If you've never created a company newsletter before, it's difficult to know where to start.
The biggest challenge of writing an internal mailer (or any email, for that matter)? Consistently sourcing content that's relevant and useful.
In this article we'll show you how to:
- Create compelling content to keep readers interested
- Optimize and tweak your newsletter for the best performance
- Put out a company newsletter employees want to read every week/month
Looking to take your internal communications to the next level? You're in the right place.
What Exactly IS A Company Newsletter?
There's a lack of clarity around the term "company newsletter" online. Writers often fail to differentiate between internal and external emails. That's confusing for readers, because the two are (or should be) VERY different in tone and style.
Google it and you still might not know if a company newsletter is for employees or customers. Currently, 83% of B2B marketers send external newsletters to companies. But there's a huge opportunity with employees too,
The number of businesses with a humble employee newsletter is much smaller. Under-used and under-valued by time starved team members, many fail to put them out at all. Why is that the case?
The appeal of an external email newsletter sent to customers is obvious. It lets you highlight upcoming deals, upsell or cross-sell, and promote new products.
The attraction behind an internal newsletter is less clear. But we'll see below that an effective employee newsletter is great for all sorts of things. Everything from building company culture to disseminating vital information. They're a great alternative to endless meetings, which is great for remote workers.
The open rate of internal emails averages at around 66%, much higher than the 15-20% open rates of B2B and B2C emails. The majority of employees WANT to know what's going on within their organisation. The key here is to capitalise on that potential.
How To Start A Company Newsletter
The big question here is this:
What is the purpose of a company newsletter?
Or, more specifically, what is the purpose of MY company newsletter. Determining the purpose of a company newsletter is vital to its success. It will determine everything about it, from the content itself to tone and visual style.
Below, we delve into some of the most common types of newsletter sent by Publicate customers. We started writing down what you should be covering in a company newsletter. We quickly noticed broad groupings of purposes begin to emerge.
What are the best topics to cover in a company newsletter?
- Updates from CEO - addressing anything from current priorities to goals being met
- Mergers and acquisitions - it's always big news when a company merges with or acquires another company. Employees want to know about the "how"s and "why"s
- PR coverage - recent appearances in newspaper articles or on blogs
Benefit: Helps to make sure employees feel like they are "in the loop". They develop a better understanding of what direction the company is heading
Keeping people up to date:
- Upcoming events (inward facing)
- Recent developments or "incidents"
- Information about new policies or procedures, e.g. vacation time, dress code etc.
Benefit: Reach all employees at once, cutting down on gossip and hearsay. Save time by eliminating the need to address everyone individually
Fostering team culture:
- Introducing new hires
- Personal/team successes, e.g. new records, hitting targets etc.
- Backstories or anecdotes to give some character to managers, team members
Benefit: Improve employee morale and foster intracompany friendships/communication. Make people aware of expansion within the organisation
Updating on product or services:
- Product releases
- Product updates or the addition of new features
- Announcements from Research & Development
- Blog posts or case studies that have recently gone live
Benefit: Employees develop a deeper understanding of the product. They're better informed about what's on the roadmap when talking to customers.
It's important to note that the "categories" above aren't mutually exclusive. They're loosely defined enough that you can mix and match topics in a single newsletter. Be careful, though, not to overload with information and make it too dense to read!
Where To Find Company Newsletter Ideas
Now you've established the broad purpose of your email. It's time to narrow things down by thinking about content. In other words, what should be included in a company newsletter of this type? It's sensible to group together pieces of content that complement each other.
For example, ambitious goals for the new year go hand in hand with information about new hires. Plus, you can mention other measures to support employees in achieving these goals.
Looking at what should be included in a company newsletter? Resist the temptation to head straight for your latest external newsletter. Remember that these typically have a sales and marketing angle. Make sure to rework that content before using it in an internal mailer.
Ask your team members what they want to get out of a company newsletter. But don't stop there. They're also a great resource for gathering content for it!
- Year in review - cover progress (and mistakes) made, and how they shape priorities for the year to come
- Partnerships/Affiliates - reinforces the business' legitimacy. Particularly true if it's partnering with companies that are household names
- Hitting financial goals - knowing things are "on track" gives employees a greater sense of stability
- Reiterating company vision and values
- Recognition to celebrate teams
- Upcoming events - what's coming up to look forward to? How might it affect different sections of the organisation?
