Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Newsletter Creation - a monthly challenge

Twice every month I put together a newsletter. Or I should say a newsletter and a CFA. The CFA is a call for action - a document used to highlight our upcoming programs and all the deadlines, due dates, etc that require the reader to take action. The newsletter is supposed to be a bit more of an article driven document - with articles created by our staff, advisory board members, volunteers as well as myself. What has happened over the course of this year is that the two publications have slowly merged with articles appearing in both and our programs definitely becoming a focus. Communicating with our constituency once a month about our programs is just not enough.

When I was working at a telephone company in Lancaster PA in the 90's I also generated a newsletter, though on a quarterly basis. For one month I would gather and edit articles, eventually taking them to our printer (who was also our designer) who would lay out the articles. Then I would proofread it, he would make the corrections and off it would go to the printing press. They'd then be driven to our mailing house who would affix the mailing labels and postage and off they would go to our readers. And they were readers. It wasn't often they got a newsletter, especially from the utility. And I had learned that by offering special deals and at least two contests a year I could pretty much guarantee readership. Each holiday season, we called it Christmas in the heart of Amish country, we would offer a sumptuous prize - a giant christmas stocking filled with toys one year and a brand new hand made Amish sled from Intercourse PA's best sled maker. The fits our parent company had when it learned the sled had the word Intercourse on it was quite hysterical since of course no one outside our area could win the sled and everyone frequented Intercourse for its Amish quilt, pepper jam and chow chow. It took numerous calls to calm their nerves (they'd seen the newsletter with its picture with the word proudly displayed).

Today, I begin gathering articles about a week before the newsletter comes out, often receiving them the day I'm putting the newsletter together. I use a software called Constant Contact - a wonderous system that allows me to simply type in the articles, yes I do write some of them on the fly, or cut and paste them from the emails of my contributors. I can arrange and rearrange the articles to my hearts content and then with a simple push of a button I email it to my co-workers for proofreading. The next day I make the edits and off it goes. To a list of over 9000 worldwide. And the cost - a mere $40. A paper newsletter today would cost $4500 just for the postage alone.

If you'd like to receive the newsletter go to the Anita Borg website -

1 comment:

Jo Miller said...

Thanks Jerri, this post was very useful reminder of the power of newsletters when done well.
Jo Miller