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Newsletter Tips

Simple guidelines that work most of the time

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newsletter design clinic

Newsletter Design

Image © Jacci Howard Bear

Three Types of Newsletters

In his book Do it Yourself Newsletters, Chuck Green describes three basic types or models of newsletters: Promotional, Relationship, Expert. Each type of newsletter shares common characteristics. Determine which model fits the type of newsletter you envision and choose a format accordingly.

Promotional Newsletters
This type of newsletter is frequently used by businesses to promote a product or service. It is also known as a marketing newsletter. A promotional or marketing newsletter is typically sent to current or prospective customers free of charge. Not strictly a sales pitch, the promotional newsletter does strive to turn prospects into customers and customers into repeat customers.

  • If you want to publish often and/or quickly try creating single page or postcard newsletters.

  • Promotional newsletters could go out as individual mailings, or consider tucking them into monthly statements for existing customers to take the edge off those invoices.

Relationship Newsletters
Examples of this type of newsletter are club newsletters, employee newsletters, church newsletters, and alumni newsletters. They focus on the shared interests of the target audience, building or reinforcing a relationship. Typically distributed at no charge, some organizations may send newsletters only to paid members as a perk for paying dues.

  • Due to employee turnover or changing club membership, newsletter publishing duties may change hands frequently. To maintain consistency through such changes and to accommodate varying skill levels, create a basic, easy to use newsletter template that allows for easy drop in of articles and photos.

  • While a style guide is useful for any newsletter publisher, it's especially helpful when the newsletter publishing duties may get passed around frequently.

Expert Newsletters
Usually subscription-based, these newsletters generally focus on a specific topic and the recipient is someone who has specifically requested the information in the newsletter and is willing to pay for the information. While you always want to put your best work into your newsletter, when people are paying for it, it's even more important to have good content and good design.

Recipients are paying for the content but will notice and be turned off by bad design if it interferes with the enjoyment of the newsletter content. You have the opportunity to be creative in your layout and choice of fonts and colors but keep it consistent with the content and purpose of the newsletter.

  • If the newsletter is heavy on text, make liberal use of design features that aid reading including white space. Avoid large blocks of gray text.

  • Subscription newsletters are often longer than your typical marketing newsletters. Provide good navigational aids including table of contents, page numbering, and jumplines.

  • If photos are important to your newsletter, choose paper and printing methods that don't detract from the photographs. A school or club newsletter may do fine with somewhat grainy photocopied images but that won't generally do for a newsletter devoted to photography, for example.

Some newsletters may have characteristics of more than one group.

Newsletters Are Not Ads

Using a newsletter as a marketing vehicle is a great tool for many businesses. However, an effective newsletter design is not just a great big ad for the business. It should include information of interest and of value to the recipient whether or not they use your services or buy your products. Tone down the sales hype. In addition to the wording, avoid a newsletter design that looks like a sales flier, product list, or that too closely mimics your letterhead or brochure.

Don't Get Stuck in a Newsletter Format Rut

Make your newsletter unique. Newsletters don't have to be letter size, portrait booklets to be called a newsletter. There are other formats that may work better or help your newsletter design stand out from the rest. Explore different sizes, orientations, and folds based on the purpose, content, and length of your publication: postcard, oversized postcard, landscape (horizontal), gatefolds, spiral folds, or zig zag folds.

Try Multiple Grids for Complex Newsletters

Grids provide page to page consistency for newsletters and usually a single grid is used throughout. However, some content calls for changing the grid. Instances where a second grid might come into play include if the newsletter design has a regular page or insert that needs to be in a different orientation or size from the rest of the newsletter or that has substantially different content such as a calendar, a survey, or a clip-n-save feature.

A primarily text-based newsletter design might use more or larger graphics on the front page to draw in the reader. Consider using a fancier, alternative grid for that page while the mostly text interior pages use a basic columnlar grid. Even where multiple grids are used, provide issue-to-issue consistency by using the same grids for the same type of content from one issue to the next.

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