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Publishing an internal newsletter

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Question: I have taken on the task of creating an internal newsletter.  We have 14 employees (4 professional engineers, 7 consultants and 3 admin staff) located in 7 different states.  Our internal communication is very weak due to workload and the geographical distance.   Our company consisted of 5 employees in the same office until 2 years ago.  I feel that an e-mailed newsletter would be a good way to communicate with everyone.

I created the first newsletter in Dec 2004. The content varied, with Christmas funnies, a calendar of coming events, family information, a note from the president and a few other things along this line.  There wasn't much response.  However, the response I did receive was negative: "The newsletter was not informative."  I spent approximately 3 weeks (on/off) developing the newsletter in Microsoft Publisher.  I'm not giving up yet but would appreciate any advise from someone who performs this task.  -- Tressie Escamilla, Richardson, Tex.


Comments

I would not give up on the newsletter. Although you recieved only one response, that happened to be negative, does not mean that others did not appreciate it. I would give it a few more months and then solicit feedback from others. The newletter maybe the only avenue employees have of finding out about thier co-workers.

I too, do a Newsletter for an Organization that I belong too. This gets done on a by-monthly basis. Believe me, I know about hearing negativity. I rarely heard GOOD comments about the newsletter, so, I quit doing it!! Boy, did I hear about that! We want the newsletter, where is it, how come I didn't get one....etc. So, I am now doing the newsletter again. So, I guess my point here is, people will tell you the negative before the will the positive. Ask, for help and/or suggestions (I have, I rarely get that either)But, at least then, they feel they have a chance for 'imput' if need. Use their ideas, if you get any, along with yours and it should be fine. I even have a space for "comments from others". : )

When we generated a newsletter at my previous company we used to give other employees the opportunity to submit items regarding their departments and/or divisions that they thought may be of interest to others in the company. You may want to throw that suggestion out and see what happens

I have done various types of newsletters over the years and I found that a few things that people appreciate.
1. Graphics are always good but be careful with the funnies as they can offend people if not received as they were intended.
2. A section dedicated to congratulations or cudos. I often call this section Did You Know?. This is a way to congratulate people on a job well done or to let people know exactly what it is that "Fred in accounting really does". This is also a way to involve management or other employees in the process. Interview a few people like a journalist would do. You will find it informative and a great learning experience. I think this could work well in a company that has branches all over the country.
3. Look at your local newspaper and see how they report news, events, etc and see if you could model the types of articles on this. Perhaps there is a current event that is centered in one of your branch locations, i.e. a flood or a sports event, and get someone to give you details to pass on to employees in other locations. This may also help to unite your employees.
4. Remember that a newsletter does not always have to be about work. You can bring in issues on health and wellness at work and at home or family issues. There are lots of possibilites.
5. Any new innovations in your industry? Maybe that great guy to cleans your office or sorts your mail would like to learn about it.
6. And remember, your boss needs to know that you need time to do this. If it is to be successful, you need to be able to take your time with it. Employees can recognize something that is thrown together.
Hope this helps.
Paddy from Calgary, Canada

I put together the company newsletter until recently while I am learning a new position within the organization. I will be resuming it soon. I found that the more that you include the people within the organization the better the newsletter. This usually takes a lot of talking to the people. I put the newsletter out quarterly, so some newsletters had a theme (ie. Christmas) People always looked forward to seeing their birthday and company anniversary listed. I did a book review and a recipe swap. When I tried to do a 'For Sale' column, it really didn't take off. But this isn't to say that it won't for you. Also for fill-in's I included quotes for famous people. Our newsletter was 12 pages long and people didn't want me to omit anything. They always looked forward to reading it. BUT... just as you, I always had someone with a complaint. This is natural. Just go with it and enjoy!

I've done newsletters in a few different organizations and have consistently found that the more employee input, the better the feedback and involvement. However, be careful of what you ask for such as 'general' comments and suggestions, you will be amazed at what people will want to include in a newsletter. Be a bit more specific when asking for input such as 'do you have a funny story, interesting work-related experience, a positive story for your co-workers' and let them know the content will be reviewed prior to publishing.
I've also found that a poll to name the newsletter was very effective in getting everyone involved and aware of the newsletter itself, people feel as if they've had a part in creating it. Try creating your newsletter if possible, in Adobe Illustrator and publish to Adobe Acrobat. This makes for much easier newsletter and easier for electronic mailings.

