The cornerstone of many internal communication plans is the employee newsletter. Even in this age of intranets, CEO podcasts and social media, the newsletter remains the communication workhorse for many organizations. What goes into a great employee newsletter? The following eight points will tell you what I think.
1. A combination of fun, morale-boosting features and useful corporate information. Yes, everyone wants to read about the latest employee to get married or have a baby, but employee newsletters should also inform readers about new products, policies and services.
Even if you’ve sent out corporate information through formal avenues such as email memos, employees will be more likely to retain the information if they see it again in the newsletter. Don’t just repeat the info, though. Add interest by interviewing those involved in the new program or corporate decision. Get other employees to voice their opinions or questions about it as well. Use the opportunity to explain the organization’s message in more depth.
2. Have a consistent look. Your newsletter should have a consistent style, layout, format and publication schedule. This will make it easier to read, more attractive and relied upon as a source of information. If you don’t have an in-house graphic designer, or the budget to outsource one for this purpose, seriously consider contracting with one to set up a design template for you to use as a guide. A good design layout can have a huge influence on readability.
3. Involve employees. When employees are involved by contributing to the newsletter, they are more likely to read it and it will be more relevant to them. Even if you don’t have a formal newsletter committee, recruit several staff members to be regular or semi-regular contributors.
4 . Make it interesting. This seems obvious, but many newsletters end up being a series of monologues delivered from senior executives. Writing style should follow the same principles as for a newspaper or magazine article. Include lots of quotes from those involved in the story as well as descriptive pictures. Try to stay away from static photos such as people lined up at the golf tournament or employees shaking hands with the CEO while receiving an award. Favor action photos with visual interest.
5. Provide a digital and hard copy. Email saves paper, but given overloaded in-boxes and some employees who rarely use a computer, providing some hard copies of the newsletter is still necessary. Some people will always prefer to read a hard copy and by having a stack located in coffee areas or by the water cooler, folks are more likely to pick them up and read them when they have a spare moment. Experiment with how many hard copies you need. Not everyone needs a hard copy—they just need to have access to one.
6. Distribution. Don’t forget to send copies of the newsletter to employees on medical or other types of leave. This will help them to remain connected and informed. Also, look beyond employees. If you have a volunteer base at your nonprofit, for instance, asses whether your employee newsletter would be appropriate for this audience as well. Temps and freelancers expand your newsletter’s audience, and it’s wise to keep them in the loop on workplace policies and events.
7. Link to other media. Integrate your newsletter with other internal communication tools. You can have longer features on your company’s intranet, for example, or a series of photographs related to the story that you didn’t have room to publish. Some companies have posted videos on their intranets to provide extra background for newsletter stories. For companies having difficulty driving traffic to the intranet, linking newsletter content can help.
8. Get feedback. As with all other communication programs, get feedback from employees from time to time. Survey them to find out what features they regularly read and what kind of information they tend to retain from a newsletter format. Doing so can yield surprising results.
Deborah Zanke has a public relations practice in Winnipeg, Canada. This article originally ran on her blog, Message Communications.