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Customized newsletter for children's hospitals successfully marries eminently readable information and bold, colorful design. (Newsletter Profile).

The quarterly Starting Out Healthy, published by Health Ink & Vitality Communications, is the endorsed newsletter of the National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions.

"NACHRI's member hospitals," executive editor Steve Mclver said, "can purchase the newsletter from us to distribute to their communities--often by mail, although a few insert it in local publications or distribute it through doctors' offices.

"This means our sales people market the newsletter to NACHRI hospitals rather than marketing it directly to readers."

McInver continued, "The circulation now reaches a maximum of about 888,000 copies per issue. Not every quarterly issue is that high because a couple of hospitals only take two issues a year, not four."

Complex customization

"Starting Out Healthy is a mix of articles we write and articles our hospital clients write," McIver said. "We prepare five 'national' stories each quarter and maintain a list of alternate stories hospital clients can use as substitutes or supplements to our lineup. Many hospitals chose to localize our stories by adding their own doctors' quotes or opinions."

If that seems like an editor's nightmare--juggling stories from various sources and obliging the different institutions' various demands for customization--it is obvously paying off, garnering a circulation figure of almost 900,000.

And it only gets more complicated. "Editors and designers at Health Ink combine the national, localized national, and hospital-written content in versions of the newsletter for each hospital," McIver said.

"Currently 13 hospitals buy versions of Starting Out Healthy. It can be customized to a great extent. Some change the name of the publication in their markets, and we design custom mastheads for them. A couple even change the fonts to match other materials they publish as part of a 'branding' strategy," McIver said.

Target audience

"The target audience for content is parents," McIver said. "Since they're busy, we keep the stories short and clear--the content we prepare is edited to an 8th-grade reading level. We periodically survey clients about their satisfaction, and we score well. A more detailed feedback on the newsletter's effectiveness tends to be gathered by the hospitals themselves."

Award-winning design

Starting Out Healthy won The Newsletter on Newsletters 2001 Silver Award for "superior editorial content enhanced by appropriate design and typography" in part because it keeps a keen eye on the target audience McIver described.

It's written and designed not only as a quick read but also as one with solid information--little or none of the puff that all too often characterizes the glossy publications produced by hospitals and managed care organizations.

None of Starting Out Healthy's articles is jumped, and most of the longer ones are broken up with numbered items and sidebars--and, of course, colorful photos of smiling faces of both grown-ups and children.

The newsletter deftly marries lively graphics and valuable information. A good, but certainly not the only, example of this is the p. 1 lead story:

* A small kicker headline reads, prosaically enough, "Help your children avoid skin cancer down the line."

* That's followed by four colorful photos of kids.

* Under the photos are the heads, "Slip! on a shirt" (in teal), Slop! on sunscreen" (in purple), "Slap! on a wide-brim hat" (in yellow), and Wrap! sunglasses over eyes" (in red).

Great advice, rendered as succinctly and unforgettably as possible. That imaginative headline treatment is followed by a short article in the newsletter's very readable Stone Serif text.

Color abounds in Starting Out Healthy: three colors in the nameplate, lots of full-color photos, different colored headlines throughout, plus plenty of sidebars and graphics rendered in a variety of screened colors.

But nowhere in the newsletter do the graphics and bright colors intrude upon a basically conservative body text. Aside from p. 1, the page layout is invariably three-column.

Editorially, Starting Out Healthy, as we've already pointed out, is chock-full of practical information for parents. The winning issue, prepared for Tampa Children's Hospital at St. Josephs, had no fewer than 11 articles containing or complemented by countless tips and lists in its eight pages.

And the p. 1 "Dear Parents" letter from the Tampa Children's Hospital administrator (with his photo) is a country-mile improvement over the usual, tedious "Message from the Administrator."
COPYRIGHT 2002 The Newsletter on Newsletters LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Apr 15, 2002
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