Blank notepad and a pen next to a laptop and coffee on a wooden vintage desk

Newsletter No-nos

I have a few regular newsletters that I help with and I really enjoy putting them together. I always feel that it is my chance to dip my toe in to a more ‘journalistic’ style of writing.

I think a good newsletter offers short interesting snippets of news…funnily enough! They should be interesting, informative and eye-catching.

Good quality images are important too, to support the text and reinforce its content.

Having been writing newsletters for a few years, and reading them for even longer (!), here are a few of my ‘no-nos’.

Huge long articles

A newsletter should offer plenty of news about what you have been up to, but each individual section shouldn’t be too long. By getting clients to sign up to your newsletter they have opened up their inbox to you– which is a massive achievement. Don’t then repay them by boring them to tears or getting them to have to scroll through so much writing they get repetitive strain injury!

Talking of ‘scrolling’, whenever you preview your newsletter, if you are sending it out as an email (rather than as an attached PDF, for example), make sure you check how it looks not only on a computer or laptop screen, but also on a mobile (and, ideally, a tablet). It is amazing how even a couple of paragraphs of text can seem like loads when you are looking at it on a mobile phone…and can turn people off quickly if it looks inaccessible.

If you have lots to say, consider offering a taster paragraph or two and then a ‘read more’ link which continues to a longer article hosted on your website or blog.

Limited signposting

Make sure you break up your newsletter with good ‘signposting’. This includes headings, introductions, menus of content, and perhaps links throughout, which jump down to other sections. Keep ‘skim readers’ interested by telling them what the newsletter contains. Ensure your reader is led logically through your content too. For example, consider date order, order of importance and if separate articles relate to each other. Draw your reader in and keep their attention.

Telling readers once

Have you got an important event coming up? Do you need your readers to reply or perhaps take part in something, like a survey? If you only tell them once, they are unlikely to act or take notice.

Most newsletters, if opened (which can be a challenge in itself), will be quickly skim read first. Only then may clients decide to ‘stop and invest’ in reading all of the content. Therefore, take the opportunity to catch your reader’s eye on several occasions. If you have a number of things happening on different dates, then include a ‘dates for your diary’ section, as well as giving the dates and describing the events in their own individual sections. If you have a special offer or new product, mention it in the introduction (in fact anything you consider a highlight should be included in your newsletter introduction – think of it like an editorial in a magazine). If you have quite a lot of content, you could include teasers, i.e. ‘want to hear more about our brand new product – skip down’ and then link to the relevant section or if that’s not possible say ‘scroll down for more information’.  Consider including a menu of contents and then hyperlink each item so readers can jump straight to them.

Missing a call to action

You have gone to the huge effort of writing a newsletter, so don’t forget your primary goal – TO GET READERS TO DO SOMETHING! A newsletter is a content marketing tool. For a business, it is not ‘just’ an update on how things are going. You have invested your time, so you should be aiming to get something in return. Include lots of calls to action! These can include encouraging people to visit your website; inviting people to take part in a survey or competition; gaining likes or follows on your social media accounts and getting readers to buy a new product or use a new service.

Offering nothing new

A newsletter needs to offer something new. There is nothing worse than seeing recycled content when you take the time to open up and read a newsletter. If you are really struggling to come up with new content, then consider if you have committed to sending out your newsletter too regularly. Would sending it out less often but with more exciting content mean you find it easier and it has much more impact?  It is much better to be regular (monthly, quarterly or perhaps even just an annual round up) and commit to that with fresh exciting content.

Ignoring click rates

You have to keep track of how your newsletter is being received. Newsletter creation tools, like Mailchimp, offer easy to understand statistics about how many people are viewing your newsletter, how many open them, and, also, how many clicks on your hyperlinks are made, which lead to external sites (i.e. your website). They will also tell you of any unsubscribes. Keep an eye on these. Do a bit of analysis and see what works best and is most effective for increasing ‘click rate’.

Impossible to unsubscribe

This is the biggest no-no and in fact, if not illegal, it is certainly appalling practice. You must give people the option to unsubscribe and make it obvious and easy. Do ensure there is a link that readers can click to unsubscribe or clear instructions, such as ‘email to unsubscribe’. If you use the second option, then make sure when you get that email you remove that person from your mailing list before you send out your next newsletter! Sounds obvious, I know.


I hope you find these tips helpful. Call or email me if you want to learn more about newsletters.

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