It's obvious but true that your newsletter can only be effective if people bother to read it. Nowadays we are all drowning in an excess of information that comes at us in all directions and in all forms so this really is the biggest obstacle you have to overcome. To persuade your audience to read what you have to say, you should follow some basic rules:
1. Know your readership
My point here is that a newsletter for internal use will not serve for external readers. The two readerships are totally different. So if you want to target both internal readers and, say, customers and clients, you need two separate newsletters. Internal clients will want to keep up to speed with company developments, know about internal opportunities and hear about company successes and the exploits of individuals. Customers and clients will want to know how your products or services can benefit them. They will also want information that shows your track record and helps position you in the sector-in other words information that builds your trustworthiness and credibility and shows the direction you are going in.
2. Attract the readership
Pay attention to the appearance of the newsletter. Give it an eye-catching and memorable title. It shouldn't be too busy or too long. Keep it clean so that the eye isn't distracted. Don't make the prose too dense. Break up the text with headings and bullet points. Where it is appropriate, use charts, graphs and diagrams as these convey information more efficiently that words.
3. Write well
Write simply but accurately. Avoid jargon but if you need to use technical terms or acronyms, ask if your readers will be able to understand them. If they can't, then explain them. Avoid clich?s because these are usually a sign that you haven't clarified what the message is. Make sure each paragraph has one sentence that summarizes the content. The example here is my first sentence: write simply but accurately.
4. Be direct
Many people fall into a rigid, formal style when they write. This isn't attractive. Address the readership directly and avoid the passive voice. Use contracted forms as you would in speech and liven up the style with rhetorical questions. Use good, strong and simple verbs (use instead of utilize, find out instead of ascertain). Don't be vague: instead of sales showed a substantial increase, say, sales rose by 15%. Cut adverbs: actually, in fact, on the whole-most adverbs are merely padding.
5. Be informative
Give your readers concrete information that that will be useful to them. Such information could be details of forthcoming events, useful websites, how-to tips.
By following these rules, you should be able to build a faithful readership-an audience that eagerly awaits the next edition of your newsletter.
Brenda Townsend Hall is a writer and trainer in the fields of communications and cross-cultural awareness. She is an associate member of the ITAP International Alliance (http://www.itapintl.com).