“I need a good tip on writing a newsletter.”
I’ve heard this more than once from clients.
Is there a magic bullet – the ONE tip – that will make or break your efforts to write a newsletter?
The answer is yes.
Your top tip on writing a newsletter is this: feature a story about a person you’re serving. Show how that person’s life is different because of your work.
In other words, make your newsletter’s centerpiece a heartfelt, moving feature article … rather than a straight-up news article.
The difference between the two types of articles is not necessarily in the subject matter, but style.
A news article presents the facts about a subject, like a breaking event, in a direct, straightforward way. The emphasis is on reporting information succinctly, accurately, and by deadline. A news article’s most common format is the inverted pyramid, which presents the most important information first. A news article reads like a report, rather than a story.
A feature article, too, presents factual information about a subject. However, a feature’s emphasis is on the human element of the story over straight reporting. As such, its format takes on storytelling techniques like a compelling lead, detailed description, and dialogue. Feature articles are usually longer than hard news articles. A feature reads like a story, rather than a report.
(Check out a list of other kinds of newsletter articles you can write, too.)
It’s true that a newsletter’s function is to report news about your organization. And yes, by all means, include a bio of the keynote speaker at your upcoming fundraiser and a brief sidebar that lists the newest board members and other similar reports. Those items are newsworthy.
But when it comes to your readers, these news stories rate
lower on the “newsworthy totem pole” than the stories about how your work is
impacting those you serve.
Readers like reading about people. Donors like reading about how their support has impacted people. Prospects are attracted to organizations that change people’s lives. And readers of all kinds secretly question organizations that exist to perpetuate the organization itself.
That’s why it’s crucial for your newsletter to lead with a compelling feature story about a person (or group of people) – one that is NOT about your organization’s inner workings, your events, your budget, your staff changes, or your schedule.
Instead, place one of your beneficiaries at the front and center. Make this person and her story into the centerpiece of your newsletter.
By all means, include straightforward news articles in other parts of your newsletter, preferably those that support or expand upon the message of the feature story.
For instance, let’s say your organization provides malaria prevention for families in remote areas. Your key feature is the story of an Indonesian family who learned about preventing malaria from your staff after losing a young child to the disease – and how that family remained malaria-free during a recent outbreak in their village. The rest of the newsletter can offer strong supporting news articles supporting that theme, like statistics about malaria incidence in Indonesia; how malaria impacts infants differently than adults; a reminder of World Malaria Day; the goals for your latest awareness campaign in southeast Asia …
You can see how the feature article about the Indonesian family will grab a reader’s interest about the impact of malaria education and pave the way for him to read the rest of the newsletter.
In your concern with content and mechanics, placement is a tip on writing a newsletter that you may overlook. Place your feature story first, ahead of others, in your online newsletter. In your print newsletter, give it the biggest headline and the most prominent physical location. Make it a dedicated page on your website. Link to it from social media.
Sounds like it’s the natural thing to do, right? But when you’re getting ready for a big event or you’re in the middle of a capital campaign, it can be tempting to write articles about those kinds of activities – the activities that consume your time and drive funding.
Don’t make that mistake. Feature a heartfelt feature article in your newsletter.
Your readers will appreciate it. And you’ll keep focused on what’s really important – the lives that are changing for the better because of your good work.
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