The ‘how to’ guide to newsletters

By Angela Bensemann, Director of Halo Communications

Think you need a newsletter but don’t know where to start? Here’s my 10-step guide to producing a great newsletter.

  1. Work out who your audience is and whether they want (or will read) a regular newsletter from you.
  2. Knowing your audience is also really important when it comes to creating the content.  If you’re not sure what they want to read, you could always try surveying them using a free online survey tool like Survey Monkey ( and then tailor your newsletter to meet their needs (making sure you also meet your own).
  3. Have you got a database of people that have given you permission to send a newsletter to?  If not, you can’t send to them.  You need permission to be able to do it – if you don’t have permission it’s a little thing called spam that could land you in a lot of trouble.  You can find out more about New Zealand’s anti-spam laws here. You can ask people for their permission, but you do need to keep proof of their permission. You can also add a newsletter ‘sign up’ button to your website or social media pages which explicitly gives you the right to email out your newsletter.
  4. What is your objective for this newsletter? Are you hoping to make lots of sales? Do you want people to visit your website? Do you just want people to know more about your project or what you’re doing – e.g. raise awareness? When you know what you want to achieve you can think about what kind of content you need to achieve this objective.
  5. What have you got to say and how often do you want to say it? People often rush in and set up a newsletter that is ‘quarterly/monthly/fortnightly/weekly’. What they quickly find is that there is a lot of work that goes into each newsletter and it might have been better to be a little less prescriptive about how often the newsletter would occur.  What tends to happen is you start off with a hiss and a roar and then as you get busy it’s the first thing to go.  Pace yourself would be my advice – what’s manageable for you and what will meet your audience’s needs?
  6. Keeping it current. Your newsletter is a great tool to promote what’s happening in your business, but people don’t want to feel like they are being sold to all the time.  Think about top tips, advice on current issues (if you are a service), related images or quotes.
  7. Creating your content. The key to writing a successful newsletter these days is to keep it relevant, brief and to the point. You know yourself how much traffic comes into your inbox on a given day. Unless it is something you are really interested in, chances are you will bin it without even reading it.  You need a catchy heading or subject line and each article should be brief but can provide links to more information on your website.
  8. What format will you use?  There are lots of options open to you and I have clients that choose different formats.  Three common ones that are used are:
    • Electronic newsletter: This is a really good option as there are free options around that are easy to set up. E-newsletters talk to your database and they give you good analytics at the back end.  You can see how many people are reading the newsletter, what items they clicked on and how many people unsubscribed. I use Mail Chimp for my electronic newsletters:
    • PDF attachment newsletter:  This is a little old school but is still the preference of some clients.  It means you can get the newsletter designed how you like and then send either as an attachment or a link in an email.  PDF’s can enclose links through to other articles, photos, videos etc. This option also enables you to send out hardcopy newsletters if some of your database is not on email or if you want physical copies left behind in publicly accessible spots.
    • Email newsletter:  This is ideal for internal communication within a large organisation.  You can create a template in Microsoft word, so it looks smart and you can have hyperlink tables of contents, so you can easily navigate your way through the newsletter.  Then you can simply copy and paste your word format into the body of your email. This format does not give you much scope for design.  It’s a cheap and cheerful option.
  9. Make it visual. People like things that look good.  Spend time thinking about the images you will use.  Keep them relevant to your content and make sure you have permission to use the photos/images you choose.  Better still take your own photos or have them professionally taken for you.  If you are taking your own, make sure they are high quality and high resolution.  Don’t let yourself down with fuzzy low-resolution images.
  10. Once you’ve sent out your newsletter, and if you are using an electronic version, have a look at your analytics and think about what you want to do next time and how you’ll tweak the content based on what the stats are telling you.