Three tips for newsletter writers

Want to know how to write an attention-grabbing newsletter? Just remember three simple rules:

  1. have something to say
  2. get to the point
  3. keep it simple

If that sounds too obvious, you’d be surprised at how many pieces of writing fail because they don’t heed those three simple rules.

Here’s an example. Nova Scotia Power has been sending out thousands of full colour newsletters titled St Margaret’s Bay Hydro System Update. Which would lead you to expect something new about the multi-million dollar improvements to the oldest hydro generation system in the province.

Here are the first three paragraphs of the Project Update:

On behalf of the project team overseeing updates to the St Margaret’s Bay Hydro system, I wanted to provide an update for local community members.

As you know, since Spring of this year, NS Power has been carrying out upgrades to the St Margaret’s Bay Hydro System. The project, on schedule for completion in December, includes repairs, refurbishment and replacement of hydro equipment related to the facility’s pipeline, intake and surge tanks.

We appreciate the support of the community and are pleased with the ongoing communications with the area residents as the project proceeds. Now almost mid-way to completion, we wanted to provide information we thought you might find interesting as a neighbour to the project.

Three paragraphs; five sentences; 116 words – and nothing new. The first paragraph promises an update (a duplication of the newsletter’s title). The third paragraph again promises an update (duplicating the first paragraph). And the middle paragraph offers context about the project.

And the language is stiff. Whoever says “We… are pleased with the ongoing communications with the area residents as the project proceeds’?

This is an interesting project and involves replacing an old woodstave pipeline with huge fibreglass pipes. It affects a lot of people – neighbours troubled by dust and construction traffic, walkers and riders whose popular trail has been diverted, and a community that for almost 100 years has known the hydro station as a landmark.

Their questions fall into two categories – what’s new, and why does it matter? They are the fundamental questions anyone writing any form of promotional copy needs to address.

Don’t waste the first three paragraphs of your newsletter or article priming the pump. Get to the point. Tell people something new. Tell them why it matters. And say it in language that is conversational.

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