Posts Tagged ‘employee newsletters’

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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Tips for creating a great internal newsletter

January 21, 2008

The cornerstone of many internal communication plans is the employee newsletter. Even in this age of intranets and CEO podcasts, the newsletter remains the communication workhorse for many organizations. What goes into a great employee newsletter? The following eight points will tell you what I think.

1. A combination of fun, morale-boosting features and useful corporate information. Yes, everyone wants to read about the latest employee to get married or have a baby, but employee newsletters should also inform readers about new products, policies and services.

Even if you’ve sent out corporate information through formal avenues such as email memos, employees will be more likely to retain the information if they see it again in the newsletter. Don’t just repeat the info, though. Add interest by interviewing those involved in the new program or corporate decision. Get other employees to voice their opinions or questions about it as well. Use the opportunity to explain the organization’s message in more depth.

2. Have a consistent look. Your newsletter should have a consistent style, layout, format and publication schedule. This will make it easier to read, more attractive and relied upon as a source of information. If you don’t have an in-house graphic designer, or the budget to outsource one for this purpose, seriously consider contracting with one to set up a design template for you to use as a guide. A good design layout can have a huge influence on readability.

3. Involve employees. When employees are involved by contributing to the newsletter, they are more likely to read it and it will be more relevant to them. Even if you don’t have a formal newsletter committee, recruit several staff members to be regular or semi-regular contributers.

4 . Make it interesting. This seems obvious, but many newsletters end up being a series of monologues delivered from senior executives. Writing style should follow the same principles as for a newspaper or magazine article. Include lots of quotes from those involved in the story as well as descriptive pictures. Try to stay away from static photos such as people lined up at the golf tournament or employees shaking hands with the CEO while receiving an award. Favour action photos with visual interest.

5. Provide a digital and hard copy. Email saves paper, but given overloaded in-boxes and some employees who rarely need to use a computer, providing some hard copies of the newsletter is still necessary. Some people will always prefer to read a hard copy and by having a stack located in coffee areas or by the water cooler, folks are more likely to pick them up and read them when they have a spare moment. Experiment with how many hard copies you need. Not everyone needs a hard copy—they just need to have access to one.

6. Distribution. Don’t forget to send copies of the newsletter to employees on medical or other leave. This will help them to remain connected and informed. Also look beyond employees. If you have a volunteer base at your non-profit, for instance, assess if your employee newsletter would be appropriate for this audience as well.

7. Link to other media. Integrate your newsletter with other internal communication tools. You can have longer features on your company’s intranet, for example, or a series of photographs related to the story that you didn’t have room to publish. Some companies have posted videos on their intranets that provide extra background to newsletter stories. For companies having difficulty driving traffic to the intranet, linking newsletter content can help.

8. Get feedback. As with all other communication programs, get feedback from employees from time to time. Survey them to find out what features they regularly read and what kind of information they tend to retain from a newsletter format. This sometimes yields surprising results.

Have you got an employee newsletter tip or question? Send a comment.

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