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How to produce a newsletter

There are lots of things you need to make decisions about before you even start getting the copy ready or thinking about what your newsletter will look like. Here are some pointers about the questions you need to ask yourself and the steps you need to take when you’re planning your newsletter.

1

Who do you want to read your newsletter?

Is it the people who use your service, or your funders and supporters, or the general public? Or all of these? If you’ve got quite a narrow audience, it can be easier to decide what kind of stories to include, and what level to write at. If the audience is wider, you need to make sure that there’s something for everyone, and that you’re writing at a level that will not exclude some of the people you want to reach.

2

How often will you produce the newsletter?

There are lots of factors to weigh up here. If you send it out too often, people may get fed up and feel they are too busy to read it. If there are big gaps between newsletters, though, people may forget who you are. There’s also your own time to take into account, and your organisation’s funding – how often can you afford to produce the newsletter, in terms of both time and money? If you’re going to include items that are time-sensitive (about funding applications or training events, for example), you need to be sure that the newsletter is coming out often enough to be useful.

3

What format are you going to use?

Will it be an e-newsletter, or are there going to be printed copies? If it’s an e-newsletter, you don’t need to worry too much about the length of articles – it’s best to keep them quite brief and snappy (see the ‘How to’ guide on writing e-newsletters), but they don’t have to fit a particular number of pages. If you’re going to produce hard copies, though, you will need to ask people to ‘write to length’. Work out how many words will fit on a page (allowing for any photographs and other images) and give people an upper word limit. You’ll probably still find that you need to cut or expand articles a bit to get them to fit properly.  

4

How long will the newsletter be?

If it’s coming out quite frequently, two sides of A4 may be enough. If you are going to produce something longer, a printed newsletter will need to be produced in multiples of four pages.

5

Who’s going to do the work?

You need to decide who will:

  • collect and write the copy – perhaps one person will write the whole newsletter, or perhaps they will write just some of it and be responsible for getting other people (inside and outside the organisation) to write some of the other articles
  • edit and proofread the copy – it’s useful if someone other than the person who wrote an article looks at it to check that everything is correct, and that it’s giving out the right messages from your organisation
  • lay out/design the newsletter
  • manage the printing (if you’re having it printed)
  • put together the mailing list
  • mail out the newsletter.
6

Think about whether you have the skills and time to do all these tasks in house

If you haven’t got staff with publications skills and experience, you may want to commission an external editor and/or designer to work on your newsletter. They could be responsible for the whole thing, or just do the bits of it that you haven’t got the time or skills to do. You can find details of freelance editors and designers in the NCVO’s list of approved consultants. You can also search the online directory of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. Better still, find out whether any of your contacts in other organisations has trusted editors or designers that they use. Personal recommendation is always best!

7

Set a budget

If you're going to use an external editor and/or designer, get quotes for their work. Decide how many copies of the newsletter to print and get quotes from printers. Again, if you haven’t got a regular printer, ask around for recommendations for good local printers. Estimate how much the mailing will cost in terms of envelopes and postage. If you don’t want to do the mailing out yourself, some printers and design companies can organise ‘fulfilment’ – but you'll need to build the cost of this into your budget.

8

Set deadlines

Decide when you want to send out the newsletter, and work backwards from this. The stages you need to allow for are:

  1. writing and collecting the copy – this is likely to be over a period of some weeks
  2. editing the copy and deciding how it is going to fit together within the newsletter
  3. design and layout
  4. proofing, adjusting articles to fit, and inputting of amendments by designer
  5. printing – you will probably need to allow about a week for this
  6. mailing out.
9

Get your mailing list ready well in advance

You don’t want your freshly printed newsletter lying around in your office while you scramble to put your mailing list together. Make sure the newsletter reaches your readers as quickly as possible, so that they get the full benefit of all the topical information you’re giving them.

Further information

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Page last edited Jul 20, 2017 History

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