Do you publish a newsletter? I hope the answer from all of you is a resounding “YES!” If not, you’re missing a great opportunity to speak to your community. If you have a newsletter, here’s another question. Does it read like it was composed by the NewsOMatic 3000? Or would somebody reading it believe that it was written by a genuine human being? It’s actually more effective to write newsletters in your speaking voice. Here’s why.
Jargon excludes people
When I write about PowerPoint and marketing I know that my audience is comprised of people with widely divergent backgrounds. Not everybody is a graphic designer or marketing pro. So I don’t write like this:
“To achieve an optimal slide composition, you should balance clean typography against effective, full-screen visuals and ensure that the values and textures of each are dissimilar enough to guarantee legibility.”
I mean, who even talks like that? Graphic designers might know what that sentence means, but I felt like a jerk for even typing it! It makes it seem like I think I’m more educated than you and if you can’t keep up, too bad. Here’s a better way to express the same view:
“Try using large pictures in your presentations, ones that take up the whole slide. Then you can add some text on top of the picture. Just be sure that the color of the text is readable against the background. Also, avoid putting text over busy backgrounds. Doing this makes it easier to read the text.”
Notice the difference? In the second example I used shorter sentences and words that the majority of people will understand.
You wanna sound like a corporate drone? Keep dropping jargon bombs, like how you “leverage your organization’s key synergies while swiping right on bleeding-edge technologies.” If, on the other hand, you want to communicate like a human being, skip the shop talk.
You sound like a relatable person
It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that you need to sound “corporate” and “professional” in your newsletters. Humorless, informative text is the way to go, right? Wrong! Nothing could be more boring. Whether you’re a solo professional or part of the marketing department of a large organization, using your own voice or the voice of your organization’s culture is a better way to connect with your readers.
Here’s an excerpt from the June 2015 Fearless Flyer from Trader Joe’s that demonstrates how their culture informs their writing:
Yes. Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter & Jelly with Nonfat Greek Yogurt is a thing – fat free Greek yogurt mixed with ground peanuts and strawberry jam, all blended together. It really does taste like a creamy, tangy version of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The first bite is surprising – as much as you know what to expect, you really have no idea what to expect. What happens after that first bite isn’t quite so surprising – you’ll find gravity pulling your spoon back into the cup, demanding another go-round. PB&J with Nonfat Greek Yogurt is made with milk from cows not treated with rBST, and contains the live, active cultures L. Acidophilus, L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus, Bifidus, and L. Casei. Each cup delivers 14 grams of protein and 170 calories. Skip that sandwich and enjoy a cup of yogurt instead! We’re selling each 5.3 ounce cup for 99¢, every day.
This was written to resonate with their target market: educated, sophisticated consumers who are concerned about health and value pricing. It’s conversational and irreverent while at the same time providing good information about the product. Imagine the same paragraph written by someone from the USDA. Brrr, it gives me the shivers just thinking about it.
You can build relationships
People build relationships with the brands they love. Ask any Mac user, if you don’t believe me. By communicating clearly and conversationally with your community, you can build that relationship and make it even stronger. Invite people to comment on your articles, and reply to what they tell you. Share information. Respond to questions. All of these things help to position you as someone that people are interested in getting to know better.
Learn from the master
If you create newsletters for your business, large or small, you can benefit from the always helpful advice of Mr. Michael Katz of Blue Penguin Development. Although he focuses on working with professional service firms, the tips he provides in the infographic below are applicable to any kind of promotional newsletter.
Which if any of this advice have you followed in your own newsletters? If you’re part of a large organization, have you met with any resistance to applying these tactics? Let me know about your newsletter-writing experiences!