Practicalities – Start by asking a few questions
- Start with aims and objectives, as you would when assessing all communication tools
- What are you trying to achieve?
- Is a newsletter the right tool for meeting these aims?
- Would another tool be more appropriate? E.g. Regular face to face meetings, social media, blogs, your website, intranet, conference calls, staff briefings etc.
- Think about your audience
- Who are your audiences? Internal vs External
- Is a newsletter the best way to reach your intended audience?
- Do they have access to computers/ internet/ mobile devices etc.?
- Have you asked them if this is what they want/ need?
- What do you want the newsletter to do?
- Administrative vs inspirational – you can also combine the two
- Informative/business critical/consultative
- Community building/ staff engagement/ celebrating success
- Helping to bridge information gap between senior managers and staff
- Sales/marketing tools (encourage people to attend events/ take part in clinical trials, make donations etc.
- Communicate your impact, raise awareness about research, drive traffic back to your website
- Think about the resources that will be needed
- Do you have enough time to create a weekly/monthly newsletter?
- Do you have a budget (for training, software, printing and mailing costs etc.)?
- Do you have enough content to maintain a weekly/monthly newsletter? Is the content time sensitive? Map out the first 6 months before starting
- Do you have the software/design skills to make it look good?
- What format will your newsletter have?
- Print vs electronic
- We tend to think that electronic communications is the only way to go, but not necessarily – people are experiencing e-overload, so print may stand out more, it’s easier to read, usually better designed, has lasting value, better for long form journalism, carries more weight, can give it out at events, gives more of a sense of legitimacy
- Some departments choose to use regular e-newsletter for administrative purposes and less frequent print newsletters for more inspirational/community building/celebratory content
- If e-newsletters, have you considered…?
- Using e-newsletters is not without risk (data protection, liability issues, opt in, opt out option etc.)
- There are alternatives available (Outlook templates, simple HTML, digests, etc.)
- Software/skills needed to produce printed newsletter
Best practice guide for e-newsletters
- Send at the same time/day each week/month
- This way users will know when to expect it (especially important if newsletter is being used to deliver business critical issues)
- And contributors will know when copy deadline is
- Stick to the schedule
- Content is key
- Scannable content is particularly useful if you have a lot of information to convey (e.g. headlines only). Readers often just skim the content only
- Vary the length and type of articles – interviews/ day in the life, event listings/ digests
- Use images, photos, graphs etc. – although a plain unformatted message might be more suitable
- Footer is important (include unsubscribe link if external)
- Consistent design
- So users know where to look for content, don’t make them relearn where to find content each time (similar to website navigation)
- Check how your e-newsletter looks on all devices and platforms
- Uncluttered design
- Apply standard journalistic practice (even in internal newsletter)
- Timely, relevant content
- Edit appropriately (keep your aims in mind while you are doing this – if the newsletter is about disseminating business critical info, don’t include ‘villa for rent’ adverts!)
- Don’t use jargon, avoid abbreviations (even internally people might not know what it all means)
- Use clear and concise language. Use the active rather than the passive voice, Say ‘Angela Vincent won the British Neuroscience Association Award’ rather than ‘The British Neuroscience Association Award has been won by Angela Vincent’
- Try and use consistent date/ time formats throughout
- How can it stand out from the noise in the inbox
- Test all the links
- Even if people have sent you information for inclusion, their URLs may not be correct, so do check them all, and test your newsletter before you send it out. Otherwise people will stop trusting you!
- Archive back issues
- Consider saving e-newsletters and uploading them to your website or intranet. You could also put pdfs of printed newsletters online, for archive purposes.
- Evaluate, re-evaluate, and evaluate again
- Check click-through stats, which content is read, which isn’t
- Survey readers, and don’t be afraid to ask people for anecdotal evidence too
Using e-newsletter software Adestra
The central University and the Medical Sciences Division separately have contracts with Adestra, a professional e-newsletter software provider Upland Adestra, and endorse its use for internal and external communications.
This software will:
- Ensure that newsletters are professionally presented, legible on various devices and email clients
- Allow departments and units to assess the impact of their communications and adjust them accordingly
- Ensure that regulations concerning sending newsletters including opt-out, sign up and data protection are respected
- Integrate with information on websites and simplify the process of compiling and creating newsletters
If you are in Medical Sciences and are interested in using Adestra, please read
All other staff interested in using Adestra should refer to the preferred suppliers list on the Purchasing website for details. Please contact John Robbins in the Purchasing team or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.