Being Hacked Made Me Realize the Importance of Newsletters
by Dr. Diana Stout
Do you struggle with creating and maintaining a newsletter?
I have, and from the first time I heard that authors needed to have a newsletter, I've struggled to find my newsletter niche, where writing one isn't a chore.
Because the experts insisted, I kept trying to write and mail a newsletter out regularly but found myself giving up after a few months every time.
I became convinced that my friends, fans, and followers' needs were being met through my blog posts and other postings in social media.
And then, I was hacked.
To make a long story short, on May 23 of this year, my Facebook account (Diana Stout) was hacked. Not cloned (copied) where one still had access to their account and can warn friends to ignore any friend requests.
No, I was hacked, which meant I had lost all control and access to my account, pages, private groups, and even groups I participated in.
I had ceased to exist. Worse, I had no way to contact my followers. (The hacker's name still shows up in my place on those pages and groups.)
The experts were right: I needed a newsletter.
I started over. I deleted those subscribers who had never opened any of my newsletters. At least, I was starting with 80 subscribers rather than 0.
To improve my newsletter and make it work for both me and my readers, I did some research.
What sage advice offered.
That a newsletter should be sent out regularly but irregular works, too. The point is to provide value to your subscribers.
That you want a strong following for agents and publishers if publishing traditionally.
That you want a catchy subject heading that creates curiosity so that they want to open/read the newsletter.
That you want a newsletter with 80% content and only 20% promo.
That you want it to be eye-catching and relatively short. Readers scan these days, giving newsletters mere seconds, not minutes of their time.
That you want to provide links for engagement.
That you want to provide a call-to-action element for further engagement.
The struggles of creating a newsletter.
To create a better newsletter, I needed to consider how and where I've struggled in the past.
With the masthead/header. I kept changing it. Why?
With my content niche. Other than any promotions, I felt like I was all over the place.
In finding content that didn't repeat my blogs.
In not wanting to repeat what others were doing in their newsletters.
In not sending it out regularly.
Too often, I had more promo than I did content, with more of my links promo-related, too.
Using the five Ws of journalism.
The best way to gather information for any project, is to use the five Ws of journalism: the who, what, where, when, and why.
WHO – Determine your audience. Be specific. It's better to have a smaller, narrower audience than a larger general audience.
WHAT – Determine the newsletter's content so it can be delivered consistently in every newsletter.
WHERE – Determine which newsletter platform to use.
WHEN – Determine how often the newsletter will be sent out.
WHY – Determine the newsletter's over-all purpose.
Additionally, I thought about the newsletters I prefer to receive and have remained subscribed.
Monthly newsletters that provide lots of links to classes, workshops, conferences, contests, and helpful how-to articles.
Irregular content newsletters that provide important information or insight due to an event that has altered their writing ability, and those that are short announcement newsletters only. Often, these are writers I know personally.
Newsletters from favorite authors, sent out once or twice a year announcing a new release. Of course, they can afford not to have regular mailings because they're best-selling authors and have been for years. For the rest of us, we're still growing our newsletters.
Consider what your preferences are. Why do you like them?
Find what works for you.
As a professor of writing classes and as a writing coach, my advice has always been: use and do what works for you.
In following my own advice, I discovered I needed to brand my newsletter to my website. I needed to use a photo, too. I decided I was okay with an irregular announcement newsletter, since I'm publishing several times a year now and because I have promised every subscriber that their mailbox will love me due to my infrequent emails. But now, after this new look at newsletters, I want to add a couple more elements to add interest and helpful information for both writers and readers.
Your result may be totally different. Again, find what works for you!
Tips to growing your newsletter subscriber list.
Know that it will take time to grow your list.
Know that everyone starts at the beginning with zero subscribers. Everyone.
Know that you can test your newsletter by using the A/B option in your newsletter platform. It's a great way to test subject lines and to compare open and click rates.
Know that you can build a list more quickly by providing freebies and giveaways. Also know that in doing so, you'll see more unsubscribes, but they aren't personal. It just means your newsletter wasn't a good fit for them. After all, don't we provide our email addresses for freebies to which we then unsubscribe because their newsletter isn't a good fit for us?
Know that you can make changes to create your best newsletter style, to obtain better open and click rates.
Promote your newsletter everywhere by providing links on your website, social media, and email signature.
The best thing about having a mailing list is that you own and control it. I have yet to hear of any newsletter being hacked.
How about you? What's in your favorite newsletters, the ones you open consistently? Do you struggle with creating regular newsletters? Have you started one yet?