How to write engaging newsletter articles in 7 easy steps

April 27, 2010 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: How-to Guides 

write newsletter articlesWhen I recently asked for guest post submissions, I had no idea what I’d get. Well, what I got was nothing short of amazing.

It appears that I have some incredibly smart readers with plenty of know-how to share.

So I’m delighted to introduce my very first guest blog post, written by Sally Bagshaw, a writer and editor extraordinaire from the land down under (Brisbane, Australia).

***

Corporate newsletters are an important tool to communicate with employees, clients, prospects, or suppliers. But like blogging, newsletters can become a victim of not enough time, not enough material to work from, or not enough inspiration.

What starts out as a regular, engaging and proactive tool slowly degrades into a half-baked email sent out once every blue moon. Subscribers slip away, employees disengage, and an important communication opportunity vanishes.

So what do you do? How do you come up with and write newsletter articles that are interesting?

Follow these seven simple steps and you’ll soon be back on track:

1. Know your audience

Even if it’s an internal newsletter for employees, don’t overlook the importance of understanding their problems, their motives and what they are interested in. If you are able to speak to them in their language, your internal communication efforts will become a whole lot easier.

2. Have a strong, newsworthy angle

Newsletters are meant to cover news. It’s that simple. And each article should have an angle that is reflected in the headline, lead and quote.

To make sure your angle is newsworthy, see if it covers one (or more) of the following news elements:

Timeliness — did it happen recently?

Proximity — did it happen close by to you or your readers?

Prominence — was someone important involved (a celebrity or a leader in your organisation)?

Consequence — did it have a big impact (this can also mean big in monetary terms)?

Human Interest — was it about someone who your audience would be interested in?

Novelty — was it quirky or out of the ordinary?

Progress — did it have to do with innovation or development?

If you can’t tick one of these elements off the list, re-visit your angle and tweak it.
Also have a think about the 5Ws and H (who, what, when, where, why and how) of your story. It will make it easier for you to write the article.

3. Write a killer headline

Headlines are just as important for newsletter articles as they are for media releases, direct mail, and blog posts. Keep your headline short, written in the active voice, and make sure it contains a strong verb.

If you get really stuck, try who > strong verb> what.

4. Follow it with a powerful lead

Your lead (the first paragraph) should cover as many of the 5Ws and H as possible. Write in the active voice and check to make sure you are staying true to your angle. The lead needs to hook your reader into reading the whole article, so don’t be afraid to put the most interesting information up front – don’t bury it further down the page.

5. Build your angle with a quote

A quote can add interest to your article and show the ‘human element’ in the story. Don’t waste your quote on trivial information such as times or dates. Instead use it to show opinion, observation and impact.

6. Use an image to create interest

People love pictures. Think outside the square and show off your employees, products, even premises in a different way – as long as it supports your angle.

7. Finish your article with a call to action

Like any marketing material, newsletter articles should have a call to action. Obviously you may not be calling for the reader to buy something, but don’t leave them hanging there with no direction on what to do next (after all, you’ve written such a motivating article, they are going to want to do something).

Think along the lines of:

  • download the latest policy from the intranet
  • register for training
  • request the latest product brochure
  • book a demonstration
  • email the project coordinator
  • complete the satisfaction survey
  • … you get the idea.

So that’s it. You are now prepared for your next newsletter. Don’t be afraid, focus on your angle and the rest will fall into place.

Good luck!

Sally Bagshaw is a web copywriter and content strategist with a special knack for finding the best angle for newsletter articles. Visit her website at www.snappysentences.com.

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Smart Comments

10 Comments on How to write engaging newsletter articles in 7 easy steps

  1. Chris Mower on Apr 27th, 2010 10:44 am
  2. Hi Sally, this is a great post. The best newsletters I’ve read are the ones that the writer uses their own voice and reports their information from a valid, yet unique angle.

    I also think that too many writers remember their audience when they first get started but soon forget about them. Instead, they begin writing about what interests them as a writer. If the writer is part of the intended audience, it can help, but more often than not, they miss the mark when they do that.

    I look forward to more of your posts. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire on Apr 27th, 2010 2:28 pm
  4. Great post Sally. I use this same tips as well, when I write my own articles and posts. I would like to add one more, however:

    I think that it is critical to entertain as well. Although you may have the best information in the world in your post, if the audience is not also entertained they may leave.

    People don’t like to be told that they are making a mistake, especially if they are entrepreneurs. If you put a lesson or news story in an entertaining light, maybe even using self-depricating humor, it can go a long way to maintaining a long-term readership and customer base.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  5. Bill Harper on Apr 27th, 2010 8:22 pm
  6. Great article, Sally. A couple of points:
    - Make sure it isn’t too “dry”. I’m with Joshua here–a little humour can go a long way to keeping your readers.
    - When it comes to the picture, stay away from the standard corporate shots–grip ‘n’ grin, sitting at the desk, sitting in front of the computer, etc.

    Bill.

  7. Suzie on Apr 27th, 2010 8:23 pm
  8. This is a great post. I’m going to keep it for reference, I’m struggling to get back to my newsletters and I know they’re important.

  9. Sally Bagshaw on Apr 28th, 2010 5:29 pm
  10. Wow, thanks guys. And thank you Dean for publishing my post.

    @Chris – It is tricky coming up with that unique angle every single time, especially if it’s a topic that has been well reported on already. Do you have any tips you’d like to share?

    @Joshua and @Bill – Yes! Entertain them. Audience appropriate of course. And the pictures have to involve action. I recently did a workshop for a team who worked in procurement – not an area that you’d think would have great pictures to use. But they buy really cool machinery for mines. So they had some GREAT action shots.

    @Suzie – See if you can map out article ideas in advance around relevant events in your industry. Then you always have a starting point.

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  11. Matthew Needham on Apr 29th, 2010 5:31 pm
  12. Useful tips here Sally, thanks for these. I don’t always include a call to action, I always think it’s obvious, but what’s obvious to me doesn’t mean it is to everyone, so I’ll take this forward. Thanks.

  13. Sally Bagshaw on Apr 29th, 2010 10:56 pm
  14. @Matthew
    It’s easy to forget about a call to action on non-sales copy. But my point of view is you’ve gone to so much trouble to write an engaging piece of content, that you still should give direction to the reader on what to do next.

    An up-side of this is when the time comes to include a sales driven call to action, your readers are already used to following your instructions.

  15. Solomon on May 3rd, 2010 9:21 am
  16. It’s a great article – well written and to the point! I agree with Joshua … that a news letter (a post) of a company should entertain us. I think the headline itself should be spicy or quirky to tease the audience.

    I think we need to go off tangentially in coining a tangy headline… probably from there everything will fall in place.

    I never wrote a newsletter though … but really like to read something which really entertains me, teases me and surprises me…. and at last leaves me gasping for more :-) ! Like how Dean and James do!

    This one you wrote here is cool too! Wanna read more of them here!
    Thanks to Dean for this wonderful blog which is so so helpful!