'25 Random Things' Is No Way To Write A Newsletter

Email newsletters can be a powerful tool for marketers, supporting customer relationships, boosting loyalty, and driving engagement. What a shame, then, to waste the space with content that hasn't been strategically planned. I get some e-newsletters that are so full of unrelated articles that I have no idea how I'm supposed to consume the news therein. Let's leave the 25 Random Things to our Facebook friends and create optimized newsletters instead.


Set a Rational Production Schedule

Scrambled, ad-hoc content is often the result of overestimating your ability to create and produce e-newsletters on a regular basis - "All the news that fits, we print." The first rule is to find a schedule of publication you can stick to. Many companies just don't have enough news, or staff with the knowledge and creativity to ferret out interesting stories, to fill a weekly or even monthly newsletter. Set a schedule you know you can keep, even if it's only quarterly or semiannually, so you don't disappoint subscribers who are expecting to hear from you. If you ramp up well and get a process going that supports more frequent publication, you can always introduce that later as a benefit to readers.



Name That Newsletter

Sure, you can call your publication "Company Name Newsletter." Thousands do. But naming a publication should be an exercise in branding. No doubt you've selected a design and graphics that complement your brand. Now take some time to come up with a harmonized title and tagline, to set the tone and shape reader expectations. Here are some creative e-newsletter names that might stimulate your thinking:


  • The Hive (Burt's Bees)
  • Beauty Insider (Sephora)
  • Letter from Vermont (Christopher Kimball of America's Test Kitchen)
  • The Neighborhood (ServiceMagic)
  • HP Newsgram (Hewlett-Packard)
  • Digits (H&R Block)


    Don't be afraid to be idiosyncratic. Sometimes those are the names that stand out the best.

    Plan the Content Around a Theme

    Achieving the ideal flow of articles in a newsletter is harder than it looks. Plus, with today's consumers so overwhelmed with media impressions, it will make your life and theirs much easier if you write each newsletter around a theme.

    Start by making up an editorial calendar that lists the categories of items you will publish in each issue (main article, product focus, events, testimonials, etc.); draft a general theme or concept for each issue; and then brainstorm ways to talk about your products, services and industry that work with the theme. It doesn't have to be perfect, but writing to a theme will grease the wheels of production in a number of ways.

    Think of how customers interact with your brand, and isolate themes around the uses of your products, the benefits of your services, or how your brand fits into the subscribers' work or lifestyle. You can use seasonal themes if they can be tied logically to your brand, or themes related to what's going on in the world at large: Tax Time, Fourth of July, Back to School. Internally, look at R&D, planned product promotions, PR calendars, and advertising schedules to find tie-ins for your e-newsletter.

    Write Subject Lines That Drive Opens

    Email subject lines are analogous to the promotional writing on the outside of a DR envelope. So why are half the e-newsletters I receive announced with one of the following worn-out subject lines? --- "Our Company Newsletter for April" or the perennial "Welcome to Your April Newsletter."

    Please give your readers a reason to open your newsletter! If you have themed your content, the subject line will write itself. Here are some actual subject lines that caught my interest:


  • Tips and Tricks to Cruise on a Budget
  • Celebrate Whisky Month in Scotland
  • Save money at tax time and all year round
  • Lower your energy bills, fight indoor air pollution
  • TripAdvisor's Dirtiest Hotels of 2009!


    So strategic planning, a branded name, themed content and meaty subject lines will give your e-newsletters vitality. Together these elements make up an integrated marketing approach that boosts your brand and assists the reader to absorb the key messages faster -- a good thing in this day and age.

  • 3 comments about "'25 Random Things' Is No Way To Write A Newsletter ".
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    1. Cat Wagman from Working Words, Inc., March 16, 2009 at 3:55 p.m.

      Hello, Cynthia! Thank you for your suggestions concerning newsletters, and in particular -(Cat stepping up on her soapbox) - the effective use of the Subject Line as a marketing tool ... connecting the company NAME with the [newsletter] topic at hand. - (Cat stepping down)

      And thank you, too, Paula, for your insights on frequency, with the maximum being every 8 weeks.

      In reference to themes, one of my friends, Heidi Richards Mooney, just published an ebook, the 2009 Edition of Quirky Marketing Calendar eBook! -- 365 Ways to Promote Your Business Using Zany and Non-Traditional Holidays Throughout the Year

      ... that you might like to check out for inspiration, too.

    2. Cynthia Edwards from Razorfish, March 17, 2009 at 1:17 p.m.

      Hi everyone -thanks for all your thoughtful comments. Let me clarify that I do not *recommend* that companies issue newsletters quarterly -- I was using a little hyperbole to get readers to slow down and think. I have seen so many companies decide to issue a monthly newsletter only to fail miserably at keeping up the schedule, causing widespread cynicism internally and externally.

      Also, the cadence will be different for large retailers, B2Bs, and small non-profits. My comments were written for a very general audience. The principle stands ... only start a newsletter if you can keep it up!

    3. Peter Kawerau-barich from Creative Intelligence, March 26, 2009 at 11:54 p.m.

      Okay, I subscribe to way too many things and read most newsletters a bit late. Which is what I've just done with yours. However just wanted to share a subject line with you from an email one of my colleagues received yesterday.

      It's not a newsletter subject line, so probably shouldn't be in this post, but it's a beauty! It's for Fashion Weekend in Sydney:

      "Alex Perry, Marnie Skillings and Manning Cartell on the Fashion Weekend Catwalk. book your ticket now for Dermalogica gift"

      I've never seen a longer subject line in a marketing email. In fact the only longer subject line I've ever seen is in my Aunt Martha's emails. But then she writes the whole email in the subject line..

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