An electronic newsletter, or e‑newsletter, can be an effective way to communicate what your organisation is doing and keep people who are interested in your work informed.

You can also use it as a marketing tool, giving useful information to the reader while indirectly promoting your services.

The content you select and how you structure it is crucial to the e‑newsletter’s success.

Getting started

  • Be prepared to put in the planning, time and energy so that you avoid producing an e‑newsletter that becomes irregular and then stops after a few issues. The professional image of your organisation is at stake.
  • Keep the content concise, relevant and timely, with one specific theme for each edition.
  • Include information that your readers will value and pass on to others. Be wary of publishing controversial topics or views that could offend your readers.
  • Write for your readers – not for you or your organisation.
  • Develop a unique voice with a friendly, informal tone. Use humour – people like to have fun.
  • Avoid too many graphics and images – not everyone has broadband. Resize images for the web.
  • Be clear as to whether your articles can be freely reproduced.

Make it easy to read

  • If it’s not easy to read, people won’t bother.
  • Choose a simple design style and stick to it.
  • Keep the introduction short – most people won’t read it.
  • Use lots of white space to draw the eye to the text.
  • Include a hyperlinked contents list at the top so that readers can jump straight to an article of interest.
  • Give each article a meaningful title so that people know what it’s about without having to read the article.
  • Use numbered or bulleted lists to aid scanning.
  • Keep your articles short. Link to your website for more information.
  • Keep your sentences and paragraphs shorter than you would in a written document.
  • Keep ideas simple and clear.
  • Don’t try to cover too much ground in a short article. Keep it to 1 or 2 points and give specific information about these points.
  • Use plain language and check your grammar and spelling.

Content ideas

  • Know who your readers are and think about what’s relevant to them.
  • Keep an ideas file – so you don’t run out.
  • Give tips and short how‑to articles.
  • Using titbits like quotes, links to interesting websites, and jokes can make the e‑newsletter fun, and are more likely to get forwarded by your readers.
  • Interview someone of interest to your readers.
  • Include articles sent in by your readers or other contributors occasionally, keeping in mind that the content must be relevant to the reader.
  • Recycle and refresh an old article, or give an update. Some topics are timeless and worth the reminder.

Distributing your e‑newsletter

  • Be consistent with your frequency. If it is a weekly newsletter, make sure you send it once a week and on the same day of the week.
  • Send it via email as plain text or html, not as an attachment.
  • Personalise it (e.g. Dear Jill…). If you’re not using a specialised newsletter application such as MailChimp (it’s free), you can use the mail‑merge function of MS‑Word to merge your e‑newsletter with a list of email addresses from, for example, MS‑Excel. You can do this using plain-text or html files.
  • Include the theme in the email subject line.
  • Include the edition and/or volume number in the email subject line – some readers may want to file them for later reference.
  • Some organisations will host your database and distribute your e‑newsletter for you.

Subscribing and unsubscribing

Make your reader feel like they are in control of receiving and reading your e‑newsletter.

  • Make it easy for people to subscribe and unsubscribe. One click should be all that is needed to unsubscribe. Frustrated subscribers are unlikely to return.
  • Ask people for feedback and newsletter ideas. Give a contact email address at the bottom of the e‑newsletter. Always respond quickly to feedback.
  • Keep your list of subscribers confidential.