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Should you have a newsletter?

By: Robert F. Abbott

Robert F. Abbott founded The Newsletter Company in 1991, and since then has published custom newsletters for clients in a range of industries. He also wrote the breakthrough book, A Manager's Guide to Newsletters: Communicating for Results and publishes a free online newsletter that explores organizational communication.

The first decision

Should you have a newsletter? Or would some other medium make more sense?

Organizations large and small, from local associations to multi-national corporation use newsletters these days. They're certainly popular.

But, is this the most effective medium for the communication challenge you face? Find out with this simple, painless quiz. Simply answer YES or NO to each of the five questions.


Expectations: Do stakeholders expect you to communicate with them regularly ? Do they expect to be informed about events and changing processes that affect them? For example, employees who add value through knowledge or skills expect more communication than people who supply physical labor.

Audience: Is the audience for your message well defined, and relatively small? In other words do you have a message for a niche audience, rather than a general audience? For example, political parties uses newsletters to communicate with just party members, and newspaper ads to reach the whole electorate.

Complexity: Is your message too complicated for a radio, TV, or newspaper ad? For example, if you¹re selling an established, well-known product, a magazine ad might be best. On the other hand, a new, technologically sophisticated product could explain much more in a newsletter.

Internal development: Do you want to improve the communication skills among your staff or members? For example, a newsletter can be published in-house, allowing the development of skills over time, while mass media advertising should be left to professionals.

Control: Is control of content, timing, or context important? Newsletters generally offer more control than other mass media. For example, a newsletter lets you decide when a subject is raised and how it is treated, while getting a story into the mass media only gives you an opportunity to raise the subject; after that it's out of your hands. 


A newsletter makes sense if you answered YES to at least one of these questions, and the practicality increases with each positive response. Few organizations, though, will answer YES to all five questions.

Next, consider all the media possibilities. They include radio, TV, and newspaper ads, and media relations (including Letters to the Editor and making suggestions to reporters and editors).

Finally, consider the results of your quiz in terms of the broader media spectrum. If it still seems like a good idea, then it's time to get to work on your newsletter!

© Copyright 2000 Robert F. Abbott. All rights reserved.

Books by Robert F. Abbott

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The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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