How To Create A Kick-ass Newsletter

How To Create A Kick-ass Newsletter
Wendy Thomas - Thu Jun 25, 2009 @ 08:05AM
Comments: 37

Newsletters, we’ve all seen them. Our inboxes are filled daily with newsletters from just about anyone who claims to be someone. Use Full color in your newsletter

Without doubt, a well written newsletter grabs attention and generates interest. We click on the links because we want to learn more. We have been captivated.

But what about those newsletters we delete without even opening. What are they doing wrong? And conversely what are the qualitative of a newsletter that makes us pay attention and gets us to act?

Newsletters we’d rather not see in our inbox again have the following characteristics:

  • They are boring, boring, boring. Come on folks, a little bit of voice and a bit of humor can go a long way in keeping someone’s attention.
  • They display on the screen as a text box with no visual breaks. Solid text is not easy on the eyes. It takes a lot of work to read through. Sometimes it takes so much work that we’d rather not spend the time doing it.
  • They have vague titles leaving us with no clue as to what the article is about. Who’s got the time to plow through a pile of articles to find out if anything is in there that might help you?
  • The formatting is horrendous with text being cut from the sides of the page.
  • It regurgitates information that we can find elsewhere for free, this is especially egregious if we are paying the newsletter.

A well written newsletter on the other hand virtually sings to you. According to an article on effective newsletters display:

  • Excellent use of full color – again, as raised in the point above, why be boring?
  • Clever graphics - a graphic can get the point across faster than reading text. It also acts as a mini vacation for the reader allowing their eyes to rest.
  • A great newsletter name – please note there is a difference between great and corny. “Paw-prints” would be a good name for a newsletter aimed at dog owners, “The Bitches Bible” would not.

Other winning characteristics include:

  • Each article is written with a descriptive title and a link for more information.
  • The articles are written for the net. That means shorter paragraphs. Usually 2 or 3 sentences are enough. Think smaller bites.
  • There is a short summary after each article link, usually no more than a few sentences. We need to know what to expect. And just cutting and pasting the first paragraph of the article doesn’t count.
  • A feature that is getting lots of points these days is to put the bulleted highlight article points at the beginning like the news networks do. That way the reader can quickly scan the article to get the major points.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly a newsletter must give value to the reader. It’s not just an update of what is going on, it should provide new, interesting, and compelling information in the hopes that you teach your reader something.

In the words of Bob Bly from his book The Online Copywriter’s Handbook:

“The words how to are pure magic in advertising headlines, magazines articles and book titles. Some copy writers claim if you begin with the words how to, you can’t write a bad headline

They may be right.”

Comments: 37


1. Jonathan Kranz  |  my website   |   Thu Jun 25, 2009 @ 09:30AM

Good points, but I'd be wary of putting too much emphasis on visual interest. Alan Rosenspan ( offers a newsletter that's nothing but black text. But it's so full of good, practical suggestions (about direct response) that I NEVER dump it without reading it all the way through. Content trumps everything else.

2. Wendy Thomas  |  my website   |   Thu Jun 25, 2009 @ 01:26PM


Thankfully there will always be exceptions to the rule. Most of our great classics stood on the power of their words and not through the use of graphics. It certainly can be done.

One can choose to create a "text-only" newsletter but if you do you pretty much better be sure you are an artist with words.

Sublime text is nothing short of a pleasure. Attempts at it are only painful.

I look forward to checking out Alan's newsletters.

3. John Coldwell  |  my website   |   Thu Jun 25, 2009 @ 08:27PM

There is a newsletter called "Pearls or Pebbles" which comes out every month or so which I not only keep but also forward on to others. It always only contains one story. It is not like a blog. It is just simply text and always contains a gem that I can use. When I get it I feel that the writer is sharing something special with me (which, actually, he is).

4. Cliff Burgin  |  my website   |   Sat Jun 27, 2009 @ 02:47AM

Emailed newsletters make me shudder as did their paper predecessors. The smiling picture of Karen who has just been appointed to the lofty position of senior customer facilitation coordinator and the desperately dull and ill-informed diatribe from the chief executive who had to be dragooned into writing something by the marketing department.

Colour- don't care
Branding - usually overdone
Content - too inward looking (for god's sake what makes you think your clients are that interested in you!)

If you are going to send one:
Humour - a must
Value - don't be scared to give something away
Brevity - write it and then chop it back mercilessly
Frequency - only when you have something worth saying

(the author of "Pearls or Pebbles?")

5. Nikki May | Copywriting Services  |  my website   |   Sat Sep 25, 2010 @ 05:54PM

Now, more than ever before, it is important to have an effective email / newsletter marketing campaign.

Every online business has a newsletter, and people's inboxes are flooded with newsletters' emails.

I have been looking for ways to improve the quality, readability and deliverability of my newsletters - and this is exactly what I needed.


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