Putting Together the Pieces of a Community Newsletter

Skitch's newsletter. Simple and community-friendly (via Creative Commons).
Skitch’s newsletter: Simple and community-friendly (via Creative Commons).

I started to put together my first ever community newsletter back in March, and I never expected the process to be as involved and time consuming as it has been.  It’s taken us 2 months to finally hit the send button! However, working on this project has made me realize that almost all community managers would benefit from creating a community-centric newsletter that engages users deeply with the human aspect of what they’re doing while also delivering best practices straight to their inbox. It’s a great way to train your members how to be the best by showcasing the best.

Pulling it together was the hard part, so I wanted to share a basic outline of what we did over the last 2 months.

  1. Made clear goals for the newsletter. Ours were four-fold: to recognize top talent, share important updates, encourage referrals, and open new conversations.
  2. Decided which features we could re-purpose each month with these goals in mind (i.e. definitions of key terms, employee spotlight, Google Hangout invitations and YouTube videos, social follow buttons, etc.)
  3. Created a quick template. We use MailChimp, but there are other services like Constant Contact that can do this too, and it’s either free or cheap to do so.
  4. Start writing the content. This is easy if you know what your goals are. Word to the wise: create templates for everything so once the parts are in place, you can plug them in month after month. For instance, our employee spotlight will always ask the same 5 questions.
  5. Create big visual displays. Take photos with a powerful camera, edit them, make them big and engaging. The new Google+ photo editor lets you enhance lower quality images and create memes, which is crazy amazing.
  6. Decide who to send it to. Maybe you want to segment the newsletter to certain key people, maybe you don’t.
  7. Edit, edit, edit, and refine. Have someone not connected to the product edit it. Make sure the newsletter can also be read on mobile. If you want, you can drive traffic back to your blog or company site by first writing this content there and then just linking it. Easy peasy.
  8. Press send. Post it to your social channels. Encourage further discussion and get feedback from readers by simply asking them, “Was this helpful? How can we help you more?”

After all, that’s always what you should be asking: “How can we help you?”

Have any newsletter tips and tricks to share? Software you really like using? Time-saving tips? Awesome examples? Share here!

Check out more of what is inspiring me on this journey here. I’ll keep adding to this over time, so also feel free to follow me on Scoop.it: http://www.scoop.it/t/building-a-community-newsletter.

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