newsletter marketing: old dog, new tricks

 designing for success

When the Tampa Bay chapter of PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) parsed the results of a 2010 member poll, one tool that stood out as a bulwark against membership drops that could also be used to attract new sign-ups: the bi-monthly newsletter. (Download your copy here.)

Overshadowed by the online glamour of social media, just the word “newsletter” seems like something out of an era of television before cable. In all too many organizations the newsletter is treated as a neglected stepchild before being thrust upon a skeptical public, doomed to languish in the backwaters of committee paralysis rather than being deployed as a dynamic marketing tool on the communications frontline. For more newsletter production tips read my Top Five Digital Newsletter Basics.

professional preparation magnifies value

Publishing an organization or corporate newsletter in an HTML world is a thankless task often regarded as required, not inspired. Usually made up of random odd bits and murky cellphone pix of awards recipients, each centered in its own paragraph, well meaning efforts tend to end up as a bare HTML info stream read by scrolling a web page 30 fathoms deep from top to bottom. Eyes glaze over. The engagement opportunity is lost.

The stand-alone alternative is almost always a plain vanilla PDF document, laboriously assembled in Word before printing to a sketchy desktop driver. Packing the visual appeal of a prune, both of these efforts are usually devoid of valuable SEO metadata content. The truth is, it’s a highly competitive landscape out there and fresh content with eye appeal is a requirement if the goal is to grab attention.

a powerful brand building asset

PR professionals are known mainly for crafting appealing written content. Combine that talent with Dreamweaver for web, InDesign for print, and Acrobat for authored PDFs, and the newsletter is transformed into an engaging interactive publication.

The powerful Adobe Creative Suite digital workflow allows authoring capabilities significantly beyond the reach of Microsoft’s bloated, awkward and limited Office collection of workaround solutions. (If Word is the only recourse, focus on using it within the confines for which it was created. There’s actually much to be said for a conservatively styled, MSWD based publication. It’s all about choosing the right tool for the job, and using it correctly.)

options: page view or spread

Today’s professionally authored PDF is capable of presenting a wealth of digital resources, including streamed video and Flash media when appropriate – just the kind of content that communicates brand sophistication and almost guarantees enthusiastic readership. Working with the familiar page layout functionality of InDesign as the creative hub, my newsletters are laid out in single page view when the viewing environment is understood to be browser or Adobe Reader.

Because the PDF format was recognized early on by Google as a legitimate source of metadata information, the final task is to carefully inspect the final document to make sure valuable search engine metrics haven’t been overlooked.

If all this sounds light years removed from the messy old days of typeset copy paste-up, it is. Only by shifting the expression of the creative process to modern design and up-to-date publishing software can the real marketing power of digitally produced communications be fully exploited. Read more about professional newsletter preparation here.