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Employee communications channels

Newsletters

Purpose Typical audience Pros Cons Can you do it yourself? Thinking points
A highly efficient way of collating lots of information into a single (digital) communication Ideal for local audiences (but can also be segmented - or sent to all) A relatively inexpensive way to reach a large audience with detailed news and messages To capture and retain attention (and avoid information overload) it needs to be well written and designed Yes – but you can use a vendor for the creative part A good option for communicating to a local audience (site, region)

What is this channel?

Newsletters are one of the first things that come to mind when we think of ‘updating’ a specific audience with a larger volume of information - for example local newsletters for a specific DSM site or region.

Newsletters are a great way of bringing information together in one place and thus avoiding lots of emails. That said, the newsletter that you and your colleagues lovingly crafted will inevitably be another email in your recipients’ already overloaded inboxes. Ask your BG or regional communications person for approval.

Because the bottom line is: does your audience want or need yet another newsletter in their lives? If so, it needs to look good and be well-written to gain and hold their attention.

What and when is it typically used?

Think about your audience; can you share your messages properly and reach them via this channel? Check out the comparison notes below and weigh your pros versus cons. This will help you decide how to spend your time/ money for the best result.

Benefits

  1. Easy to set-up.
  2. Can be sent to a targeted audience.
  3. Ideal for engaging with a local audience on multiple topics in one go.
  4. Enables you to communicate lots of information.
  5. Not as expensive as some other channels - if an e-newsletter.

Challenges

  1. Newsletter overload!
  2. Another email in the inbox (assuming it’s an e-newsletter).
  3. Knowing when to stop sending it (eg, once a project finishes).
  4. Contact lists may not be up-to-date or the owner may not be specified: which can make sending the newsletter problematic.
  5. It needs to be extremely well-written and easy to understand.
  6. SWAY: layout can be more like a booklet, sometimes with too much information shared as the user clicks through.

How to use this channel

  • It starts by defining the purpose of your newsletter and who you want to reach.
  • Think about the frequency of your newsletter. Does it require a certain rhythm, or could you send it around specific milestones?
  • Write the content for your newsletter in accordance with the rules in the DSM Writing Guide.
  • Choose a tool to develop your newsletter. Some suggestions:
    • Email with news updates as paragraphs, with added visuals.
    • As a PDF attached to an email – you can make the layout nicer. 
    • SWAY: which is an app, available via Microsoft 365.
    • These days we tend to use online versions because it’s faster and saves some trees. You may occasionally decide to produce a printed newsletter. In which case you may need a designer to help with the layout and support in getting it printed in mailed. Be mindful of the costs of all this…
  • Send out your newsletter.
  • Measure (if you can) how it’s received, and update the next newsletter based on the feedback.
  • Formally close the newsletter at the end of a project/program or change: send a final wrapping-up newsletter thanking readers for their support.

Things to keep in mind

Newsletters are ideal for local audiences because they provide one quick, easy-to-use reference document that can cover multiple topics: from business, products and best practices; to charity projects, social events and team recognition. However, they are not always the best channel: before you create your newsletter, think about alternative channels you could tap into. Such as:

  • Is there a News Center channel or a newsletter for a specific site that you could use?
  • Is there a leadership mail going out periodically, where you could insert your news? Link to this channel page?
  • Could you start a Yammer group and post updates there instead?
  • Could you organize periodic virtual update meetings for interested participants? And maybe make a recording available afterwards? Link to this channel page?
  • Properly introduce the newsletter to your audience; why are you starting it, how often will they receive it, and for how long?
  • Do you want to give your readers an ‘unsubscribe’ option? 
  • Less is more! 
    • Don’t squeeze in more than 10 items per newsletter.
    • Keep a click-through article under 500 words (preferably 300). If needed, upload an attachment or share a link where readers can find more information. 

KPIs for this channel

How will you know ‘what success looks like’? Measuring the response to this channel /tool could give you a better understanding of whether you’ve reached your communication objective. KPIs can be qualitative or quantitative. Here are some ideas:

  • This really depends on the format you use.
  • If via SharePoint, check if you can view site visit information.
  • Via email check the ‘read receipt’ stats.
  • Send a periodic short survey to your audience asking for feedback on the content and its relevance.
  • If you use an external vendor to send out your newsletter via email (eg, Webpower), check which statistics they can provide.
  • Depending on the tool you choose, it could be possible to add a feedback button in your newsletter for instant scoring and response.

Final thoughts

If this a stand-alone initiative, then go ahead! However, if this is part of a wider initiative, you might want to take a step back and look at the broader communications perspective. A good starting point is our 9-step approach to creating your communication plan - which includes an overview of all the internal channels and tools.

Read more

  • Writing Guide

    Our aim is to help you write clearly, consistently – and creatively – in a way that is relevant to your audience (whoever they may be).

  • Our Brand identity

    If we want our voice to be heard above the noise it’s essential that our brand identity matches our ambition.

  • Email

    Email is a tried & tested way of sending secure messages quickly, to a wide audience.

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