I get a lot of questions about email newsletters from Hints &
Tips readers, so this week I asked good friend and newsletter expert
Michael Katz to share his thoughts on the subject. Michael surprised
and delighted me with his new e-book: E-Newsletters That Work. It is
a valuable guide that provides straightforward, how-to information
on creating a powerful newsletter that begs to be read, and
What do I write about?
I met a man at a business conference the other day who
described himself as, "a career coach." After learning what I
did for a living, he quickly confessed to me that while he
wanted to start an E-Newsletter, what kept him from doing it was
that he, "had nothing to say."
We kept on talking - about careers, about life balance, about
the meaning of work - and in the course of the next 15 minutes,
he gave me three or four fantastic insights on these topics.
I suddenly stopped him in mid-sentence and said, "What do you
mean you have 'nothing to say?!' In the last few minutes you've
given me enough information to fill several newsletters!"
We all know a lot more than we realize.
And although running out of material is one of the biggest
fears people have - and one of the primary reasons that
companies don't launch E-Newsletters in the first place -
I have never come across anybody who knew enough about a
particular industry or topic to start a business in it, who
didn't also have a nearly endless supply of content to choose
Remember, your customers and others who have an interest in
your area of specialty, don't work in it every day the way you
do. The things that are second nature to you, whether it's how
to purchase home insurance if you're a broker; how to write a
press release if you're a marketing consultant; or how to
balance work and play if you're a career coach; are all news to
those of us on the outside your industry.
These brief, useful nuggets are the things you write about.
The people who are going to read your newsletter have
questions. You on the other hand, have answers, opinions,
experience, and perspective. When it comes to your industry, you
understand what matters and what doesn't, and how all the pieces
Your challenge in selecting topics therefore, is not
having enough to write about. It's identifying which things are
the most useful, the most interesting and the most relevant.
Here's how you get to that:
Sit down with a blank piece of paper and write down as many
questions as you can think of regarding your business. Write
down the things that your customers, prospective customers,
colleagues, friends and relatives ask you every day in relation
to your work. When they come to you for an insider's
perspective, what is it that they want to know?
"How do I. . .?"
"Should I. . .?"
"What do you think about. . .?"
"How do I know if . . . ?"
"Is it worth spending money on. . .?
"What would you recommend for. . .?"
"What will happen if. . .?"
All these individual nuggets of information that you work
with and think about and pour over every day, are the content of
your newsletter. And remember, if you publish your
E-Newsletter monthly, you need just 12 good ideas to fill an
One more thing.
There's nothing worse than coming up with a great idea for a
newsletter column while jogging one morning, only to forget what
it was entirely when you sit down to write two weeks later.
Keep your list of column ideas in a place you can
easily find (I have a Word file on my computer called, "Future
Columns"), and every time you think of something interesting for
a future issue, put it in there.
Not only does this prevent the "what do I write about" blues,
you will be amazed at how quickly the good ideas pile up once
you have a place to pile them. When it's time to write each
month, you simply open the file, look around for the idea that's
most compelling, and off you go.