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How Can a Newsletter Make Me Top of Mind?

I have this love/hate relationship with newsletters.  I was a librarian for 30 years, and many of those years was spent in schools.  I have received thousands of newsletters over the years, and had to produce what seems like thousands of newsletters myself.  Having said that, I almost never read newsletters myself.  I will often scan them if they’re from people I think I should know about, or whom I am afraid will ask me if I liked their newsletter, but newsletters don’t do a lot for me to be honest.  It makes me wonder if it’s even worthwhile to send out a newsletter, if no one is going to read it.

I remember replacing an older librarian at a school in Romania, and she had produced a series of monthly newsletters that she stapled together into a booklet to give to the director of the school.  It was, in a way, a resume of all the things she had done that year in the library.  I came along, and started creating informational video content, email blasts, multi-functional website access to information, and cute memes and online tools.  I stayed at that school for six years, and the entire time I was there, that booklet of newsletters stayed on the director’s coffee table.  Countless meetings had taken place, parents and leaders had sat in front of that table waiting for an appointment, and all had access to that rather pathetic bit of advertising.  None of them had seen or retained anything I had produced for my entire tenure there.  So when I ask myself if some of these apparently obsolete forms of communication are still valid, the only answer I can give is yes.  They are still valid, and I hate it.

Obviously, we’re not going to print all our newsletters, but we might want to print some.  It all goes back to knowing your customer, and the appropriate level of relationship to build with them at a given time.  If I have a collector who has become a friend, sending a newsletter may not make sense.  But I may want to communicate with gallery owners around the country in the hopes that they will ultimately represent my work.  They get hundreds of pitches a day, and they don’t want much, if any, relationship with me yet.  A non personal, non-committal email or printed newsletter may be just right for them.  They can quickly scan the artwork, and if nothing piques their interest, they can move on to the next.  I still need to communicate with gallery owners regularly, as well as others I don't know well. But there are those who have a genuine interest in my newsletter.  That level of communication needs to be less personal, while still being highly informative and look completely professional.  If I send a highly personal, handwritten note to a gallery owner in Chicago, whom I’ve never met, and ask them to consider my work, that would just seem creepy to me… and probably would to them as well.

So you do need to create a newsletter, and it needs to go out regularly.  That need not mean you must publish something monthly, but regularly, perhaps only every quarter.  Populate that newsletter with well edited text, video (if sent electronically), and full of images of your work.  There are a number of great applications out there for newsletter templates.  Some are free.  Whether you use a template, or create your own, be very aware of how your newsletter looks on a mobile device.  The vast majority of people who see an electronic newsletter will view it on their phones.  What may look great on a full screen, or printed up on paper, could look awful on a phone.

As far as content goes.  I know it’s discouraging to spend a lot of time on content when many, if not most, will just throw your newsletter in the trash bin.  But your content, and your images, and your layout, have to be great.  This is an official publication from your business, and it must look and read well.  Otherwise, you might actually be hurting your image, and pulling you away from that Top of Mind goal that prompted you to send it in the first place.

I tend to use calendars to promote what is coming, and use my newsletters to look backward.  I publish the things that have happened, the places I went, and the people I met since my last newsletter.  I shy away from writing about future events because they might not happen, and if my newsletter is delayed for any reason, I don’t want to portray something as a future event, when it’s already happened.  If you have another approach, please mention it in the comments.  I’m always open to new ideas, and improving my product.

So go forth and write newsletters.  I you send one to me. I promise I’ll at lest scan it before I toss it.

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