I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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Choosing a newsletter format to suit

As a communications person, I do more for clients than just write. Recently, I reviewed the newsletter process for a client.

Initially, they were sending out a paper based newsletter but introduced an email version a few years ago. About a year ago, I helped them make the html (email) version shorter and more suited to emailing. The purpose of the recent review was to consider how to present their newsletter moving forward.

Here are some of the key points I considered before making a recommendation that suited the client’s needs:

  1. their subscriber list was about one third postal addresses so stopping the paper mailing wasn’t an option in the short term. The break down of the mailing list is a critical factor in such decisions
  2. the people my client sends newsletters to are literate and technology friendly so emails are acceptable, although an older sub-set still prefer paper-based communications for important news
  3. my client wanted to maintain a copy of the newsletters on the site for 2 or 3 years so we couldn’t purely do html emails in an email program (ie we had to make a version available on the website)
  4. sending an email costs a lot less – for my client, it is about $0.15 per email and $2.00 per letter, and that’s a typical price range
  5. emails and pdfs can contain hyperlinks to make the newsletter more interactive, but they are easier to insert and adjust in an email
  6. an html page can be emailed easily but doesn’t print so well, especially if you want to print to the edges of the page for a professional finish
  7. for branding, a paper/pdf newsletter must match the email version so having them designed at the same time will give the best results
  8. creating multiple pages on a site (ie one article per page) for email links is time consuming but it is difficult to direct readers directly to an article within a pdf
  9. there is software (and free to use websites) that can convert pdfs into html so creating a pdf for print and having it converted into html for emailing is an option. However, the I found the final product is not polished or professional enough for me to recommend it to a client
  10. a pdf attachment on a website is ok but sending a pdf attachment as an email newsletter is not – many spam filters will stop it, it looks messy and is larger than necessary so a pdf that can be printed, put on the site and emailed is not a solution

There is no one size fits all answer to the question of paper or html newsletter, but the above points may help you decide. What other factors do you think are important?

Timing a media release

A media release is generally an announcement of something you consider newsworthy enough the media may tell your story. So when do you tell the media?

There is no simple answer, but there are some guidelines depending on what type of release you are sending out.

If your release is announcing something that has happened (e.g. “we won an award”)

  • send it out ASAP

If your release is about an upcoming event (e.g. “our school fete is on the 9th May”)

  • don’t send it until you know all the important facts (especially dates, times and place, or the name, address and URL of a new business)
  • send it early enough for the media to use it. For example, if the local paper is printed on Tuesday don’t send the release on the Tuesday afternoon immediately before the event. Note that some media outlets have a much longer lead time than others – some magazines need things months in advance. Likewise, consider their time requirements before sending it too early – a local paper or website doesn’t need to know about a small event 3 months in advance, they’ll just forget it if you tell them too soon!
  • include a release date. That is, at the top of the media release, write “Not to be released until 1 June 2008” or similar so the media know it is advance warning

In addition, if your release is about the launch of a new website

  • don’t send the release until there is something on the website! Sending the media to  ‘coming soon’ page won’t impress them and it is less likely that they will publish your story. The site doesn’t have to be complete, but have a welcome page that introduces the business/site, some contact details and has a look that complements the final look – this is much more professional and enticing. If the site is near completion, you may even send the media a link that shows them what the site will look like even if it isn’t yet available at the final URL

If your release isn’t time critical, then you can send it at any time of course! But I would question its newsworthiness if it really has no time frame attached..

The timing doesn’t have to be hard – just use a little common sense really.

Happy writing!