- Past events - highlights of what's been going on and what we learned from it
- Meeting customers or affiliates, and how things are progressing on that front
- Moves (e.g. transitioning to larger headquarters or expansion of teams)
- Training, courses or other events available for colleagues
- Recent blog posts - may be of interest to employees, who might want to share them
- Stats (interesting ones!) about email campaigns - invites feedback from other team members, e.g. "our customers always ask about X, so you could mention it."
- Upcoming deals or promotions - allows other employees to do what they need to do to prepare for increased traffic and/or enquiries
- PR successes and campaigns - again, this reinforces the company's legitimacy
- Ways employees can support upcoming initiatives - useful for building company culture and breaking down silos within the organisation
Customer Support (and Customers!)
- Feedback from customers themselves - might ultimately dictate the future direction of your product(s). Watch for the same issues reappearing time after time
- Case studies and stories about how product is being used - may inspire product team to think about features in a different way
- Customer spotlight - puts a face to "the customer", improving empathy with them
Product & Development
- Previews of upcoming features etc. - helpful for employees, many of whom may never have seen the product roadmap
- Introduction of new apps or other deployments, e.g. loyalty rewards - updates employees on how these things work before enquiries about them start arriving
- Highlighting "hacks" and workarounds on product - improves familiarisation with the product, which is particularly useful for new team members
- Information about pet projects, e.g. APIs, hackathons
Make sure you have approval to share anything that might be considered sensitive. Check that content is finished enough to be presented, even if only internally.
Speak to members from all different teams. Make them aware early that you're looking for content for the next company newsletter. Include diverse content to avoid regurgitating information employees already know.
In an ideal world, you'd have an inbox full of news and suggestions from team members. In practice, it's unlikely that things will work quite so well out of the box. Consider asking team members to nominate someone "in the know" to keep you up to date with their goings on.
Until you've proven the value of a company newsletter, be prepared to chase people for content!
There are plenty of other places to turn for sourcing newsletter content:
- External mailers
- Customers (success stories, case studies, personas)
- Social media (Twitter, Medium, Pocket)
- Business books, blogs, podcasts, reports etc.
These are a great way to keep employees abreast of relevant trends or best practices in the space. If you've interesting or enlightening, other employees probably will as well.
Tools like Pocket, or the Publicate browser extension, are great for gathering content. You can use them to save anything you want to revisit with a single click.
How To Create A Company Newsletter People Want To Read
Internal emails may have a high open rate, but employees are not a captive audience. Fail to create a compelling internal newsletter and your open rate will drop like a stone. The number one way to avoid this is relevance. If a newsletter doesn't offer value, it won't get read.
Now we'll look at what you can do to ensure that your internal newsletters are striking the right chord. Let's start at the beginning...
Distribution and Timing
Whoever you're emailing, it's almost always true that weekends are best avoided. Unless there are extreme mitigating circumstances, they're just a no-go. That's especially true of internal newsletters, unless the company is unusually active at the weekend.
A CoSchedule study found that Tuesday is the best day to send an email. Thursday and Wednesday come in second and third respectively. As for when in the day you should send out emails? That same study suggested that 10am is the best time to send out mailers.
2pm is another possibility. Just remember that a lot of people don't check work email addresses outside of working hours. That's probabl where you'll be sending your company newsletter. For that reason, we'd recommend avoiding the "runner up" times of 8pm and 6am from that study.
A/B Test Subject Lines and Content
The majority of CRO tools, such as Optimizely and Zoho, are aimed at those A/B testing their website. But there are services out there that allow you to split test email content (e.g. MailChimp). Or automatically generate subject lines (e.g. Automizy).
Like with an external email campaign, don't hit send on an internal email without testing and optimising first.
Be wary of omitting certain pieces of content if doing so might cause confusion. Your audience might be too small to generate meaningful data from split tests, but it's still worth considering.
Relevant apps: Zoho Campaigns, CoSchedule, Automizy
Adding a survey to your company newsletter is a fantastic way to learn more about how you can improve. You might ask questions like:
- Do you find these emails useful?
- What else would you like to see included in future newsletters?
- Is this newsletter too long, too short or about right?
- How can we make these emails more useful?
- When is the ideal time for this newsletter to be sent out?
You may be trying to direct your readers somewhere else once they've read your newsletter. If not, consider rounding out your email with a CTA (call to action) requesting feedback. Use a large centred button or styled image to encourage participation in the survey.
Relevant apps: SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, Type Monkey, Publicate
CTR and Engagement
A high open rate is great but, ultimately, it's a vanity metric. There are better indicators of how successful an email has been. Look at things like how many people are clicking on the links or your Call(s) To Action.
