Newsletter Tips

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Layout specialists and managing editors who've been working at publications for some time tend to have a number of newsletter tips up their sleeves. It's half past midnight. The submission deadline was two days ago. A production maven is squawking by email for the rest of the copy so that the issue can get to press. You want to know what those newsletter tips are. The clock moves carelessly on.

The principles of any publication are the same, no matter the length, format, subject matter, or distribution. Maybe you're talking about a business-to-business publication on legal issues in the workplace that gets mailed to a list of paying subscribers once a month. It could just as well be a quarterly women's golf association newsletter or a flyer for a condominium community. You have a schedule, writers, and the publication prep. These tend to fall like a row of heavy dominoes.

Newsletter Tips: Planning and Producing

The first set focuses on content. Probably the most important is not to depend on a single writer, or to count on contributions from a number of writers but get commitments from none. After that comes a list of article topics, mapped out for several issues down the road. You'll want major stories and recurring feature items--how-to articles, situational ethics questions for the workplace, or the latest equipment and destinations. The idea is a backlog of items that aren't time sensitive. If you are looking for a unified writing tone, then a web-based tutorial or workshop (less painful than traditional classroom techniques) may be in order for you and your staff.

As far as designing and production is concerned, chances are good that no matter how sophisticated it is or how wide the distribution, you're publishing online. Newsletter tips here do get specialized, because they depend on the program being used for PDF format--which might be MS Word, Quark, InDesign, or perhaps FrontPage. If you're publishing to a database-driven site, you might be off the hook. From issue to issue, all you need to worry about is prepping text files according to webmaster instructions.

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