I am responsible for doing a quarterly newsletter. The first thing I did, was get rid of MS Publisher. It is outdated and difficult to work with. I now use Quark. PageMaker is good too. The letters look more professional, and not just something for fun. They seem to generate more interest...and you can design your own to actually fit your organization. You can take a day class on how to work the software and be a real pro in a very short period of time.
After I have finished the newsletter, I always convert it to a PDF format so it will email easier.
For the substance of the newsletter, I visit websites that cater to my company's industry, look for informative and timely articles, and since most are free, I am able to place those in the newsletter. I always site the source, and sometimes even leave a little tag for the reader to go online to get more information or read the completion of the story.
I only allow two articles on employee helps, as, those are just to bring in the readers...but I make them very informative about improving themselves or their positions.
I also include photos of new employees, with a short bio; articles on new company projects or new software and how it will aid in better service for our customers, and one article on a company event that has taken place. I use a lot of different people in the photos, and I always include their names. I find that helps to keep the quiet workers in front of the executive staff more often and good exposure never hurts any employee.
One more thing, I always print out copies for my bosses so they can take it with them and read it at their leisure. They tend to read it as opposed to just passing over it as "junk" email.

One more thing, ALWAYS save an electronic file and a hard copy of each newsletter. You never know when that could play a real role in a new job or a year end employee evaluation. Use everything to your advantage when it comes time to talk raises.
Just a few thoughts...hope it helps.

I too am doing a bi-weekly newletter. I email all the partners and office manager several days before I plan on printing it to see what they have to contribute. I agree with Joan that its also important to get info from others to share. It may be difficult, but try to find an "information source" from each different area that you can count on to keep you up to date on their happenings. This bi-week I'm doing a section called "water cooler talk", to inform those who've been out of the office of stuff going on that they've missed. I try to mix informational, humorous, inspirational, and inter-office items of interest. If people see their names in it they will take more interest. I love having the chance to be creative with design & graphics and so far I've had only good comments.

One thing I learned was, that you will only be able to please some of the people some of the time. It's not brain surgery to publish a newsletter but peers do not understand the amount of time and effort it takes to put a newsletter together.

Solicit feedback or circulate a survey (you may still receive very little feedback!).

Gain commitment from your management to write articles on a regular basis - you have an advantage with employees in 7 different states.

Profile (including a picture)of employees, not only from your state but from all the states.

E-mail is a good way to circulate your newsletter but also print hard copies and leave around the coffee table or a public area.

It may have been more productive if you could have presented a short survey to all employees for ideas and suggestions regarding ways to communicate & keeping everyone informed (or whatever your reasons for creating a newsletter. A newsletter is a great idea but may not be the best tool for your group due to your small size and geographical challenges.

I did a family newsletter and got a few suggestions but when I tried to get help no one would help. I stopped doing it and got alot of grief. I know a family newsletter is different but here's what I included: a health column such as how to deal with the summer heat or how to keep your skin from getting too dry during the winter months; a movie review, ask a few co-workers to review a movie or dvd and give their opinion; a comic strip, a word find; useless but interesting facts (there's a web site that provides this information) little known facts. For my family I wanted the newsletter to keep us together but also to be informative. A hit with an organization newsletter I am involved with is to have a contest. Ask your boss to donate some small prizes, $5 gift certificate to a local fast food restaurant; free dessert, etc. March was Women's history month, you could have provided information about that, interview a co-worker find out what he/she likes to do outside of the office; ask everyone to send you updates on any training or accomplishments; provide updates on big projects. I think you should take a step back and think about the people who will be reading it are they parents? If so, what about some spring break ideas? Keep it fun and informative, and always ask for suggestions whether you get them or not.

I think you need to get some feedback from the other employees about the content of the newsletter. I used to co-write an employee newsletter several years ago, and found that asking for suggestions was very helpful. I found that people really appreciated "meaty" topics, such as project updates, important business news, etc.

