A Beginnerâ€™s Guide to Newsletters
Vol. 13 No. 9
Once upon a time, school newsletters were little more than Xeroxed to-do lists for parents, reminding them of upcoming deadlines and maybe including the next weekâ€™s lunch menu. Since then, newsletters have evolved quite a bit, becoming a powerful piece of emailed or web-hosted marketingâ€”if theyâ€™re properly formatted.
To get you started, weâ€™ve got a list of the must-doâ€™s (and must-donâ€™tâ€™s!) that every successful school newsletter editor should check off.
- Scope out your competition! Before you create your newsletter, it behooves you to collect newsletters from other schools with similar demographics, as well as your sister schools. See what other people do with their content, what you think works and what falls flat. Then, copy (or avoid) those techniques when crafting your own newsletter.
- Branding and formatting are key. A schoolâ€™s visual branding goes a long way to establishing a professional, immediate connection with your readers (aka, your parents). As an essential part of any schoolâ€™s marketing strategy, your newsletter should maintain and follow your schoolâ€™s style guide. You'll want to retain a distinct, consistent format for your newsletter. That way, parents will visually connect with your school.
- Create a scheduleâ€”and follow it. Just as your newsletter should follow the same template and formatting style from one issue to the next, so should it be released on a regular schedule. While you might think a weekly distribution would reap the most benefits, you could do your word-of-mouth marketing more harm than good if you canâ€™t keep up with that fairly rigorous schedule! If you have information that can't wait for the next issue, take advantage of your social media platforms.
- Templates are your friends. We briefly mentioned templates and consistent formatting earlier, but itâ€™s worth reiterating: Create a template in a document creation program like Adobe InDesign or Microsoft Publisher so that parents will find similar information in the same places each week. Lunch lists, pertinent deadlines, a Headâ€™s column, and brief articles about class activities and pictures should all be found in generally the same places.
- Determine what content you want to create. Newsletters should not (solely) be a checklist of deadlines and responsibilities. You want families to look forward to receiving your email, not feel chastised! While youâ€™re creating your template, then, focus on including sections that celebrate the students, faculty, and staff of the school and how they fulfill the schoolâ€™s mission. A â€śHeadâ€™s Columnâ€ť gives the School Head a chance to talk about the schoolâ€™s mission and important issues affecting the school. Deadline reminders and volunteer requests are fine to include, but they should take up comparatively less â€śreal estateâ€ť than the other, celebratory content.
- Send only once! No one likes receiving multiple copies of the same email or letter. To that end, try to consolidate your contact database to ensure that only one copy of the newsletter is sent per family, instead of one per sibling. (On that note, make your newsletter available for alumni, grandparents, and donors to enjoy. Keep these peripheral parties as involved as possible with your school!)
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Writing and formatting these pieces can take a significant amount of time. Why just use the Headâ€™s Column or the student-activity features once, when you could reformat them for a school or Headâ€™s blog? Get all the mileage you can out of your newsletters, both in the school community and publicly. Howeverâ€¦
- Be sensitive to privacy concerns. If the newsletter is purely community-basedâ€”that is, only offered to current or former familiesâ€”itâ€™s okay to use a studentâ€™s full name underneath photos or in features. However, if you choose to use the newsletter as part of a blog or in an online archive, redact a studentâ€™s last name and write only the first initial (e.g., â€śAnnie A.â€ť versus â€śAnnie Applegarthâ€ť). PDFs and their contents are searchable online, and it wouldnâ€™t take much for a student or familyâ€™s privacy to be inadvertently invaded with an unwise use of full names.
If you need help planning your newsletter and other marketing materials, attend Marketing for Admission, a new Summer Institute workshop. Learn word-of-mouth marketing techniques and tools that will give your school a high-impact, low-cost advantage. Take home a marketing and communications plan that is both effective and realistic. Register today!
Additional ISM resources:
ISM Monthly Update for Admission Officers Vol. 13 No. 8 Newsletters: Important to Prospective, Current, and Past Parents
ISM Monthly Update for Admission Officers Vol. 10 No. 1 Crafting Your School's Newsletter
ISM Monthly Update for Admission Officers Vol. 13 No. 6 Re-enrollment Communication 101
ISM Monthly Update for Admission Officers Vol. 12 No. 7 â€śWelcome!" Now What?â€”What You Send to Accepted Students
Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 39 No. 13 Capitalizing on Word-of-Mouth Marketing
I&P Vol. 25 No. 15 Defining Your School's 'Competitive Advantage'
I&P Vol. 27 No. 11 Cyber News: Designing Your Online Newsletter