsibilities, starting with these:
9. Set the schedule.
Determine the frequency for your newsletter. Will publishing once a month work for you? Every other month? Will you only publish certain times of the year? By setting a schedule of release dates and communicating it with your audience, they will know to look for your newsletter and inquire when they don’t get it.
10. Protecting yourself.
By writing a story, taking a picture or creating a newsletter, you are automatically the copyright holder. To expand your audience, you may need to give up some of your rights. If you are merely providing lists of dates for your troop / group this may not be pertinent, but if you’re looking at making money from your newsletter, this needs to be determined at the creative stage.
Review the copyright laws in your country. Also review Creative Commons to determine if you are willing to give up some of your rights to get a larger audience.
11. Final format – print.
The final format you have will be dependent on your distribution. You need to know your audience. Here are some suggestions. Decide if any of these work for you and add any others you feel would be good.
- PDF (printable and as an e-mail attachment)
- TXT (most universally accepted, but lacks design elements)
12. Final format – digital.
You may want your final format to be digital only. This will save you a lot in printing and mailing costs. Explore these formats and determine if any of these will work for you.
- HTML (Web page, blog, wiki, e-mail, etc.)
- EPUB (most widely distributed, vendor-independent)
- MOBI / KF8 (Kindle format)
- PDF (can be electronic, may need a different layout than a printable version)
- TXT (most universally accepted, but lacks design elements)
If none of these formats work for you, explore other avenues of electronic distribution.
Sites to Explore