Make them interesting – encourage feedback and contributions
Producing your own newsletter for the local community is an excellent way of giving information, building an image of friendliness and trust, canvassing opinions (and being seen to do so), and advertising your own services. Follow the basic rules of AIDA, concentrating on the first two issues of Attention and Interest, unless you seek a direct response. Modern computer desk-top publishing programmes make it very easy to put together a respectable news-sheet to begin with. If possible, when you are committed to the concept and wish to increase scale, get some professional design input for the general layout, graphics and banner artwork.
Invite contributions from your readers; a letters section is a good way to fill space and make the readers feel more involved. Especially invite comment about the format and content of the newsletter itself, which will help to convince you how and whether to continue publishing future issues.
Commit to a frequency and size that you can sustain
If you can only manage one every three months so be it. Don’t promise a monthly and then fail to get the next editions out on time, which would rather defeat the object of building your image. Start off with a single page, and allow it to increase in size if you see positive reasons for doing so. Start by piloting just a few copies, perhaps just a few hundred, and increase the distribution as you refine it.
Adopt a format and styling that is fit-for-purpose
Basic rules of advertising production apply. Keep it simple, easy to read, and avoid anything off-the-wall or extravagant. Use a format that is cost-effective and amenable to your method of distribution (think about rack dispensing, inserts, door-to-door, etc).
Include photographs and details of your staff
If your newsletter allows inclusion of photographs, pictures of customers and other people will help bring it to life. Publishing pictures of staff is also motivational.
Include positive and happy stories
Keep the content up-beat, optimistic and positive. You can’t distort facts of course but you do have some licence to present issues in a way that will reflect as favourably as possible on your business and your people.
Make one person responsible or appoint an agency
Often the most difficult challenge in producing a newsletter is sustaining it. It is extremely difficult to collect good ideas and news for content, and if there is not a clear point of responsibility with schedules and deadlines the whole exercise will end up being rushed, perhaps late or incomplete, with the result that it has a poor effect on staff and readers alike.
A marketing or PR agency will take on the job for you at a price, but even with expensive production support, getting the raw material is still the most difficult part of the process, and needs firm planning and monitoring.
Maintain a consistent design
Consistency of appearance is essential to build recognition, awareness and positive association with your business. Don’t compromise on corporate colours, quality of artwork and logos, and typestyles, even the type of paper you use should not be changed without proper reasons.
Relate the news to your customers and their community
Keep in mind all the time who your audience is, and assess the content to make sure it is relevant, and presented in a way that your readers will want to read it. It may be possible for you to recover some of the cost of the newsletter by selling some advertising space, but be careful about the type of suppliers you include so as to avoid detracting from the image you are presenting.