Postcard newsletters

BY CHUCK GREEN Conventional thinking says a newsletter is a good way to keep your name in front of prospects and customers. And that producing one is both time consuming and costly. Conventional thinking also says a newsletter should be a minimum of four 8.5 by 11 inch pages and costs at least the standard letter rate to mail.

All well and good. But if you're going to grab attention in the chaos of today's marketplace, you've got to think outside convention. You've got to reinvent big business ideas in small business terms—smart, practical, and cost-conscious. In this case—by boiling a conventional newsletter down to its essence—a postcard newsletter.

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The front cover (figure 1) includes the nameplate with a defining phrase and mission statement, the lead story, contact information and space for the mailing label and postage information.

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The second side (figure 2) features a second and third story and a sidebar—more on those later. Both sides include a header that spells out the month of publication, the volume and issue number, and the name of the publisher.

Why do it? Simple—because newsletters work. They have a proven track record for keeping you and your audience in touch, for establishing and maintaining your credibility, and for publicizing your organization to the community. There are hundreds of thousands of newsletters published on every imaginable subject each year.

But you need to whittle the scope of the conventional newsletter down to save money and time. Whittle down the postage by reducing the size—postage for a 41/4 by 6 inch postcard is substancially less than a standard first-class letter-sized piece and even less if you mail in bulk. Plus, coming up with 300 or 400 words for a postcard can be far less time consuming than writing even a single conventional newsletter article.

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It stands to reason that a newsletter that is less expensive and easier to produce can be produced more frequently. In many cases, a postcard every month, or even once a quarter, is more memorable than a more complicated issue once or twice a year. Here's how to do it:

USE A NEWSLETTER-LIKE NAMEPLATE—Present your newsletter name just as you would on the full-sized version (figure 3)—with the name, the issue number and/or date, and a defining blurb that telegraphs the benefit of the content to the reader. The subtitle here is &lrdquo;News, Views, and Resources for Audio Engineers.”

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MAKE IT LOOK AND FEEL LIKE NEWS—Because you're presenting something familiar in unfamiliar form, make the overall design look as much like a newsletter as possible (figure 4). Write your copy in news form—who, what, where, when and why. And avoid the urge to do nothing but selling. Cultivate, instead, a relationship with the reader and do the hard selling elsewhere.

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WRITE SHORT, RESULTS-ORIENTED HEADLINES—Write short headlines that put the emphasis on the reader's interests (figure 5). “What you need to know about the new Digital QRD audio standard” personalizes the content.

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MAXIMIZE/MINIMIZE—Keep your writing reader-focused too (figure 6). Maximize the information and minimize the prose. If you're having trouble boiling your writing down, work in outline form. Create a series of indispensable components and connect them a little at a time until you reach the limits of your space. Leave your audience with the basics but wanting more.

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CREATE A CALL TO ACTION—This is where you turn your information into sales (figure 7). Encourage the reader to call for information or to e-mail you with questions and so on. You might even point them to a link on the your Web that expands on the story.

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PROVIDE CONTACT POINTS—You can't supply too many contact options (figure 8). At a minimum include your company name, street address, Web site and e-mail addresses, phone and fax numbers. This is also a good place to include legalese such as a copyright notice.

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FOLLOW POSTAL GUIDELINES—Before you print multiple copies, stop by the post office with your final artwork and a sample of the paper you plan to print your newsletter on to confirm that your card meets postal regulations (figure 9).

The size/margins of the mailing area and composition of the indicia are regulated by the post office of the country of origin. Your postmaster can provide further specifics on production.

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USE BYLINES AND CREDITS—Personalize the message by including the names of writers and by crediting sources (figure 10). This will help you build credibility and a reputation for solid information.

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USE QUOTATIONS—As with any newsletter, breaking out quotations is a good way to present important points in the words of the experts and to add visual interest (figure 11).

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USE ILLUSTRATIONS TO TELL A STORY—Good illustrations are more than decoration—they say something words alone do not (figure 12). In this case, the character points to the dual roles and engineer often plays.

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PROVIDE PRACTICAL ADVICE—Include a sidebar with a list of tips, facts and figures, or a chart or graph of pertinent statistics (figure 13).

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GET IT PRINTED—Lastly, here's a plug for a supplier. I have had a several projects printed, long-distance by a company in Kansas City — Trabon Companies. I like them a lot. The quality is good and the prices are right.

ib_postcard_news_14.gifIf nothing else, call and get their catalog—it includes six different flavors of postcards—from what they call their “standard” 3 1/2 by 5 1/2 inch version to a “giant” 6 by 9 (these are printed in 4-color on one side and black and white on the second). And the catalog includes lots of other print materials with set quantities and prices—posters, brochures, catalogs, and so on. If you call, ask for Dennis Duffy at 800-825-0381 and request a catalog. Then tell me if your experience with them was as good as mine.

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