Best Practice Tips for Company Newsletters
— July 4th, 2022
Who remembers creating their first company newsletter?
Mine was over 20 years ago and started as a simple email containing a round-up of the week. Gradually, this grew organically, developing into a best-in-class digital communications platform. It was a learning process that equipped me well for the future.
With research from Gallup showing that almost three-quarters (74%) of employees feel like they’re missing out on company information and news, maybe it’s a good time to review your company newsletter to ensure that you’re engaging your employees in the best way.
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Here are some best practice tips that I learned along the way.
Define Your Channel Strategy
Start by defining the reason for creating the newsletter.
- What is its purpose? It could be to share company information, engage your colleagues with different areas of the business, showcase company culture, or a mix of these and other subjects?
- How does it align with other communications channels? Avoid duplicating messages that colleagues receive from other sources. If your purpose is to embed certain messages, then look for different angles and perspectives so that you retain interest. Repetition of the same messages will encourage people to switch off or avoid opening the newsletter.
- How will you publish it? Will your newsletter be proactively driven via email, or will it sit on a website waiting for people to visit? How will you alert your employees to new editions?
- Have you determined the best time and day of the week to publish?There is no right answer here. Depending on which research you read, you will probably find a reason to publish or not to publish virtually every day of the week. Interestingly, there is no definitive data for internal communications newsletters, with most ICs relying on marketing statistics for the best open rates. My view? If in doubt, ask your people. Most advice will suggest that the worst time to send an email newsletter to employees is on a Friday afternoon or Monday morning. However, one of my audiences specifically requested their newsletters at 3.00 pm on a Friday. Not only did this mean that they knew when to look out for it, but it also gave them time to plan any requirements for the following week.
- What about frequency? Again, this will depend on your content. Weekly or biweekly is probably the most common. It’s that fine balance between frequency and overkill. I usually find that weekly enables a timely and relatively easy consumable amount of content.
Your answers to these questions will provide your guiding principles.
Then think about your audience.
Know Your Audience
- Who is your audience for the newsletter? Will you be creating the content so that it’s relevant to everyone in your company, a specific function/project, or all of these? Think about how you might segment your audience so that they receive relevant information based on their function and/or role.
- Ask for feedback. As ICs we understand the importance of engaging our audience. Ask them how they feel about the channel/new channel and how they will use it. Once a newsletter is launched it takes time and effort to maintain the content and quality. There is no point in creating a new channel if employees won’t use it. Why not test some different options and engage the audience by asking them to vote on their preference?
- Ask for input. It’s also important to involve your people in sharing what they’d like to hear about. As well as seeking engagement with your content plan, you may also receive some additional nuggets of content for inclusion.
Finally, ask your people how they would like to receive the newsletter. For instance, if your audience is likely to read it on a phone, then consider how you might make it mobile-friendly—your web team will be able to help with this.
Agree Your Content Strategy
Next up, it’s time to agree your content strategy. Here’s a list of some of the things you can include, as well as taking into consideration anything that has been requested by your audience.
- View from the CEO/Executive Team
- Business Results
- Competitor News
- Big wins/achievements
- New Product updates
- Recognition. You could tie this into a demonstration of living your values
- D&Iincluding cultural celebrations. You could theme the newsletter around the event and include guest contributors from various D&I groups
- Opportunities to get involved such as training, volunteering, ambassador groups
- Welcome new joiners and celebrate key milestones such as promotion, long service, and retirement
- Q&A section or ‘Ask the Board’
You could also consider inviting employees to guest edit from time to time
Now you’ve agreed your strategy and content you can get creative.
Creating Your Newsletter
- Create a brand for your newsletter (linked to your audience and/or organization). Where brand guidelines permit, think about a catchy name and design a header/style that makes it immediately identifiable. Why not create a competition and ask your employees to name it?
- Contents List. Include a boxed-out Content List upfront with links to each area. This will enable people to go straight to their areas of interest without wasting time scrolling through other content.
- Signpost actions. You may find it helpful to signpost content according to the action required. For instance, a simple color code to signal action, information and interest will enable people to prioritize their reading.
- Less is more. In terms of style, think about what would entice you to continue reading. Use catchy headlines and a style that is short and punchy. Tell engaging stories. You can always include links to video/audio and other channels to obtain further information.
- People love to see people. Pepper your newsletter with articles about colleagues, and include pictures, sound bites and videos. It is so easy to record content on mobiles.
- Engage with your audience. We’re all so used to social media, how can you replicate it within your newsletter? Include comments boxes, and emojis/GIFs for your people to share immediate reactions (it’s also a great measure for your content!)
- Create an archive. How often have you read something interesting and then can’t find it when you need it? Creating a searchable archive link will help colleagues quickly refer to previous articles and news
- Feedback button. As ICs we’re always looking at ways to improve and develop our comms. You could introduce a feedback button in two ways. One could include a ‘happy/sad face or thumbs up/thumbs down’ emoji to get an instant gauge on what your audience thought of a specific article or newsletter. In addition, free text boxes would allow your audience to share their thoughts on what they like and what they’d like to see in the future.
Finally, we need to be able to show some evidence of engagement with the newsletter.
At this point, I’m taking you back right to where I started, with my first newsletter. My only form of measurement back then was to receipt the email to see how many of my colleagues had opened it, supported by any feedback that I received.
Fortunately, today’s measurement is much more sophisticated. Software platforms record things such as the number of newsletters opened, click-throughs to links, time on certain pages, preferred pages, and the number of visits.
Some platforms, such as Poppulo, will support this with sophisticated dashboards not only enabling you to constantly finetune and improve both your reach and your engagement but also to support your business case for further development in terms of ROI.