Wednesday, July 24, 2013

When to Use Paper Newsletters

Honestly, I thought the paper newsletter died.

The rage is e-newsletters. Or was. Those are waning, too, according to internet marketer, Jon Morrow, who argues we need to spend more time on social media marketing rather than writing e-newsletters.

I happen to like some of the e-newsletters I receive and I read them regularly, but I want to go back before e-newsletters, all the way back to paper newsletters. Like I said, I thought they were dead.

But then, I got a newsletter when I checked into a resort condo, and I used it. At first glance, the paper I received is hardly a newsletter. No real stories. No pages to turn (just the front and back of an 8.5 x 11-inch piece of paper). But the information was relevant to me right then in that moment, and I started to rethink the purpose of the paper newsletter and the times that it might be worth creating.

Typeface notwithstanding, of course...
Just-in-time newsletters. A newsletter handed out during check-in at a hotel, resort, cruise, dorm, etc., lets guests know what to do and how to do it. Content can include special events (musician in the club); how to sign up for golf; how to rent a boat; how to access the WI-FI; special dishes prepared onsite; and tips for maximizing a stay. This just-in-time newsletter would not be good to mail to subscribers but merely to hand out to visitors. Including contact information and a preview of special events that might encourage a visitor to return won’t hurt either.

Guests who provide an email address might like to receive the week’s newsletter ahead of a visit.

Other just-in-time newsletters might be given to new clients who need to know what to do now that they have hired you. For example, how about event photographers? What should the client expect from you? What should the client do to prepare?

Seasonal or annual planning newsletters. Organizations that offer events for members or need members to plan their work might consider a newsletter that serves its members for a long period of time such as a season or half a year. Some examples include nonprofits that depend on volunteers to work at events or to clean up beaches; organizations that offer professional development or other types of classes that require planning and registration. These newsletters could include dates, descriptions, and registration information for professional development opportunities. This list would help people plan their professional development for the next quarter or season.

This newsletter could be emailed or mailed or simply handed out at each meeting. The reason this newsletter would be worth designing and printing is that it has a long-enough shelf-life to make it worth keeping. Short stories or blurbs with photos might be included, with longer, detailed versions online.

But, what about high-quality, purpose-driven newsletters sent via the U.S. Postal Service? Honestly, I like receiving alumni newsletters. I like receiving newsletters from non-profits that I support. But, I feel guilty for trashing them after I read them because I know how much these cost to produce in dollars as well as in an employee’s time. I think the knowledge ups the guilt factor.

And sometimes, I receive a newsletter and feel a little duped out of the time I spend reading it because I saw it all on Facebook already.

And then, what about newsletters meant to be marketing devices? I get these from my financial planning institution every month or so. Honestly, they pretty much go unread, tossed in the recycle bin as quickly as they are received. These newsletters come from corporate headquarters and represent the old-school newsletter: full of informative stories, how-to advice, explanations of services a business offers. They are designed well and proofread carefully.

For me, these newsletters have an ethos problem. Readers aren’t always sure which information is marketing and which information is straight-up honest fact. Is the advisory section skewed to get you to set up an appointment with the financial institution right away? To get you to spend more money on something you don’t really need? I don’t spend time trying to sort all that out.

Instead, today’s paper newsletters need to have these qualities: Newsletters need to be short. Need to include checklists or information that can be read at-a-glance. Stories should be replaced with blurbs or blurbs with photos. Provide additional information or longer stories online.

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