Of the many marketing communications vehicles available, few have been embraced more than the newsletter. For decades, recipients could bank on receiving a quarterly printed information piece in the mail—very often in two-color and understated, to make it look as if the organization or company hadn't invested too heavily in production. Many small businesses or nonprofits didn't want to look rich, and even some larger companies downplayed the look of newsletters to appear "down-to-earth" or frugal.
Today, many companies and nonprofits have jumped on the e-newsletter bandwagon with much enthusiasm, adopting it as their communication vehicle of choice. It's true that e-newsletters are more cost-effective to produce. For small businesses and nonprofits, there are no printing costs, stamps, or envelopes to stuff, and for larger companies, no mail houses to involve. Plus, it can be delivered instantly, making email a timely communication channel.
However, those who choose to use one channel exclusively over the other may not be making the best marketing decision. Let's first look at the printed newsletter from its inception, and examine objectives and content before its production and distribution.
Even though your organization may have been producing a newsletter forever, "because you've always done it that way" is not an excuse to avoid strategizing; it's worth taking the time to sit down and talk strategy. What is the purpose of your newsletter? Who is your audience? What do you hope to gain as your return on investment (ROI) from this communication piece?
In an ideal world, your organization or company should have a bona fide marketing plan and subsequent communications plan. For those with substantial budgets or marketing and communications staff, this is an important part of annual, pre-budget planning. Yet, in smaller organizations and businesses with limited or no marketing staff, developing a marketing or communications plan may seem impractical. Often, just keeping up with daily activities is enough to keep staff busy year-round.