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5 tips on writing tiptop newsletters

Every email an organisation sends competes with around 120 others that the average office worker receives every day.

Email newsletter

The average time people spend reading a newsletter is 51 seconds. "Reading" is not even the right word, since people scan newsletters. If you produce digital newsletters, what's the magic formula? What makes yours wave its hand in the air and shout 'read me, read me'?

Recipients should want to read it immediately or at least keep it in their inbox for when they're free. This means the content has to be relevant, interesting and, above all, useful to them. 

1. Design and plan

Think about what your recipients want to read about. Deciding what's important will help you plan the newsletter and write the content. Put important items at the top – and remember that means what will be important to your audience, and not just what's important to you.

There's no rule about how long newsletters should be but we read 49% of our email on mobile devices, so the shorter the better. Tempting as it is to include everything that's happened in your organisation or professional field, less is more. Or you could focus on just two to three topics or calls to action (CTAs) in each issue.

In marketing, a CTA is an instruction to the audience designed to provoke an immediate response, usually using an imperative verb such as "call now", "find out more" or "visit a store today".  

The design should make the content easy to read and navigate. Leaving plenty of white space and using bullet points will stop it looking cluttered - especially important for the 49% trying to read it on a mobile device.

Images add colour and break up text, but use them sparingly and make them relevant to the story. Use images that are still recognisable when they're scaled down on a mobile device (hint: group photos don't work well). Images are often switched off on mobile devices, so don't make them crucial to the story.

2. Get to the point

Content should be concise and to the point. You want recipients to respond to your CTAs, so don't make them read more than necessary. Each news item should be no longer than two or three short sentences with a link to more information.

Use original text, don't simply copy from the linked page, and keep links to one or two per item, preferably at the end. Clicking links on mobile devices can be difficult when there are several embedded in the text.

DIY divorce – how easy is it?  
And is it more risky than using a solicitor?
We take you through the process and answer your legal questions.
[link to article]

Aim for your newsletter to be around 90% informative and 10% promotional, and keep adverts for events, publications and anything that involves a cost, to a minimum. Free stuff, however, is always welcome.

3. Top titles

We rarely read digital content word for word. Instead, we scan pages, picking out words and sentences that interest us, so make your titles eye-catching.

For example, 'Solicitors most envied professional, says new report' will stand out more than 'New report about legal profession published'.

4. Get the subject line right

Like any good email, your newsletter needs a subject line that grabs attention. 35% of email recipients open email based on the subject line, so it's worth spending time on.

Our Firm's Newsletter, May 2018 isn't going to do the job. All it tells you is who it's from (which the recipient can see) and the date (which they already know).

Tell your subscribers what they can find inside. Use the headlines from a couple of the top items – or the most important one – which should be of interest to them:

10 money-saving legal tips for house-buyers
Later opening times for busy commuters
DIY divorce – how easy is it? 

Keep it to under 41 characters (portrait view on an iPhone) and leave out the word 'newsletter/e-newsletter' – research has shown it decreases the open rate by over 18%.

5. Learn what worked so you know what to leave out

To make sure your newsletter is doing its job and is useful to the people you send it to, you need to look at the metrics. At the very least, check:

  • open rates, which give you a rough idea of how many of the emails you sent were opened – get above 30% and you're doing very well
  • clickthrough rates, which tell you how many times the links in your newsletter were clicked on – a good way of judging whether subscribers found your content interesting and responded to your CTAs

On the basis of the intelligence, you can make the right decisions about what to leave out of your newsletter next time, and what to do more of.

 

Read 5 writing habits every lawyer needs by Daphne Perry, co-author of Clarity for Lawyers

Read 3 ways to improve client care at your law firm

Read I wanted to be a lawyer, not a sales rep: 4 steps to tackle business development by Douglas McPherson, author of The Visible Lawyer