At SHIFT, one of our favorite pieces of content we create is our weekly newsletter. It’s a way for us to check in with our audience each week and provide them an easy one-stop shop for the latest PR and marketing news. We were especially proud to see it awarded as the Best Electronic Publication/E-newsletter by Ragan Communications as part of their Content Marketing Awards last month.
So how did we go about creating an award-winning newsletter – and how can you do the same? We’re going to walk through some of the main ingredients we include in our SHIFT Happens newsletter.
Let us begin!
Part One: The Content
This is the most important component of any newsletter. If the content isn’t good, no one is going to read it – and no one is going to stay subscribed to it. The goal is provide value for your readers, so don’t feel like just because it’s YOUR newsletter it has to be ALL about you. By now, you should know your audience and what their interests are. Take that into account when planning out your content. Be informative and educational, but don’t be afraid to show off some personality and culture.
The SHIFT Happens newsletter has a combination of our own generated content and important industry news. We highlight our blog posts and also include some of the big media hits we secured for our clients. Outside of that, we include job openings and a little blurb about a cultural event that made headlines that week. It’s a mash-up of all things PR and marketing, and it’s something our readers have responded to positively.
Part Two: The Design
Now it’s time to get visual. You’ll want to make your newsletter look good while keeping in mind that people will be reading your newsletter across a number of devices: desktops, mobile phones, tablets, etc. It has to be readable in all formats. Our advice is to keep your design visually appealing yet simple. You don’t want slow loading times because it’s bogged down by its design.
If you have an in-house design team, pull them into this project. They can help craft a template that will be useable for a long time. After your initial template is created, you can use tools like Adobe’s Dreamweaver to update it weekly.
Part Three: Promotion
Congratulations! You have your newsletter compiled. The next step is to promote it. After all, you’re going to need subscribers that you can actually send it to! Before you begin your promotion, create a landing page that will live on your website. This provides one easy, central location you can direction your audience to subscribe. This will also give you the opportunity to give visitors more information on what they should expect – and even a sneak peek. Above all, you’ll be able to have insight into analytics behind the page: how many people are visiting, signing up – or dropping off before actually subscribing. This data can help shape your newsletter marketing strategy moving forward.
Once that’s all set, you’re next step is to promote it. As usual, take the opportunity to cross-promote on appropriate channels like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others. This will let your already established audience know that you have new valuable content to share with them. At SHIFT, we like to send out a weekly reminder that SHIFT Happens exists.
Part Five: Measurement
The last piece you’ll want to consider when building a newsletter is measurement. There are a number of things you can measure here: open rate, the web traffic it drives, generated leads, etc. Are people consistently reading your newsletter or are there improvements you can make to avoid having it automatically sent to the trash? Are people clicking on links in the newsletter that take them to the website?
An important step in the measurement process is to ensure that you tag all your owned content links within the newsletter. In other words, any link that leads back to your website should be tagged with UTM parameters. This will allow you to easily spot who visited your site via your newsletter within your analytics platform. Tools like Google’s URL Builder is an easy way to tag links in a matter of seconds.
As you bring all of these pieces together, your newsletter will start to take shape. Remember to keep your audience in mind as you’re essentially creating this content for them. Keep providing value in a creative, fun way, and who knows – maybe your newsletter will be taking home awards too!
Senior Marketing Analyst