I got quite irritated this week when someone dismissively described what internal communications practitioners do as being “just about newsletters”.
It’s not that I have a problem with newsletters themselves. In fact I’ve added our ten top tips on creating newsletters at the bottom of this post. No, I genuinely believe newsletters can – and do – play a vital part of the communications channel mix. It’s what lies behind the sentiment that bugs me.
There is an implication that the IC practitioner as newsletter “owner” has an inherently tactical view of the world. This IC practitioner is apparently not able to understand the bigger picture, or provide strategic counsel to senior leaders. For me it’s like suggesting all PR practitioners really do is write press releases.
Which is frankly absolute rubbish.
Yes as a profession we have our fair share of channel managers. But I would argue that this is an essential part of the core skills you develop as you progress. Understanding the channels is simply part of the learning curve, the apprenticeship if you like, all practitioners must go through.
As I’ve stated before the economic downturn has presented an opportunity for our profession to enhance its standing with senior leaders. And yet , from what I can see, the reputation of our industry remains in the balance. I, for one, would like our profession to work more effectively to address this issue. Bodies like the CIPR, IoIC, IABC, Melcrum, etc all have their part to play.
Senior communications practitioners can – and do – add value to their organisations. We are just really bad at communicating that to the people that matter. There’s an irony there somewhere…
(And as promised… here are our ten top tips for newsletters…)
1. The newsletter should not just be used as a single communications channel in its own right. It should be an access point to different channels/media/content eg. via social media, intranets, videos, etc.
2. The purpose of the newsletter needs to be established – is it an information update? Is it part of a broader piece of communication or engagement activity?
3. The classic newsletter is a top down push of information from the corporate centre… in our view it’s important that it becomes a broader conversation. The newsletter needs to reflect the content and the sentiment of its key audiences. Establishing that as a principle at the beginning is key.
4. So, we would therefore recommend involving people from across the organisation. Establish a rolling editorial panel of employees. The content needs to reflect what’s really going on, it needs to be fresh and engaging. It will mean that people are more likely to read and respond to the content.
5. Ensure that the tone and style presents the content in the best possible light. Yes, it should probably reflect the norms of the organisation but in our view you can’t go far wrong if you follow the lines of a magazine/newspaper (tabloid) article, involving as many images and quotes as possible… and going light on the technical jargon.
6. Think about distribution – is there an employee-base of remote workers (employees who work off-site, in a factory, driving, etc) who do not have access to a desk-top PC that need to be involved? Will you need to distribute hard copies? Will you need to design another ‘printable’ version, that can be handed out or pinned up?
7. It’s important to get feedback, so consider techniques which will make engagement easier to measure like rating the content, feedback to the editor (or maybe even have a regular survey after the newsletter has been published).
8. Ensure content is meaningful – balance out corporate messages and high level strategic info, new products and services with people-stories and external news.
9. As with any other source of news, a summary (teaser statement) to introduce the article is sufficient with a click-through to content option (only for html).
10. Name and masthead should clearly reflect brand look and feel – but it also needs to be as human as possible, with images of real people, even if the content is very business-focused, it can be a real person delivering it.