3 ways to improve your employee newsletter

May 11, 2010

It seems many individuals responsible for the employee newsletter struggle with the task. I say this because, by far, the post on this blog that gets the most views is the one I wrote on creating a great internal newsletter. If you’ve never created an employee newsletter, your initial hurdles include figuring out the publication’s general structure, format, distribution and how you will evaluate its effectiveness. Once you’ve made these decisions, your next challenge will be to engage employees with your content so they look forward to each issue.

Here are my top three tips:

1. Take it beyond a memo with photos – Too many employee newsletters mirror the style and content of the latest memo that came out of head office. Throw in a couple of canned quotes and a photo of the production floor, new manager, departing employee etc. and it’s a good article, right? Well, actually, it’s not. The newsletter is an opportunity to delve  deeper and to reflect the concerns, questions and commentary of the staff members who are directly affected. Remember to always write with an employee perspective in mind (what’s in it for me?). Interview employees for the story as well as middle managers and don’t limit yourself to the walls of your company. Maybe a comment or two from other companies who have gone through or done similar things might be useful in terms of providing a broader context.

You’ll need support from executive management for this to work as well as a corporate atmosphere of trust and respect. Employees are not always going to agree with changes, or they may have valid fears or concerns about company decisions. By including these comments, you strengthen the article and make it a more credible, engaging read. Employees don’t want to read articles that simply regurgitate the party line. They want to see their own thoughts and questions reflected in the content as well as responses to their concerns from the executive desk.

2. Use photos and captions wisely – Good photos are critical to the appeal of a newsletter. They serve two functions. One is to illustrate the story and the other is to entice the audience to read the article and/or caption. That means you should avoid photos of a group of employees lined up against a blank wall, ‘grip and grin’ handshake photos and shots of poor technical quality. For some great tips on making newsletter photos more enticing, see this article by Lindsay Miller on the Ragan.com website.

As for captions, avoid the old “From left: John Smith and Jane White” identifiers. The caption is your opportunity to add information to the article. Space is always at a premium so don’t waste it.  Maybe John and Jane have some provocative thoughts about the topic in your story. Why not add them to the caption? For example, “John Smith and Jane White have differing opinions about coming program changes.” This kind of caption is more likely to engage the reader, prompting him/her to want to know just what they disagree about.

3. Provide opportunities for employees to be involved – Make sure that employees have some ownership of the newsletter. You can accomplish this by providing ways for them to contribute. Newsletter polls or surveys can work well–particularly if your newsletter is on your company’s intranet. This is also a way for the organization to stay on top of employee opinion and attitudes. You can also provide employees with a way to suggest newsletter articles. Give the employee credit for the suggestion as part of the article to encourage others to make suggestions. Anything you can think of that increases input from employees will help with readership because the publication truly becomes a reflection of the kind of information employees want.

Now, over to you. What makes your employee newsletter successful? What are your newsletter struggles?


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