Since your newsletter is your most frequent and routine communication with your community members, it’s important to keep a few things foremost in mind as you create your next edition.
We all know that the headline of each article should briefly describe what the content of the article entails, but it should also entice the reader to continue further. It’s the first thing the reader will see and should provide them with enough, but limited, information if this is the article for them. But we want to get them and keep them interested. Think of yourself at the check out line at your local grocery store, waiting in line, what do most of us end up doing? Reading a cover page on a magazine about the goings-on with JLo or the Kardashians of course! Something we couldn’t even care about, but we’re trapped and the cover is eye-catching. While the writers and editors for these magazines are experienced professionals, there’s no reason we can’t put a little zing or fun into our newsletters as well; your readers will appreciate the humor and effort.
The Who, What, When, Where and How of your articles. Give all as much of the details as you can. Take for instance a Tree planting project. Who will be doing the work, What will be planted, When will this occur, Where will they be planted, and How [give the process and procedures for the planting project] will it be comducted. This should provide a sufficient amount of information about the planting project and should keep the community well informed and eliminate any surprises and/or incoming questions and concerns.
Make it suitable for the Article Scanner. For most, unless they are truly intrigued about a particular topic or have to know and understand the material for future questioning, they pretty much just scan the articles. If intrigued by the topic using the scanning process, most will then delve into the details of it. Otherwise, the scanning process begins again with the next article. The Article Scanner will typically read the first sentence or two of each paragraph, especially the first, to see if there’s any interest in going further. So be sure to make the onset of each article clear in the message that follows, such as, “The Board of Directors has recently approved a Planting Project that will affect several units with the community.”. Is my unit one that may be effected? I should read further!
To recap these last two points, capturing the reader’s interest is paramount, which should then be followed up with the details of Who, What, When, Where and How.
Being the sole editor of your newsletter may be detrimental to your efforts and final production. Having at least one other person review the final production is vital to ensuring that no typos or other grammatical errors exist. Such minor errors may limit the credibility the reader has to the content and message you are delivering.
On occasion, mix up the format of your newsletter. Readers may become complacent if the structure of your newsletters remains static and may dismiss an entire issue as it’s deemed to “say the same old thing again”. For example, perhaps moving the President’s Report to the second page and replacing it with the member profile, with picture, of Helen-the-Homeowner. “Helen volunteers her time in various organizations, has been married for 42 years to the love of her life, has 3 children, 8 grandchildren and simply loves living in the community …” Having a picture, telling a good story, and relating to other members in the community is always a winner. While mixing it up can be beneficial, be sure to keep the content and design consistent throughout by using the same font for the headlines and bodies of each article; headlines should be of a slightly larger font size. Mixing up the fonts may give a sloppy look to the end product of your newsletter.
Speak to the 98%. When trying to address an issue in the community that needs to be curbed, such as parking, picking up after our pets, etc., try to refrain from berating the entire community in your message as most community members are abiding and are in compliance with the Association’s Rules and Regulation; they know the rules and don’t need to hear it again. Instead, try to rally their support. I once wrote a newsletter article titled “The Bad Apple”, explaining how just one bad apple can ruin the entire bunch and asked for the 98% to assist me and the Board in curbing a community issue created by a few bad apples. We had numerous reports from the residents about who was causing the issue and we were able to quickly address it.
Solicit local vendors and/or businesses for advertising spots in your newsletter. Restaurants, dry cleaners, plumbers, handyman services, etc are good businesses to contact for advertising. You may even want to ask yourself “What vendors have I seen here in the community?” or “What vendors do we, as the Association, utilize?”. Vendors that are already serving your community are more apt to advertise with you. While the revenue from such advertisements is not monumental, it can aide in offsetting your production and delivery costs. It also extends the sense of community beyond the boundaries of your community association. As a caveat, be sure to include language that separates the liability of these vendors from the Association. It’s not a complicated disclosure, but I recommend seeking the advice from your legal counsel to ensure you have the proper protection in place.
Be wary of diluting the message. The frequency of newsletter issues may play an important role in whether your members will read it. Monthly newsletters are great for keeping the members informed with all the goings-on in the community. However, the content and message tends to get diluted with such a high frequency. On the other hand, a bi-annual or annual newsletter is too long of a time frame to provide relevant material to be beneficial. The best approach is a quarterly, or better yet, seasonal newsletter. A season newsletter keeps the members informed of the recent happenings in the community as well as immunizing them to what’s to come. Such items, say in the Fall [3rd quarter] edition, could speak to the finalization of the road replacement project as well as reminding them of the holiday decorations policy for the upcoming season, or that the roof replacement project will be commencing soon and that more information will follow. Putting such reminders in the 4th quarter newsletter will be too late for it to be effective.
Creating and maintaining a great newsletter can be a daunting endeavor, but the sharing of information, the sense of community it creates, and the gratitude from your members makes it all worth it.