Quick thoughts about e-newsletters

July 9, 2013

Filed under: Communications — jonathanpoisner @ 4:10 pm

Because I try to stay in close touch with both current and former clients, I subscribe to a large volume of e-newsletters from nonprofit organizations.

There are a lot of great ones.  But I also see clients repeatedly issue newsletters that violate some of what I believe are best practices.

Here’s five examples of mistakes I see being made on a regular basis.

1. Writing with a neutral tone.

Your donors/volunteers should be superheros.   Unfortunately, many e-newsletter writers received graduate training in public policy or other fields that train you to write neutrally.  Neutrality is not your friend in enlisting others to support your cause.

2. Writing to be read, not scanned.

The vast majority of your readers will scan your content, not read it.  Think Huffington Post, not New York Times.  Someone scanning your e-newsletter should get the essential story from the headlines/photos without having to read the full text.   Before issuing the e-newsletter, look at it without the text and ask: what would my reader come away with?  If nothing valuable, then work harder on your headlines and photos/captions.

3. Writing about process, not the ultimate goal of the organization.

Particularly with advocacy nonprofits, fights over process tend to absorb significant time.  Those in the middle of those fights often become passionate about them and falsely assume their donors/supporters will share that passion.  In reality, donors/supporters are almost always focused on the end goal/mission the nonprofit is trying to achieve.  Avoid process stories.

4. Pictures that don’t connect

Pictures are good, but not all pictures help.  Given how people are reading e-newsletters (many on mobile devices), focus on pictures where you have just one or two people and you should be able to see their eyes (and hopefully they’re smiles if appropriate).  Pictures of large groups where you can’t see anyone aren’t as effective in my opinion.

5.  Long sentences with parenthetical clauses

Many of us in college learned to write complex sentences that embody multiple ideas and show the relationship between those ideas.  These are almost always a bad idea in an e-newsletter.  My rule of thumb: if it can be broken into two separate short sentences, do it.

Let me know what other mistakes you see and think should be avoided?  I’ll cover them in a future blog entry.


Be Sociable, Share!

No Comments »

No comments yet.

Leave a comment

Content © Copyright 2010-2013 • Jonathan Poisner Strategic Consulting LLC. All rights reserved.