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Get your readers off their duffs.

If you think your newsletter exists to communicate news, reexamine your objectives--and in the process, your use of technology. That advice comes from Elaine Floyd, who suggests that all newsletters, even ones for internal audiences, are really serving promotional and marketing goals. Technology can and should be exploited for promotional purposes.

Hers is a subtly different, but refreshing, perspective from a newsletter editor who graduated from college with an engineering degree and went into sales before discovering her talent as a writer and editor. She is now president of EF Communications in New Orleans and author of "Marketing with Newsletters."

Whether you're promoting products, services or ideas, a newsletter can move your reader to take some action. Granted, information must be imparted first. However, Floyd cautions that one of the biggest mistakes editors make is not finding the appropriate balance between information and promotion.

Warning: You have only about 15 seconds to prove yourself. So keep this acronym in mind: RISE to the occasion. That is,

*With Recognition, you give your readers basic awareness of your organization; regular readers know this and skip right over it. Nameplates and logos fall into this category.

*Image is the stage where readers evaluate your organization. Prove your credibility. Show that you're an expert.

*Specifics give more information on why a reader should support the cause, place an order, make a donation, attend a meeting, or whatever goal you have set.

*And finally, Enactment is a call to action. As the marketers say, you have to ask for the sale. Tell your readers what to do.

Technology can come into play here, according to Floyd. A telephone with push-button routing and voice mail is one method. Here's how:

Consider shortening all your articles to just a few paragraphs. That's right--give the specifics, enough to entice. Since readers can scan several articles without even being called upon to turn a page, you're doing your audience a service. Then, close each article with a statement telling readers who find this "condensed article" interesting to call a certain telephone number to receive the complete article.

This method can help hold down the cost of a newsletter by keeping it short and sweet. The "complete article" does not require the production costs and quality paper of a newsletter. For speedy replies, you may send the complete article via E-mail or fax.

The point is, the reader becomes involved in getting the information he or she wants - "wants" being the key word. The reader actually becomes involved; taking a step like calling is taking a step toward buying a product or buying into a cause. For people who hate sales calls, this is an anonymous way to request information. The editor gets a built-in tracking tool, to boot.

Floyd praises desktop publishing as a way to make this method easier. You can edit and "condense" articles on-screen, placing them in an order that makes editorial and promotional sense. You, as editor, don't have to convince a designer that article must go on the first page even if it looks better on the back page.

Marketing and promotion are largely processes of targeting messages, and desktop publishing makes it easy to create different versions of newsletters, even different approaches for the same article. The one paragraph that entices a blue-collar worker to call for additional information is likely to vary from the paragraph that entices an executive to take that action. "As postage costs rise, you must try harder to target your piece to the

Floyd insists that editors use their computer for more than publishing the newsletter. Get a database, and keep your mailing list up to date. How? With a reply card enclosed in the newsletter headlined: "Take Four Seconds to Respond, Please." Ask whether the reader wants to keep receiving the newsletter giving a yes or no option. Then, add one more question with the subhead, "If You Have Five More Seconds..." Ask something that will help you plan a future issue.

Floyd doesn't recommend using reply cards to get demographic responses as are often found in readership surveys. Yes, readership surveys are important, but you can get the marketing, membership, or employee relations department to put their computers to work to give you that data. Get them off their duffs, too--all in the name of meeting your organization's marketing goals, of course.
COPYRIGHT 1992 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Computer Sense; using voice mail and desktop publishing in the preparation of newsletters
Author:Rosen, Sheri
Publication:Communication World
Article Type:Column
Date:May 1, 1992
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