Lessons from the Newsletter Trenches


By Kathy MacLean


Delete. Unsubscribe. Junk. These three words describe my personal relationship with e-newsletters.  You may find this odd, given that I spend a lot of time creating newsletters on behalf of my brand.   The decisions on what I read and what  I delete are based largely on the lessons that I will share with you today.   


Digital is not print   


When we first started putting out alumni newsletters, we were trying to cram a 20+ page print newsletter into a digital format. It didn’t go so well.  


While headlines may draw readers in, they need a quick return on investment.  If your copy reads like a book and it takes forever to get to the point, you are going to lose subscribers.   


Mix up your content, incorporate cool photos with informative captions or short videos if your budget allows. Remember that a multi-channel campaign pays dividends.  Take your newsletter content and repurpose it on your website and social media channels.  


Give readers what they expect 


Nothing sets you up for failure more than sending mixed signals, or the wrong message to your audience.   


When I think of this, my mind wanders to the annual newsletters we receive at this time of year from friends and family in faraway places.   You know the ones I mean – written for a broad audience full of stories about people we don’t know and events that hold no significance to us.  


The lesson in this? Don’t produce buffet-style newsletters with something for everyone in them.   


Different people want, need, and expect different things from your newsletter.  Target your content to the audience, segment your mailing list, and send each audience what it needs.   


Take time to reflect on the numbers 


Sometimes we’re so busy with production, writing, and layout that we don’t take the time to measure our return on investment.   


It’s  important to comb through your analytics to know if your content meets audience needs. Did they open the newsletter? Click on links?  How long did they spend on each article?  Did they comment, like or share content?  Follow a call to action?


If your review reveals that you are falling short of the goals and objectives you have set, tweak your strategy next time around.  


Resistance is futile  


You know the old saying, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.   


Email comes and email goes, but print has a tendency to hang around a little longer.  It only takes minutes to transform digital content into something printable, so give readers an option to do so if they wish.  There is a very good chance that your newsletter will get tucked away for a quiet read on a long flight or cottage getaway, when readers are more relaxed and receptive to your messaging and calls-to-action.  


If you consider these things when producing e-newsletters, you’ll find that you are set-up for success. What goes in between the header and footer is up to you.

2 thoughts on “Lessons from the Newsletter Trenches

  1. Brigitte Martin

    You are so right when you mention that it’s important to “give readers what they want”. Your readership will evolve, and I suppose so should the newsletter.
    Good job on the sub- titles, it makes for easier reading and highlights your thought process.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Phil A.

    Same with Brigitte – I definitely agree on your points when you explain “give the readers what they want”, especially with regards to avoiding sending out a “buffet-style” newsletter with broad content that tries to please everyone. By doing that you could actually potentially hurt your numbers, since the majority of your readers might be interested in one article, but choose to ignore the rest because it does not apply to them.

    If you have the resources to send targeted material to different segmented mailing lists, then that approach should be considered to ensure that the content you send out is engaging to your audience.

    Good post Kathy!

    Liked by 1 person

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