Archive for December, 2010

Guidelines for Spicing up E-Newsletters with Color

December 28th, 2010

“Spicing up” is a good way to describe what’s called for in e-newsletters. Even more so than in print newsletters, the reader’s eye, on line, looks for variety, from words and white space to graphics and photos.

Remember the old days, when we were limited to two colors for newsletters: black, and white—or even purple and white if we were home-publishing our newsletters with a mimeo machine. Groups with a very large budget could afford additional colors if they were willing to spend twice as much money.

Today, when you are setting up your e-newsletter, you have the advantage of every color under the sun and at no extra charge. Even if you are not a professional designer, you can select from an almost infinite number of shades to match all of your publications and online pages, and keep your brand consistent.

A very nice tool for picking the right colors is Color Cop, at This simple device lets you identify the “hex” number of your colors, and then specify that number for your e-newsletter colors. For example, when you visit my site you’ll see bright green and violet (a lovely combination). Since, thanks to Color Cop, I know that the green is Hex #AFBC24 and the violet is Hex #8D4B9B, I’m able to use those same colors in my e-news and my blog.

Do you have another color tool you recommend?

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Compare and Contrast Newspapers and Newsletters

December 18th, 2010

The biggest difference between the two is that a newsletter, whether hard copy or e-mail, assumes a shared interest in a certain topic. The Boston Globe (or the LA Times), on the other hand, covers just about everything from global financial reform to shootings at a local pizzeria.

Both are full of news—hence the name—but the only shared theme in a newspaper is the community it’s reporting on, which may be as big as the whole world.

Newsletters that work, then, stick to a single theme, whether learning how to stay healthy, current efforts in ending a homelessness project, or how to manage personal investments.

Newsletters carry little or no advertising—the general rule is no more than 20 percent promotional materials.

Do you agree? Do you see other similarities or differences?

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Guidelines for getting people to open up

December 9th, 2010

Whose story can you find to tell in your newsletter? Happy or satisfied clients, associates who love their work, long-time members? How many of us have senior managers, even CEO’s, willing to share a personal story that would enrich your connection to your market or your membership? The larger your organization, of course, the harder it will be to make this happen.

If you write for a newsletter, you are a reporter, and good reporters are always listening, in the cafeteria, the lounge, riding to work, in the elevator or the gym. As a reporter, you are also good at asking questions that follow up on what you have heard. And you understand that while the official rules require you to go through proper channels, it’s often the improper channels that get the best information.

Suppose, for example, that you are in line for coffee at an employee reception, and you recognize the chief information officer in front of you. Do you freeze, and remind yourself to contact her admin, or do you introduce yourself and say “I’m writing an article about cloud computing and would love to talk about your experience.”?

It’s not always easy, especially for us introverts, but a great way to get a story.

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A Perfect E-Newsletter

December 6th, 2010

Here’s a perfect example of how I think an e-newsletter should look, and work. It’s from Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts.  Why do I like it so much? First of all, it makes full use of a single set of articles. When you receive the e-news in your inbox, you have your choice of several different stories. On the web, the same stories are available as separate articles, or as part of a PDF version. Such efficiency!

Other good points:

  • It’s so pleasing to the eye: many colors, that are balanced and not distracting—they hold the copy in place and call attention to it.
  • It has many headlines—of few words—that make it easy for the eye to move around and see what’s available to read.
  • Articles start in the newsletter, but finish on the website, with a link that gets the reader there easily. As a result, there’s room for plenty of interest, but no overly long text on the screen.
  • The stories themselves are full of action and interest: helping a dancer heal, how a cancer patient is getting better, new surgical techniques.
  • And the photographs are great: also full of action.

What do you think about this example? Is it something you could do at your organization?

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