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Better communication for websites and newsletters
Tips on writing, design, format, and commitment
In our internet-obsessed culture, a website is one of those must-haves that people and organizations often plunge into without sufficient forethought, planning, or followup. Newsletters, too, whether they are on line or traditional hard copy, also tend to come about in a mad rush to publication with minimal oversight and supervision. To help your websites or newsletters achieve their communications goals, and continue working hard long after the first edition, here are a few tips for success:
1.Set realistic goals for your web newspage or newsletter. Get to know who your audience is. Avoid trying to be everything to everybody.
2.Try to have a professional communicator in charge . . . either an in-house person or an outside firm.
3.Avoid preaching or selling to readers. Your website or newsletter should not exist only to sell your organization, its programs or products, or the management point of view to employees or members. (If it comes off like that, your website visitors and readers will simply stop reading.) Try to educate, and inform ... open up communications channels, rather than close them down. Use soft sell instead of hard sell.”And be honest. Do not ignore or exclude bad news. Tell readers about problems, and what actions are being taken to solve them.
4.Provide a forum for readers to respond. Make them partners in your news sharing. You want to encourage their participation. Use blogs, open forums, Letters to the Editor, or other similar features.
5. Write clearly. Do not try to impress the readers with fancy language. Use short sentences and paragraphs; avoid jargon, industry terms, or acronyms (like S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A), that will not be understood by your entire audience. Think of your readers first. They may not have the same appreciation for quantum physics, aerospace engineering, technoperambulators and trapezoidal algorithms that you do; be careful not to bore or confuse them.
6.Establish a format and stick to it, so readers can become comfortable with the content and organization. This way, they will be able to find information easier. The more familiar they are with your news site or newsletter, the better the chances they will stay with it .... especially when they know they can pick up helpful information from it. (Too many designers use floating formats that change with each new page or issue... these can be confusing for your audience, and even have a negative effect on loyalty).
7.Pay attention to graphic elements. Surveys have shown that readers and information seekers typically begin by looking at interesting photos. So be sure to use well-planned and well-produced photos and illustrations on your pages.
8.Use photo captions to communicate key points in a story. Do not treat them as throwaways . . . they can help emphasize important information.
9.Do not cram too much information into your publication or webpage. Readership surveys show that readers want larger and more legible typefaces. By giving them shorter or fewer stories, you will actually be communicating more effectively with them.
10.Keep your commitment. Keep the news coming out regularly. Establish a schedule and stick to it. And maintain the same high quality with every edition or update. Once you get off track, you’ll begin losing followers (who may never come back).
11.Keep it simple. If you make the website or publication too complex, too expensive, or too hard to read, you are defeating your own purpose. Make it professional looking, and interesting enough to attract attention and invite readership ... but avoid going overboard, so it becomes a chore to produce each edition.
12. Follow up. Keep in touch with your website visitors and newsletter readers. Use questionnaires, surveys, and other feedback to make sure you are still meeting their needs. And if they come up with suggestions . . . consider making changes in your method of news delivery, if they make sense. The more you can cater to this audience (who are, after all, your customers or constituents), the more successful you will be in the long run.