The key is to plan ahead. Start a file of ideas so that you’re not trying to come up with all the material on deadline day. You can do without the stress!
Depending on your audience (staff members vs customers), you might want to include company news. If this is relevant for those reading the newsletter, then ask colleagues to keep you informed of events and photo opportunities you can cover for upcoming editions. Make sure you put these in the diary. If you can’t attend the event, ask another staff member to jot down some details and perhaps take a photo.
Events or news you could write about include: moving premises, awards for staff, company anniversaries or reunions, staff appointments or retirements (including headshots of these people is helpful), team achievements or participation in challenges, charity fundraising or volunteer work carried out by staff, the AGM, new product lines, winning new business, successfully meeting targets, productivity gains, new equipment that is making a difference, attending trade shows/expos, staff retreats, etc. And, don’t forget the chance to make people smile – you can always touch on something amusing that has happened in the office or on a staff trip (but keep it tasteful and try to avoid embarrassing anyone).
If you want to include helpful information for customers, the best thing you can do is keep up to date with what’s happening with your company’s clientele (so you know what issues are current and what matters to them) and what’s happening in your industry or profession. It is crucial to present your company as being right on top of developments, or even better, anticipating change that could affect your customers.
Where to find material?
- Talk to colleagues about issues that are affecting customers and information that might be helpful to them or other areas of interest they would like to read about;
- Brainstorm at staff meetings to get newsletter ideas;
- Read the local newspaper (and any relevant national papers, e.g. The National Business Review) and keep a clippings file;
- Ditto for industry/professional magazines or ezines;
- Spend an hour or two at the library browsing relevant books that might spark ideas for newsletter items;
- Search the internet to your heart’s content – it is a mine of information but beware of copyright;
- Look at other companies’ newsletters to see what they’re doing;
- Keep an eye (and ear) out for quotes/jokes/anecdotes that provide light relief;
- If attending any trade shows/expos/conferences (or if other staff members are) collect any written material that might prove useful and make contact with people who might write something for the newsletter;
- If you or your company belongs to a professional or trade organisation, see what material they can provide or give you permission to use;
- Stay on top of any changes to relevant laws or industry regulations and make sure you signpost (and explain) these for customers well before they come into force;
- Ask someone with expertise to write a regular column or short advice piece – or have a series of guest columnists;
- Profile a different industry/professional identity for each edition;
- Cover a topical subject by interviewing appropriate people, researching the issues and writing up your findings. It’s the best way to get original material, but will depend on how much time you’ve got.
Remember, if you do want to use material written by other people, the laws of copyright apply, so you need to get permission first. This includes material published on the internet, photographs and other creative works. Sometimes exceptions can be made for very short quotes or excerpts but you need to take care even then. (See this website for a flavour of what’s involved.)
There is always the option of rewriting information in your own words and taking your own photographs. Now, all you have to do is get started!