In part 1, we addressed the strategy behind a solid newsletter, its title, and its content. In part 2, we'll examine the importance of creative design, printing and distribution, and which medium is best—electronic or print.
Of the many marketing communications vehicles, few have been embraced more than the newsletter.
What makes a good newsletter engaging is its design and layout. More than anything else, design is what draws in the reader. Do some research and collect as many newsletters as you can. Lay them out on a conference table and separate them into piles of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Get a mixed group of people together to examine what you like and don't like about the designs.
Make a list of the colors that appeal to you, the types of graphic treatment that work well, and the font styles you find easy to read. Keep your demographic audience in mind as you do this evaluation. If your readers include people with visual impairments or aging eyes, for example, your font size and color selection will need to accommodate that audience.
If your organization has existing brand colors, using these throughout your piece will reinforce your look. Placing your logo or name on your front cover and again on the back cover will ensure that your readers always know who sent the newsletter.
Decide whether your print edition should be in two or four colors. With today's print technology, the cost to print in full color is about the same as two colors once you reach a certain quantity. Ask your print supplier for a quote based on your quantities to see where your threshold lies. Nonprofits that worry about perceptions can include a mice-type disclaimer statement that explains the rationale for full color; it should dispel the myth that anything more than one or two colors is frivolous.
Decide on the length of your newsletter. Keep in mind that a percentage of your audience will toss it immediately, while others will scan it or read it in its entirety. To help increase your newsletter's readability, try to keep it as professional looking as possible.
- Don't skimp on design. Using a relative who has desktop publishing software is typically not your best option. The layout is best when consistent from one issue to another, with some minor modifications. This helps build your brand look.
- Don't hire a marketing professional or graphic designer until you've had an opportunity to review his/her portfolio to see whether the style is a good match. Checking references will inform you whether they meet deadlines and can understand and meet your needs.
- Don't expect the marketing professional/designer to understand what you're trying to accomplish without a complete briefing. In fact, preparing a creative brief first allows you to think through your own thoughts, too. This also helps reduce your exposure to rising costs when you later ask for revisions beyond your allocated budget.
- If you outsource directly to a designer, don't expect him/her to serve as your proofreader. If s/he finds errors and brings them to your attention, that's a bonus. It's best to have someone proofread your copy before you send it to the design stage, and again after the copy is laid out. Ideally, it's best to ask a different proofreader to review each revised version until the newsletter is ready for sign-off. After one or two rounds, it's challenging for any proofreader to be objective. If you hire a marketing consultant who handles all aspects of newsletter production, it will be his/her responsibility to ensure that your newsletter is proofread professionally.
- Try to keep your use of clip art to a minimum. It can work effectively for organizations and companies related to children and animals, but it may diminish your brand if you require a more serious, professional look. Definitely avoid using clip art that's easily available in common software programs; instead, opt for good-quality photos—either stock photos or your own.
- Don't use white reverse font on a colored background for long copy. It's hard to read for anything longer than a standout text box.
- Avoid photo collages. They're not only passé, they confuse the eye. If you want to use a small grouping, use three. Ask your designer for ideas.
- Don't work with anyone who claims to "own" the creative. Once you pay the bill, the creative belongs to you. If you ever need to find another designer, you'll have the artwork if you ask for the disks in the original software. Having a written agreement is a good safeguard.
Elaine Fogel is president and CMO of Solutions Marketing & Consulting LLC, and a marketing and branding thought leader, speaker, writer, and MarketingProfs contributor. She is the author of the Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most for Small Business Success.
LinkedIn: Elaine Fogel