Making Your Newsletters Remarkable: Speak Their Language

If you’re involved in fundraising or connecting friends and supporters with your mission, ministry or cause, writing newsletters is probably an important part of what you do. Among my friends here at YWAM Denver, it’s always “newsletter time” for someone. I’ve been writing newsletters for nearly 9 years, and would like to share a couple of the things I’ve learned in the process. I will be writing a series of posts about “Making Your Newsletters Remarkable.” I hope to help you make your next newsletter remarkable, and would love to hear (from writers and readers) what you’ve learned in your own process of communication.

Essential to great communication is connecting with your audience and sharing your message in a way they will understand. When you’re writing a newsletter, you must consider who you’re writing to and “language” they understand best.

When I got married to my Dutch wife, I faced for the first time the challenge of literally translating our newsletters into a different language. We received lots of great help from friends, but this was, and still is, a huge challenge. It takes effort. And that’s the thing, translating your message often isn’t easy, but it is worth it. When we made the effort to translate our communications into Dutch, we received great feedback from our Dutch friends and supporters (watch one of our Dutch updates here).

While you may not have to literally translate your communications into another language, you may experience the language gap in different ways. Here are a couple tips to consider as you craft your next newsletter.

D.U.A.T.Y.A.D.U. (Don’t use acronyms that your audience doesn’t understand)

Every community and workplace has a language of inside jokes, acronyms, and vocabulary of its own, which, for the uninitiated, might as well be Dutch. The issue we often run into is forgetting that not everyone understands our dialect. Chip Heath and Dan Heath, in Made to Stick, call this the “Curse of Knowledge.” Once you know a language, it’s hard to remember what it was like to not know that language.

When you write about your programs or community, remember that you’re audience isn’t immersed in your daily language. Personally, I find it inconvenient to write out “Worship, Intercession, Spiritual Warfare and Evangelism” school every time I mention it in our updates (kinda interrupts the flow), but I try to make the effort to write it out, or at least add a link to the W.I.S.E. school as a footnote for those who want to know more about it.

Consider your medium.

Your preferred method of communication, be it video, email, or pop-up-and-dance-around-the-room multimedia experiences, must come second to your audience’s preferences.

This is a hard one for me. I love using design-rich media, but find that at times my efforts are not worth the investment for the technical difficulties they bring for my readers. For those whose email hosts don’t receive HTML emails, I am sure to include a link to the newsletter online. Also, for some of our friends who don’t use email, I try to make the effort of sending them a paper copy of our newsletters (ok, my mom helps actually get it into their hands, thanks Mom).

One great comment I once received was, “Your newsletter looked great on my iPod!” While this happened by accident, it reminded me that some of our readers open our newsletters on small screens. Now I intentionally try to make HTML emails mobile-device friendly (550 pixels wide is great).

When we take time to consider our audience’s preferences, we show that we care about and respect them. And sometimes actions speak louder than words….

What do you consider when you craft a newsletter? What do you appreciate about the newsletters you enjoy reading? Please comment to help us all make our next newsletter remarkable!

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