Friday, December 07, 2007

Sheryl’s Top 8 Tips to Make Newsletters & Ezines Pop

An easy and inexpensive way to promote and grow your business is by generating a newsletter or ezine. When you make your publication useful and friendly, you build a rapport with your readers and become their valued resource. This often turns readers into customers or clients.

Have you ever read first and second editions of a publication that are so interesting you can’t wait for the next issue? Then the third edition begins a long line of descent until you don’t want to read those publications. This doesn’t happen when you keep the content fresh, varied, timely, and interesting. Following are eight tips for generating valuable newsletters or ezine and keeping them valuable. These tips also work for infusing new life into tired publications.

1. Know what your readers care about.

For your publication to be successful, you must understand what your readers care about and what they value. Here are some things to consider:

• What are the demographics?
• What are their interests?
• Do they work in a specific industry?
• What are their job functions?
• What publications do they read?
• How do they spend their leisure time?

2. Choose the “write” name for your publication.

The name you select should make your publication appealing and represent your company well. What’s in a name? Everything.

• Think of a name that complements your company name, rather than using your company name.
• If you use your company name, include words such as Alert, Challenge, Forum, Monthly, News, Report or something along those lines.
• Remove words that don’t add value such as the, newsletter, and others.
• Consider benefits to your reader and include them in the title.
• Choose action words. Instead of “The New England Hiking Newsletter,” how about “Hiking the Trails of New England.”

2. Create an appealing look and friendly tone.

Do your homework. Review at lots of newsletters and ezines and make note of what you do and don’t like. For example, do you like single, double, or triple columns? What font works well? What colors appeal to you? Is the tone formal or informal? Following are some tips for creating an appealing look and friendly tone.

Appealing look

• Generate exciting headlines. Readers will ignore exciting stories if they have dull headlines.
• Make the main headline dominate the page, just as newspapers do.
• Create a headline your readers will relate to.
• Include photos with complete and accurate captions.
• Use illustrations, tables, graphics, charts or callouts, as appropriate.
• Include plenty of white space. Neophytes tend to fill in all available space, making the publication unreadable.
• Minimize jump lines which are stories continued on another page.
• Include contact information.

Friendly tone

• Keep paragraphs and sentences short.
• Use the active voice.
• Use simple and direct language, using technical lingo only when you must in order to be convincing.

4. Come up with great story ideas and must-read content.

Content is king; it must be timely and relevant. Content can come from lots of places. Use internal sources such as employees, press releases from your company or others, internal or external publications, and your readers.

Great story ideas

• Problems you can help readers solve
• Timely issues they care about
• Applicable trends
• New products or models
• Milestones
• How-to’s
• Case studies
• Customer/employee recognition
• Human interest
• Research and development
• Interesting publications
• Financial news
• Community affairs
• Outstanding employees
• Interviews
• International news
• Saving time or money
• Industry news

If your subject matter is narrow, vary your content or you risk losing even your most loyal readers.

Varying the content

• Make your readers smile.
• Add something light-hearted.
• Include a hot industry tip.
• Create a top-10 list.
• Hold a contest.
• Create a questionnaire.
• Include human interest stories.
• Generate votes and poles.
• Invite guest writers.
• Include quizzes, cartoons, puzzles.
• Add advice from experts.
• Include people’s names.

Additional tips

• If a topic is too long, break it into separate issues.
• Let readers know that you won’t share their contact information with anyone without their explicit permission.
• Purchase industry-specific content from companies that specialize in your market.

At the end of each issue, include a brief “About Us” section of two to three sentences. Let your readers connect the dots and imagine themselves working with you. Keep this section brief because your readers must perceive that you (the publisher) are giving, not just taking.

5. Determine the frequency of your publications and stick to it.

Work your way into the routines of your readers. When you create a regular publication schedule, your readers know when to expect it. It’s akin to waiting for the latest issue of your favorite magazine to be delivered. That doesn’t mean you need to publish every week, every two weeks, or every month. It merely means creating a schedule that’s predictable and one you stick to.

6. Establish credibility and integrity.

Remember that with every publication, your reputation is on the line. If you’re honest, your readers will appreciate your candidness.

• Recommend only products and services you have full confidence in.
• Test products or experience services before making an endorsement.
• Be absolutely honest about products or services by pinpointing negatives, if appropriate.
• Offer free advice so people don’t think you’re always dipping into their wallets.
• Avoid blatantly promoting yourself. A well-written publication with valuable content will do that for you.

7. Publicize.

Build it and they will come applies to ballparks, not newsletters and ezines. Announcement lists are a good way to launch your publication. You can start by subscribing through http://www.groups.yahoo.com or http://www.topica.com. To launch your publication through directories, check out http://www.the1000.com, http://www.newsletteraccess.com, http://www.promotefree.com, or the many others out there. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Go online for other ways to publicize.

8. Aim to draw in new readers.

Although you may think your newsletter or ezine is to inform, your primary purpose is to promote something (however subtle that promotion may be). Writing promotional copy means writing to persuade. This includes attracting attention, creating interest, stimulating a need, offering a solution, and calling for action. Offer value and your readers will recommend you to other readers who may become customers or clients.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. http://www.sherylwrites.com