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A second look at building a better company newsletter

Michelle Hicks

Michelle Hicks

A previous column on this topic discussed some of the important best practices for designing a strategic company newsletter. To recap, it is important to name the objective of the newsletter and to understand your audience.

You can also ensure your publication’s success if you reach out to different stakeholders in your business to build a network of editors. These folks can help you stay on top of the issues and concerns that impact your employee audience. And finally, we talked about the importance of developing an editorial calendar to make sure important company and industry events are captured and planned for in the publication throughout the year.

In this column, we’ll talk about other important steps that include developing a production schedule, a budget, and measuring the effectiveness of your publication against your original objectives.

Simply stated, the production schedule is set when you know the date the publication needs to hit the newsstands (or mailboxes, or break rooms), and then counting backward to schedule deadlines for all of the pieces and parts of the production process.

The key to success for any kind of production schedule is to ensure a specific individual is responsible for each deadline. If roles are assigned to a “group,” it is easy for members of that group to defer to each other, which can result in no one taking ownership for getting the step done. It is also important to make sure the individual understands his assignment clearly. Take nothing for granted. This is especially important in the review process.

The review process can be a true log jam in the production schedule when reviewers are not clear on their role. For example, generally, there are three different review roles: technical, legal, and copy editing and style. When a publication or an article in a publication is handed off for review, you must be clear to the reviewer about which role they are taking on. Otherwise, you could receive many time-consuming edits from a lawyer who opposes the serial comma when that may be your organization’s preferred style.

When you design the budget for your publication, it is important to understand what the publication is worth instead of focusing on what it costs. If you are printing an eight- or 12-page newsletter, you will incur fees, including design and layout, printing and fulfillment, and postage and/or shipping.

You also need to account for all of the editorial and writing and review fees both inside and outside of your organization. That’s just the cost of doing business. Generally, production accounts for 45 percent of the budget; writing, project management and review for 35 percent; and postage/shipping the remaining 20 percent.

When considering the investment in such a publication, it is important to consider the costs associated with organizational misunderstandings. A recent survey by International Data Corp. calculated this cost can be enormous, especially for large organizations – as much as $62 million dollars a year for a 100,000-employee organization.

Spend some time with your financial folks putting pencil to paper to document the cost of the problem the newsletter is helping you solve. From that, subtract the cost of the project. That formula will get you your newsletter’s ROI.

Finally, after all of the work that goes into the publication to get it off the press and into your employees’ hands, you need to assess if it was all worth it. Did employees receive, believe and act on the information you produced? While it is great to understand if they found the document attractive, its attractiveness is only relevant to its ability to help people understand the information they are receiving.

You can capture their response in pulse surveys or focus groups. You should also be able assess changes in behaviors that drive organizational activities. Don’t forgo this process. You will never have a better newsletter if you don’t take the time to ensure it is effective.

Producing something without assessing its effectiveness is like throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping something sticks. It’s not good business. But if you clearly define your communication objectives, deliver an effective tool, like a newsletter, and measure its impact, you will be practicing smart business communication. And, your work can help the men and women in your organization better understand what they need to get done to drive your business forward.

Michelle Hicks is a communications consultant with Buck Consultants. Contact her at michelle.hicks@buckconsultants.com.

About Michelle Hicks