The effects of a pandemic have completely reshaped the way we communicate, from branding to employee engagement – what can newsletters do for you?
The rapidly changing landscape of communications and the need to communicate timely, reassuring information to clients, customers and staff alike have been recurring themes in this space lately. It’s time to drill down on the one tool that, for many businesses in essential services, may be among the most essential: the newsletter.
Organizations cannot afford to overlook the importance of newsletters as an essential communications tool in these turbulent times.
We’re not just talking about the pandemic, but political and social unrest playing out in media and on social media platforms.
You need the email addresses of your audience members. You need a strategy, a schedule, and the right content to deliver to the right audience when it is needed.
First, let’s brush up on some best practices for newsletters. This Forbes article from last January offers a great checklist that covers all the basics, like asking people what content they want, the importance of being completely transparent, and why you should always keep it short and simple.
Here are some precise reasons why 2021 is the best time to reign in your audience, and reach out to them occasionally via newsletter.
Social media is increasingly unreliable.
Social platforms remain an essential component of any communications strategy, but remember that it’s just one piece and not the entire cake. More specifically, your content should not live exclusively on Facebook or Twitter because who knows what these private companies will do from day to day the next… just ask Australian Facebook users, who found themselves cut off from news content – including emergency pandemic updates – last February over a revenue-sharing dispute with the social media giant.
Maintaining contact with your audience, for any business or brand, is a no-brainer. But the subplot, especially in the wake of Australia’s battle, cannot be overstated: you need to own your content. An organization’s website should have a blog function, and that is a natural space for messages but there are many options to take control of your content; just don’t put all your eggs in one basket, like a relatively new social media platform that behaves arbitrarily.
Retail will never be the same again.
Businesses are finding new ways to engage with customers while personalizing the shopping experience, either through smartphone apps or even text-based incentive programs. The pandemic is only accelerating changes in the shopping experience, and those changes must be communicated clearly – especially if they involve sanitary guidelines or other new procedures.
Customers are still feeling trepidation over returning to the in-store shopping experience. One US study from last July revealed how 32% of respondents feel “unsafe or very unsafe when visiting shopping malls.” So how does a newsletter help ease these fears?
For starters, you can use them to craft personalized shopping experiences – deals, special offers, delivery options (if possible), new products, loyalty programs… whatever it takes to keep consumers connected to your business.
If you already have an email list, great; build on it to communicate your innovations to your customers.
Retailers may also want to consider the ways augmented reality is changing the landscape and how fostering that direct, personal connection with the customer is essential to building a more robust experience. A newsletter is a great, minimally-invasive way to get to know your audience and start laying the groundwork for that heightened connection, regardless of the form new media technologies take.
Crisis communication requires reliable channels.
In a previous blog, we discussed the DOs and DON’Ts of crisis communications. Yet no matter the scenario or severity, whether your audience is external (clients, media) or internal (staff, shareholders), the fundamentals remain the same: you need effective, impactful messaging and the means to communicate it without impediment.
Social media is one way of advancing this, but you absolutely do not want to rely on it exclusively; between the ever-changing algorithms and not knowing from one minute to the next if your account will be suspended, there is no way to be sure that your message will actually reach its intended destination. This is why it is so important to adopt a “hub mentality” – Substack, Mailchimp and HubSpot are all great options and worth a look if you are serious about newsletters and/or direct email marketing.
Centralized messaging for a highly decentralized media.
Canadian media is in a tailspin. Wave after wave of layoffs have left newsrooms decimated and news outlets with limited means to cover current affairs.
One side-effect we’re seeing is a distinct trend towards the decentralization of media creators. If you’ve heard of Substack – the newsletter platform that pays creators directly through subscriptions – then you know where this is headed.
Journalists, writers and creators are their own bosses now, each curating their own unique followings in this new and exciting sphere of independent media. So how do newsletters play into this developing reality?
First, get familiar with the platform and discover all its advantages; this could be the exact tool you need to actualize your communications strategy. But another thing to consider is what this community of writers represents: a new channel with no middleman or gatekeeper.
It would behoove any organization to build a newsletter network, researching contributors and noting the niches they represent. These emerging independent, specialized content creators are far more likely to respond to your pitch than an understaffed newsroom.
And while everyone aspires for that marquee coverage (CTV, CNN, etc.), one cannot overstate the value of targeted, newsletter-based subscription media. After all, it’s your biggest fans who will keep you going. Stay in touch with them.
Christopher Paré is a senior consultant with TNKR Media.