Writing a newsletter can be very rewarding, stressful, introspective, lucrative, and ineffective.
My weekly newsletter habit has been inconstant over the past ten years, and has gone through a lot of incarnations. This is what I’ve learned so far:
- The regularity of writing every week keeps your writing polished. It is only through regular exercise that any craft is kept in good practice; whenever I neglected to publish a newsletter regularly, I noticed my writing skills suffered from lack of use.
- Your audience becomes comfortable with listening to what you have to say. By sending regular valuable content, your audience gets in the habit of opening your emails. This is the establishment of your authority as a thought leader, having people voluntarily listen to your thoughts.
- Your audience becomes tighter. If you publish once a month or once a quarter, your likelihood of getting unsubscribes may be lower, but your audience won’t be that engaged with you. If you are publishing every week, the people who stay on your list really do want to listen to what you have to say.
- You can skip a week and nobody will notice. Unless you start your newsletter with an apology (Sorry I didn’t send last week…) nobody will even notice. When you need to take a week off, take it. Nobody cares but you.
- Staying on top of mind can be done with only a subject line. Readers don’t even have to open your email, but just by seeing your name and what you’re writing about in their inbox, they are reminded of who you are, and what you’re about.
Picking a Newsletter Topic
My very first newsletter was written when I was an insurance salesman, during my safari into the great cubicle jungle to see how corporate America lives and works. Every week I sent a newsletter titled, “Oh, No!” and focused on survival techniques in some ridiculous situation – falling out of a plane, wrestling an octopus, or escaping a burning building. It was funny, and campy, and lighthearted, and every single week someone hit reply and said, “Hey, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about my insurance.” It was my #1 prospecting tool.
For the past few years, my newsletter has been a mishmash of client highlights, digital marketing, and social media tips. I didn’t send it every week, or even every month. There were lots of sections, and lots of images, and since I included plenty of personal anecdotes about living abroad from your laptop, I called it ‘Laptop Living.’ It was very unwieldy, and then, I broke it on the hot seat at Pioneer Nation.
After taking some time to reposition myself, and figure out what I wanted to write about, I kept coming back to my favorite quote from Aristotle:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
I’m a productivity junkie, excellence is very important to me, and I love hacking my own habits – it’s the most effective way I’ve found to improve my lot in life. Any successes or victories I have ever gained, I attribute them to the cultivation of virtuous habits.
Renaming my newsletter “Habits of Excellence,” I streamlined it into a single-column single-article newsletter and relaunched it this summer. Each week I focus on one habit that you can use to cultivate your inner excellence.
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Good points. What I’ve learned in writing newsletters consistently is you just have to make them really, really simple. Nowadays, people have short attention spans too, so the simpler they are, the better it ends up for everyone. Easier to write for the writer and more engagement and thus value for the reader. The key is efficiency.
Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s very interesting to read what has and hasn’t worked for you. I’ve not had much experience writing newsletters, but next year I’m hoping to complete a year long cycle trip to raise some money for charity, and a newsletter is something I’ve considered to keep people up to date with what’s going on. I will definitely take your opinions into consideration. Thanks.
Good points … hope you hear from you again soon though!