The elephant in the room is that tracking metrics is difficult if you're not using a service like MailChimp. There are reasons, however, why using MailChimp for internal communications isn't recommended:
- Emails sent from MailChimp are more likely to be marked as spam
- Company data policy may not allow you to host a list of employees on MailChimp
- A web version of your email is created automatically, raising privacy concerns
- The Unsubscribe button is mandatory in MailChimp emails. Employees might use it, and miss out on vital company news as a result
Using a tool like Publicate is an effective remedy to this. It allows you to track metrics from emails sent through Gmail, Outlook etc.
Creating the Perfect Internal Company Newsletter Template
Choosing a company newsletter format that works for you is important for a couple of reasons. First, it will accentuate the content you've written. Blocks of uninterrupted text are the perfect way to get readers to switch off, which is why you need to mix it up.
Second, using a template allows you to quickly and easily slot content into the perfect place. That will save you hours of preparation. There's no need to fumble around composing internal mailers every couple of weeks. Just check out the many existing tried and tested templates out there.
This illustration represents the 8 major combinations for any company newsletter section. Mixing and matching these over multiple sections creates endless variations and combinations.
Experiment with colour and spacing to create something that's pleasing to the eye. Using templates in a service like Publicate lets you to create emails that always look great. They're mobile responsive too, even when sent via Gmail/Outlook.
Tools: Publicate, ContactMonkey
Shakespeare once said that "brevity is the soul of wit." That's definitely true for the company newsletter. Constant Contact suggests the optimal length for an email newsletter is 200 words.
Rather than aiming for as few words as possible, it's a better idea to aim for as few words as you NEED. Think realistically about how many issues you want to discuss in the newsletter. There's nothing worse than an email swimming with facts and figures. Unless information is time sensitive, hold onto itfor next month's email.
Using a template creates a sense of consistency. Your readers will start allocating the right amount of time to read your newsletter. It also stops you going overboard and adding too many content blocks.
Tools: Publicate, CampaignMonitor, MailChimp
In some cases, the perfect imagery for a section will be right under your nose. If you're re-capping a recent event, an image of team members having fun together is ideal. A shot of the CEO riding their bike will cap off information about how they spend their weekends.
Other times, things won't be quite so straightforward. Using similar illustrations throughout is a good way to build some consistency. You might need to turn to your design team for that. Don't count out stock imagery, which has come a long way in recent years. Unsplash, for example, has a library of more than 1 million fresh and attractive images.
From iMessage to online dating icebreakers, GIFs are more popular than ever. Despite the format being more than 30 years old! If a picture is worth a thousand words, a well-executed GIF must be worth a million of them. Constant Contact found emails with the highest CTR contained three images or fewer.
Tools: Unsplash, GIPHY, Gfycat, Reddit - link to our newsletters images post
Colour & Calls to Action
There's some overlap between an external company newsletter and an internal mailer. Overall, however, the goals of each are quite different. For an external newsletter, the aim might be to direct your customers to a landing page or item.
That may not be the case with an internal newsletter. As such, you shouldn't be afraid to tweak your company newsletter template. Base this on where you want your readers to go (if anywhere) after reading the email.
Place your primary CTA in the same place each month. This is the gently encourages readers to understand what you want them to click. Using colour consistently can help with this too. Make all your buttons green, for example. That way employees will know what you're hoping they'll click.
Most templates will come with pre-set colours. They allow you to tweak colours of individual areas, buttons and section backgrounds. Read up a little on colour schemes and combinations. Ensure that your email isn't jarring to the eye and important text stands out.
Tools: Sip, Aquarelo
How To Make A Company Newsletter Even Better
We've covered the key things to consider when putting together a company newsletter. That includes everything from content and timing to design and consistency.
Bringing all of these things together forms a coherent whole. An email full of great content that's sent at midnight, for example, won't garner many opens right away.
We've also covered what to keep an eye on after starting a company newsletter. Monitoring open rate, CTR and engagement is vital. It helps you figure out what sort of content your audience relates to for the future.
[Publicate Gmail/Outlook metrics screenshot]
Using a tool like Publicate in tandem with Gmail or Outlook is ideal for non-techies. It will drastically reduce the amount of time you spend delving into code. Or tinkering with a WYSIWYG editor trying to get things to look right.Continue to take employee feedback into account. It'll help you keep your company newsletter fresh and make it a hit!