Patrick's thoughts on newsletters

Newsletters: panacea or just a pain?

I worked for a company that suddenly started giving everyone a internal newsletter every month. You could tell when it hit the desks, even with your eyes shut, from the chorus of groans, followed a couple of minutes later by the ping of a crumpled ball of paper hitting a wastebasket.

Pity the poor newsletter, misused as a band-aid and miscast as a star of the HR department. Often put together by someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time (and miles away from where the idea was first mooted), containing fuzzy images and poorly edited copy, newsletters can often make an unhappy ship even unhappier --the opposite of the very thing they were supposed to do.

For a newsletter to hit the mark, whether electronic or paper, bear in mind these considerations:

1. It shouldn’t be seen as a quick fix. If there are problems of morale or poor communication, these can be addressed in other ways - a newsletter may just be an irritant.
2. Get to know your audience, and continually imagine yourself as the reader.
3. Only use humor if it’s good and inclusive.
4. People are very interesting -- you may have to dig to find a hidden talent or passion, but dig anyway.
5. Use good pictures, see above; there are clever amateur photographers in most organizations.
6. Be fresh in tone and look, get a good designer to help you create a template if necessary.
7. Surprise people, and they’ll reward you by reading every page.