I know this sounds logical and simple but members have no time for fluff and already they are being blasted with print, web, email, social media, video, TV and road signs that are crowding away the attention they can give you.
Put yourself in the member's shoes: Would YOU look forward to getting YOUR newsletter and would you read it as soon as you received it? You wouldn't if it hadn't already established credibility and interest with previous editions. And you would not turn the page on this one if it didn't impress you from the front cover.
This presents a dilemma for state associations. The association needs to communicate to its members but members may not believe they absolutely need to hear from you. At the very least, you must put your name and image in front of members so they don't forget that they are members and likely to forget why they should renew at the next notice. Most importantly, the association will have events, products and programs in which YOU want them to participate... But they may not see an immediate need to participate. So YOUR need, alone, is not enough to get THEM to open and read YOUR newsletter.
The key, then, is to make it OUR newsletter. To do that you must build a reputation that the newsletter is more valuable to them, the member, than it is to you, the association.
To create that value you need to know what gets the member's attention. Take a lesson from the retail media. They use drama, tragedy, controversy and celebrity to sell attention. Why do you think grocery stores put People Magazine and the Inquirer at the checkout counter? They know who their customer is and the majority of female customers know that those front-and-center publications are packed with drama, tragedy, controversy and celebrity. Often the grocery customer does not even wait to get through the checkout line before they have opened that publication. Do your members react that way with your newsletter when it hits the inbox? Congratulations to you if they do.
If they don't, try introducing these elements into your publication:
- Look professional
- Members are celebrities. Use their pictures frequently. Highlight their names in text.
- Limit advertising. No ads larger than a half page placed on odd-pages for optimum exposure.
- Newsletters are for news. Think USA TODAY: headlines and short stories. Feature articles belong in magazines and website files. And remember that magazines are the domain of professional industry publications that you are not likely to ever beat at their game.
- News is timely. If you write your March newsletter in January and the member receives it in April, you have failed this test. Report no news older than 30 days and try to get the February newsletter in their hands before the 2nd or 3rd of February.
- Include compelling monthly sections or elements like Member News, Industry Calendar, Legislative Report, New Members. If you are really brave and confident in the value of your association you might provide a Notice of Lost Members that plays to the People Magazine motives in all of us.
- Sound professional: no misspelled words or poor grammar.
- Be brief and well organized. You will be very lucky to get one minute of your member's attention. If you are really good they will circle something and pass it on to others, take it home to read further on their time or file it for future reference.
Contact me if you want to know more about Newsletters. Contribute your comments to this blog and help me learn more about the subject, as well.