Starting a newsletter begins with good intentions. You have some business goals – like raising brand awareness, building a community around what you do, pulling in more leads – but if you’re like us, you won’t consider some of the biggest benefits that creating a newsletter can deliver for you and your team.
Some of the biggest perks don’t reveal themselves for a while. It’s only when you’ve got into the habit of producing newsletters regularly that you can see how far you’ve come.
These are the newsletter bonuses we’re enjoying after a year of producing The Clec.
As expected, the team’s level of content marketing skills has been boosted by regular practice. The last year has been an intensive course in writing blogs and other content, layout, headline writing, newsletter design, navigating Mailchimp, open rates and click rates. But, more unexpectedly, creating a newsletter is also an exercise in teamwork, creativity, fuelling curiosity, finding your voice, and stamina.
We’ve learnt some things we didn’t expect to learn, and it’s been rewarding in ways we didn’t anticipate.
The unexpected benefits
Virtual water cooler moments
The Clec planning meetings have been an opportunity to get together regularly as a team to chat about the perspectives, experiences and knowledge that we want to share, and why we thought they were important, relevant or just plain fun. It’s more of an internal company thing than an external newsletter thing, but really important with WFH and the change in the office dynamics. The Clec has engineered virtual water cooler moments, and we’ve really needed them this year.
Starting The Clec coincided with the first lockdown. The first planning meeting happened face-to-face in the office in Chepstow, but every one since has been on Zoom. Since then, we’ve all missed the sociable aspects of work, and creating The Clec together means we’ve purposeful reasons to just shoot the breeze.. We love a good listicle, and through building them we’ve got to know each other’s favourite films, books, and board games. We’ve shared our biggest childhood fears and party playlists. It’s given us an excuse to talk about some weird and wonderful stuff, and that’s been lovely.
Bigger content muscles
The regular, repeated dose of writing, curating and producing is like a gym workout for our content muscles. Getting The Clec out without fail every fortnight has strengthened our skills, capabilities and appetite. That’s spilling over into client work too. We’re clearer on strategy and braver about experimenting, which is a productive place to be. We’re faster at coming up with good content ideas, and we’re creating more efficiently. And alongside all of the other client content we regularly create – articles, blogs, OpEds, infographics, animations – we now produce client newsletters too.
"Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations."
Practice beats procrastination
Creating your own content often gets sidelined when work gets busy. For us, there’s always client work to do. And even if your sole purpose is to create in-house content, chances are there’s still more work to do than time to do it.
The regular cadence of producing a newsletter got us into the habit of making choices and setting priorities. What content has to get done this week, and what can wait for a quieter moment (…yeah, we know, like there’s ever enough of those).
"Perfect is the enemy of good"
"Perfect is the enemy of good"
There’s no time to procrastinate or wait for the muse to strike. You learn not to let perfect be the enemy of good. And every time you ‘just get on with it’ you get a bit better at it. It means you’re doing your marketing, rather than just talking about doing it.
Paying attention to good stories
The curation of great stories is part science, part art, part kindness. The Clec is a collaboratively curated affair, and we’re all responsible for coming up with good stories to add to the mix. Always being on the lookout for the stories that we know our readers will appreciate, makes us better at understanding what makes a good story tick. Again, it’s a habit that deepens useful skills. Whatever you pay attention to grows. We’re learning more about what makes a good story by searching for them, analysing them and talking about them.
Brings your brand to life
A good newsletter brings your brand to life in a way that no branding exercise ever could. Putting your heart and soul out there every fortnight is a way of showing, not telling, what you’re all about. Far more powerful than saying ‘we’re a team and we love stories’, is to create, curate, and send out a handpicked bunch of them every fortnight to a growing community. Actions speak louder than words.
How about you?
Maybe you’ve already tried to get a newsletter off the ground, but ended up badging it as too hard to do (well). Or maybe you’re thinking about starting a newsletters from scratch. Our advice would be to focus on your systems and process – regular planning meetings, regular deadlines – and not on numbers. As James Clear says in Atomic Habits “You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.”
Getting into the newsletter habit is what will help. It’s the repeated small actions that will see your newsletter blossoming.
- Regular meetings – Get the team into the habit of coming up with ideas, looking for stories – and advocating for them. That’s what makes the meetings fun. Creativity thrives when people are relaxed, not pressured
- Hard deadlines – Non-slip, not non-stick. It’s the only way you’ll get it out of the door when life gets busy.
- Make the outcomes fit the deadline – Never the other way around This is your insurance policy for always having a newsletter to send.
- Create and curate – A flexible format that mixes homegrown stories with found ones gives you a bit of wriggle room when you are all really up against it. Plus sharing other people’s great content is a valuable service that also stops a newsletter being too self-orientated.
- Upskill the team – Don’t be the only one who knows how Mailchimp works. That’s a metaphor for spreading the load so that there’s always somebody else to step in.
And finally, keep doing it. Rinse and repeat. Make it fun, and it won’t even feel like work.