You could intersperse personal items (such as employee birthdays, weddings, babies born, etc.), but you should try to minimize the generic, "lighter" items like the "Christmas funnies," recipes, etc.

It's important to remember what the purpose of your newsletter is: to communicate to employees. I know that I would appreciate a shorter, to-the-point newsletter without a lot of filler.

You might also consider doing profiles of existing employees -- not only what they do at the company, but their interests, family information, hobbies, volunteer work, etc. (Of course, some employees might not want to share personal information, so be sure to respect that.) It's fun finding out things about people you only know through work -- one question to ask in your interview might be, "What is the one thing that would surprise people to know about you?"

Dear Tressie,
I publish a departmental quarterly newsletter. Cut out more of the social stuff and include more substantive business related articles that will spark your company's executives interest; including the administrators interest too. Have the articles be educational and informative in nature. Solicit for topics to those who are interested and have the to write the articles. Do not attempt to write articles yourself, be the graphic design person. Co-manage the project with a company manager. Always have another set of eyes to proof the newsletter. Produce a quality product. This has worked for me. Take your time; don't rush. Then your company executives will respond praise you with kudos!

I have done our quarterly company newsletter for 10 years. We included articles from the President, HR Manager, Department Managers, facility managers and any employees who wish to contribute. We also have contests where they can win gift certificates (most of the answers are found in the articles). On the employee side we include pictures & bios of promotions and include marriages & new babies. Plus we include info about upcoming company sponsored events (Christmas parties, picnics, fundraisers, sportsteams, etc). We also have "Helpful Hints" such as mechanical, gardening, baking & computer technologies. You be surprised how many fellow employees don't mind sharing their knowledge.
Don't give up, ours started out as 5-6 pages typed in Wordperfect and stapled together to a 20+ page front & back that we type up in Word and a Printing Company prints it like a magazine! Hang in there and Good Luck!

We put out a monthly newsletter-using Publisher. I am fortunate in that we have a newsletter staff of six to work on the newsletter (the newsletter goes to over 900 employees). We use the newsletter as additional means to let our employees know what is happening in other parts of our organization that may effect or be of interest to them. We also include information such as kudos and congrats, and service anniversaries. We have a "person to person" section that includes information on some of our employees (how long they have been with the company, hobbies, family inform etc that they would like to share with others)- this is purely voluntary, as some folks really don't want to share personal information with others. Our general manager has a column in each edition. We also have an assortment of committee's and task teams that contribute articles and/or information to the newsletter on a regular basis.
We also do a special holiday edition that includes photos of various teams in our organization and holiday greetings.
For the most part, the newsletter is well received and well read. There are always the select few that don't see the benefit. As your audience is smaller and in different cities/states - survey them about what information they would be interested in, or have difficulty receiving.

I was responsible for gathing information for the newsletter at Roadway Express. We had a contest to name the newsletter. Also, we featured a department each month, so you're guaranteed an article submitted from the featured department which usually included a picture. A newsletter can be a pain, but people really do rely on it. We also had a crossword puzzle involving business words from our industry.

I have just recently been given the task of preparing my first newsletter that Launch on April 2005. The response was great. What I found that was of great help to me was its important to first of all make the Newsletter exciting and colorful, not too busy. Most important is that the information needs to be information that is exciting news, achievements of various ones in the departments (this encourages and motivates others), employee recognition (this creates anticipation for the newsletter), newest projects as well as special events. All pertaining specifically to the department.
When you begin to focus on personal/private information, or information that they may have already received through the company such as "Letter from the President" then they don't feel like they are missing out on anything by not tuning in to your newsletter. Keep the newsletter specific and exciting.

I have just recently been given the task of preparing my first newsletter that Launch on April 2005. The response was great. What I found that was of great help to me was its important to first of all make the Newsletter exciting and colorful, not too busy. Most important is that the information needs to be information that is exciting news, achievements of various ones in the departments (this encourages and motivates others), employee recognition (this creates anticipation for the newsletter), newest projects as well as special events. All pertaining specifically to the department.

When you begin to focus on personal/private information, or information that they may have already received through the company such as "Letter from the President" then they don't feel like they are missing out on anything by not tuning in to your newsletter. Keep the newsletter specific and exciting.

Hope this helps!

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