Newsletter Design Elements 101

By Tracey Batacan

Some organizations use newsletters as a communications tool to inform and engage target audiences, promote the organizational brand, and highlight success stories. The newsletter has evolved from an analog, paper-driven document to an e-publication that often includes video clips, images, graphics and more. So how does one create an engaging organizational newsletter? Check out the top 7 Newsletter Design Tips below to start your journey.

  1. Newsletter Branding

Creating the look and feel of a newsletter is the first step in developing your organization’s newsletter brand design. Start by partnering with diverse, creative minds to generate ideas on how to use and place the organization’s logo and develop the publication masthead. The goal is to create a simple yet powerful design that will promote the brand while providing timely news and information. Contact your internal branding team to obtain insights into the current organizational style guide requirements as part of your planning and development.

  1. Selecting Newsletter Topics

Leverage resources such as historical data, mini focus groups or short surveys to obtain insight into the content that interests your readers. For example, review past publications to identify article trends such as what works and what did not work. Create your newsletter strategy around this data which will help you avoid a myopic view of news story submissions.

  1. Draw the Reader’s Eye In

Think about ways to visually engage the reader by using more impactful images and new page layouts instead of just lines and rows of unending text.  One way to get started includes conducting online research to view other organizations’ magazines, newsletters or e-publications and develop ways to duplicate their designs.

  1. Generate Fresh Content

Creating and sustaining a newsletter/e-publication requires some strategic planning on the editor’s part to avoid the potential gaps in the production cycle. Some newsletter editors design and implement an editorial calendar that creates a 30/60/90 supply of news stories. Using this process will require collaborating with people in different organizations, teams, and locations regularly to create content. Also, create a tangible news story guideline document to share with your contributors so you can set them up for success. Take the time to review and revise your story guidelines at least twice a year as a way of keeping being open to new topics.

  1. Approval Process

Work with your communications leadership team to make the news article approval process streamlined and simple. Review your approval process and make sure there are only 2 to 3 levels of approval to make it easy to get content published promptly. Also, you can reduce your newsletter production cycle time by a few days by ensuring articles approved in advance.

  1. News Story Submission Feedback Loop

Have you ever submitted a news story or Op-Ed to a publication only to never hear from the organization about your submission? It is frustrating for contributors to send stories in regularly and they never obtain information about the approval status. Newsletter editors need to develop and adhere to a feedback loop that provides writers with concrete details about their work. Editors can enhance this process by creating “boilerplate” language regarding the approval status of content submissions. Editors can tactfully share the feedback and tangible examples with the writers, so they can learn how to develop content and revise and resubmit their stories.

  1. Design a Publication Production Wall

Ok, a show of hands…how many of you think of yourself as designers or the “creative type”? Everyone should have their hand in the air. For those looking for an opportunity to channel their inner newsletter editor, remind yourself that creativity often starts with inspiration. Encourage your team to share their ideas and inspiration regarding the look and feel of the new publication. And don’t shy away from using different color palettes and page layouts. Once the editorial team finalizes the content, create a Newsletter/E-publication Production Wall to view the hard copy layouts. The Newsletter/E-publication Production Wall creates a visual review of all content and fosters an open forum for sharing ideas. Then encourage your editorial team to add suggestions or comments by placing sticky notes on the stories posted to the production wall.

Designing an innovative newsletter is hard work, but it can also be fun. It simply requires taking a risk and changing your approach to the process.