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  • Writer's pictureBrianna Wall

Think Outside the Newsletter

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

Five proven alternatives to more effectively reach your audience

As creative professionals and communicators, it’s incredibly easy to get into a routine of doing the same thing over and over. After all, we work hard to study our audience and create a routine that works for us while giving our audience what they want. Plus, we wear 20 million hats and have no energy left to think outside the box, right?

Unfortunately (or fortunately), we have to.

It’s no secret that our typical audience dynamics have shifted dramatically over the past 5-10 years. Not only does our audience look different, they communicate differently, and they expect us to know what they want, when they want it and how they want it, all wrapped up with a pretty bow and hand-delivered to them. I don’t say this facetiously (I am an elder millennial, after all), but what an opportunity we have to really over-deliver for our businesses and our audiences!

“But, that thing about wearing 20 million hats...I don’t have time to study generational demographics, dynamics and preferences. I’m just trying to get a newsletter out.”

Therein lies issue number one. All that work you’re putting into a monthly printed newsletter — are you sure it’s even getting read? How do you know the content you’re putting in it is resonating with anyone? Don’t get me wrong, printed publications will never go away and I’m not suggesting they do. What I’m saying is that customers of today are not the same as the customers of yester-year.

Social media changed the landscape, and you have to be willing to play the game to stay relevant. I won’t even mention the cost increases we’re subject to for printed materials and postage — talk about an effect on the bottom line.

Let’s see how these five digital alternatives to print publications can be strategically placed in our communications to not only increase engagement but provide metrics we can use to inform future communications strategies:

  1. Videos

  2. Animated graphics

  3. Social media Stories

  4. App push notifications

  5. Targeted e-blasts

For the communicators of the 21st century, knowing your audience has never been a higher priority.

The good news is when you start diving into how your audience is engaging with your content and what research says about generational differences, you might notice opportunities to do less work than you were previously doing! Perhaps an 8-page printed newsletter turns into a series of emails, or a simple postcard with a call-to-action, or a landing page where you direct your social media users. You add immediate value to your employer when you are able to tell them exactly how your customers want to engage with your company and that you have the solutions to meet them where they are. If you discover what you’ve been doing for 20 years is no longer achieving what you want it to, it might be time to re-evaluate your entire communications strategy.

That sounds like a pretty big commitment, but I want to encourage you to start small:

  • List all the newsletters you send out – this can be anything that includes information on two or more topics

  • Note their audiences – past customers, colleagues and co-workers, potential clients, the general public, etc.

  • Note the medium by which they are delivered – printed and mailed, E-newsletter, flyer posted on a bulletin board, magazine placed on local newsstands, etc.

Now I encourage you to look at your audience demographics for each newsletter and what research says about how they’re consuming media – (here’s a great source from 2019 that looks futuristically as well, and a more summarized version).

Let’s start with millennials and Gen Z. Choose one newsletter from your list that has a large readership of millennials or Gen Z. Since we know they prefer to consume media on their smartphones, let’s think of how we can re-imagine that content to better reach them:

Type of Content

Alternative 1

Alternative 2

Alternative 3

Event Announcement & Registration

Targeted social media graphic (sponsored, social media advertising remains very affordable), link to event landing or registration page

E-blast with catchy graphics, clear call-to-action

App push notification or SMS with link

News Story

Slideshow or video with captions and/or voice-over, 1 min. or less for social media

Use dynamic (and branded!) imagery and text to create and share social media Stories

New product or service launch

Create a promo video! Social media algorithms are prioritizing video over static images now, so anything you can animate, try it out! Take some photos of your new product and create a slideshow, add text, music and a voice-over! Keep it brief, 1 minute or less. Consider tutorial videos also.

E-blast with animated graphic (turn part of your video into a GIF by using this tool!), and a clear call-to-action

Social media Stories are also becoming more and more popular, so be sure to create specifically-designed Stories promoting your new product or service. Again, use animations or stickers to draw attention to the call-to-action (swipe up, click the link in our bio, etc.)

In addition to these, don’t underestimate the power of a well-designed postcard or two-sided mailer with a QR code. QR codes died for a while, but with the QR reader integrated into smartphones’ cameras now, they’re back! Subscribe to a service like this and your branded QR code can lead to event pages, apps, contact cards, social media pages or a simple webpage!

Let’s recap. We have five customized solutions for the different segments of our audience: Videos, animated graphics, social media Stories, app push notifications and focused e-blasts. These newsletter alternatives (or complements if you’re looking to dip your toes in the water without taking the plunge) not only offer a streamlined way for you to directly reach your target audience, they give you all the data you need to determine what is and isn’t working. Later this year, I’ll post an entire series on data and how you can use it to better inform your communications. But for now, try a few of these alternatives and see exactly what they can do for you.

While the opportunities in the above chart look like added work, they really aren’t if you find and utilize the right tools and are able to eliminate the need for a newsletter. Personally, I love Adobe Spark, but I know other services exist like Canva and Mojo that have preset dimensions and make it super easy for you to turn one design into multiple uses. Their templates have done most of the legwork for you, simply insert your logo and colors, then you can select from a free stock of photos, and voila! From there, all you have to do is download your graphics and program them into your social media management system!

If this is something you would like to implement but just can’t find the time no matter how hard you’ve tried, give me a shout! I do this kind of work on the side and would love to help you strategically improve your social media presence!

Remember, as experts in our field, we are tasked with recognizing our audience’s needs and working diligently to meet them. No matter what message you have to communicate to your audience, I encourage you to find tools that will help your message reach your evolving audience in the most effective ways possible! If that is still a newsletter, great! If that’s another method, that’s great too! Let’s just commit to trying our best — and perhaps something new — and seeing what happens.

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