Is There Enough You in Your Newsletter?

    May 3, 2004

For the last two months, I’ve been taking Izzy (my five- month old yellow lab puppy) to puppy class. He’s learned a lot about how to behave in public. And I’ve learned a lot about him in comparison to his classmates.

There’s sedate Maggie, an English bulldog who loves to play, so long as she can stay in one place. There’s shy Zeus, a rottweiler who takes awhile to warm up to new situations. There’s obedient Levi, a Weimaraner who’ll do absolutely anything you ask him to.

And then there’s Izzy. He’s the entertainment–teasing the other puppies, talking to everyone who stops to watch the play sessions, and just being an all-around playful, clownish lab.

Just as the instructor’s learned what to expect from each of the puppies, your readers have learned to expect something from you.

Whether out of all the newsletters they get in their inbox yours is the “enthusiastic one,” or the “serious one,” or the “informative one,” your readers have defined you in comparison to the other newsletters they read.

Readers label, like it or not

Maybe you hate the idea of being labeled. Because, if your newsletter is the “smart” newsletter, it can’t also be the “funny” one.

But, this one ingredient is actually behind more successful newsletters than any other.

That’s because it’s what makes your newsletter more memorable. It’s what helps your readers begin to trust you– because every month they see the same dimension of your personality and begin to see you as reliable.

Your readers get way too much email not to make some generalizations. It’s what helps them prioritize their email. And it’s what’ll get your newsletter read first, last, or not at all.

You can choose your label

Now, here’s the good news. Your label is up to you. You’re a three-dimensional, multi-faceted person and have lots of great personality points to choose from.

Depending on your subject, it might be appropriate to position yourself as the “outdoorsy type” even though you also love to relax at the spa. Or maybe you’ll focus on your love of black and white movies even though you also love today’s high tech special effects.

When you choose one thing to really focus on about yourself–one characteristic, one hobby, one passion–your readers will start to associate that with you. So, now, when they see your name in their inbox they’ll think, “That’s the guy who tells such great stories about camping.”

Supporting your label

Once you’ve chosen your label, you’ll need to support it in every issue. Even slight inconsistencies will bother your readers and reduce their trust in you. So, if you’re positioning yourself to be an expert on keeping your grocery bill low, revealing that your family eats out six days a week probably doesn’t belong in your newsletter.

Start by making a list. At the top of the page, write your label–whether it’s “outdoor enthusiast” or “intelligent.” Then list all the words that, for you, back this up. You can list activities that fit in with your label, phrases that define your label, or other people who fit your label.

For instance, for this newsletter I’ve chosen the label, “bright.” For me this means I work to project intelligence and enthusiasm. That means I focus on areas where I have the most experience within newsletter production–the activities I enjoy the most, like subscriber interaction and overall perception.

All successful newsletters have one

Take a look for yourself–review some of your favorite newsletters and see if you can’t categorize each. Chances are, the newsletters you like the most of all are ones that consistently live up to your expectations for them. And in the end, that’s what your label’s all about.

Just as I know when I take Izzy to puppy class that he’s going to be the class clown, your readers need to know what’s going to happen when they read your newsletter.

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