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Build a strong employee community with brilliant internal newsletters
Author : Stephanie Joy Hubbard
Posted : 28 / 07 / 22
Thinking of creating an internal newsletter for your company employees? There’s a pile of great reasons to do it.
But when everyone’s busy with their day job, an internal email landing in your inbox can seem like just another task on the to-do list. So how can you create an employee newsletter that people want to open and engage with, to help cement your company’s community and culture?
Read on for tips, topics and copywriting tricks for capturing attention and building employee engagement with brilliant internal newsletters.
Employee engagement is key for a successful business. If employees feel engaged in their roles and understand how their own work contributes to the company’s vision and mission, they’re more likely to be productive and do high-quality work.
According to employee engagement platform Haiilo, companies with high employee engagement are 22% more profitable. Yet only 33% of employees feel engaged at work. So there’s a clear incentive to create good-quality internal communication – and an opportunity for the companies that do.
Internal newsletters are great for increasing employee engagement. They’re not only ideal for sharing good news and knowledge, but also for building support for your company’s values, ideas and mission. The newsletters act like an internal marketing channel – your employees are the ‘customers’ and you’re ‘selling’ ideas to them. Done well, they’re a great way to build employee advocacy, strengthen the existing community and cultivate a sense of unity across the company.
The danger is seeing this sort of internal communication as a purely functional broadcast channel – a tick-box exercise where you just push out news relating to the company. Instead, look at it as creating valuable content for your colleagues. Write internal newsletters for the employees rather than for the company.
There are three main things that effective internal marketing content should do:
The number one thing your internal newsletters should do is inspire people. Employees need to feel connected to the overall mission and vision of the company to stay engaged and active in their job roles.
Aim to share more than just new product features or company updates. You can do this by giving your newsletter a higher purpose – for example, to share innovation in your sector or to keep employees ahead of the curve. A great internal newsletter goes beyond communicating necessary information and helps to inspire employees by tying its content directly back to your overarching goal as an organisation.
Presumably, employees joined the company because they bought into the company vision. (Even if they didn’t originally, you can still instil this in them now!) Thinking about ways to inspire your employees anew will help them continue to feel invested in the company and connected to their peers.
We’ll cover ways to come up with inspiring newsletter topic ideas a bit later.
One reason why internal newsletters can sometimes seem dull is a lack of human-focused storytelling. We are hard-wired to respond to humans and human stories – much more so than abstract ideas. We are constantly looking for stories that mirror our decisions back to us and justify our logic.
At work, we continually need to get others to understand our way of thinking, to gain alliances and secure budgets. Again, here storytelling is vital – it’s a powerful tool for persuasion.
Profiling employees and highlighting people’s stories allows you to reinforce specific behaviours as desirable. Has someone gone above and beyond their duty to your customers? Is there a manager that has led their team to achieve a big goal?
When you’ve pinned down your overall purpose or goal for a newsletter, you can go and find the human stories that creatively show that. For example, if you’re a business that needs to retain more of its apprentices, find the people who have grown from apprentices to full-time members of the team and ask them questions about their journeys, their ambitions for the future and how the company has helped them achieve their goals.
Another benefit of championing employees is that they’re more likely to be active advocates of the company after being highlighted as a success within the business. Receiving well-earned recognition helps people to feel seen, appreciated and energised.
For more on the value of storytelling in a business context, check out our article, The importance of storytelling in business writing.
In an internal context, where you’re not usually actually selling anything, it’s useful to think of what we’ll call the value add instead. What value does the employee gain by opening this email, spending time absorbing the content and then potentially taking an action (if that’s your goal)?
A good way to add value is to think how you can be editorial in your approach to internal emails. This means thinking about what the ‘hook’ is and also how the content of the newsletter is going to make the reader’s day better in some way.
The hook is the way you’re planning to capture and keep attention. A hook could be a data point or question, an interesting fact, or something exclusive – for example, a look behind the scenes in a certain department or a day in the life of the CEO.
Think how to make your newsletter:
For example, a quick IT hack is useful, a relevant industry meme is entertaining and a revenue update is informative.
Different sections in your newsletter may have different purposes and therefore different value adds for readers.
When you’re starting from scratch, it can be difficult to decide on the components that’ll make up an engaging internal newsletter for your colleagues.
We’ve already said that you need to add value to their day. We’ve also discussed the importance of giving the newsletter a higher purpose and inspiring people.
In terms of how to achieve those points, here are some ideas on themes and sections to create an inspiring newsletter that builds a strong employee community:
Consider creating a newsletter that shares new ideas and inspiration from around the internet that will help your colleagues stay up to date with the industry landscape. This could include relevant:
Pro tip: Here are ways to find great ideas for newsletter content:
There are some topics that are relevant to most organisations and worth bringing into your internal comms. Here are some examples you could collect curated content around:
Human stories are key to creating engagement and community. Here are a few ways you can create stories around your colleagues and employees:
Also consider what format you could produce employee spotlights in – you could create a podcast or video interview if you have the resources available.
‘People don’t want newsletters. They want inspiration, entertainment and ideas.’ @EmphasisWriting on how the best internal newsletters can help build an engaged employee community Click To Tweet
Let’s walk through best practice for writing each part of an internal newsletter email, from what to name it and how regularly to send it to writing the subject line and sign-off.
How often you should send an internal email newsletter will depend on a few things. How much resource can you afford to spend on creating the newsletter? How many employees do you have? The more employees, the more regular your communication should be to keep everyone informed and motivated.
Whether you can commit to a weekly, monthly or quarterly newsletter, it’s important to set a schedule and stick to it, so employees trust in the company’s vision. Plus, regular valuable communication helps to build that community, culture and advocacy.
People don’t actually want newsletters: they want inspiration, entertainment and ideas. So, give your newsletter a catchy, on-brand title that gives a nod to what your company does. For example, a stationery company could call their internal newsletter ‘Pushing the Envelope’.
Here are a few tips for naming an internal newsletter:
To get ideas for a newsletter name, look up puns relating to your industry for inspiration:
A few examples:
Ben & Jerry’s → The Inside Scoop
British Airways → Up to Speed
IKEA → Readme (a joke referring to the fact most people don’t ‘read’ the diagram instructions that come with IKEA furniture)
Try to keep the newsletter title to a few words (two or three is perfect). Adding ‘The’ to the title is also a great way to keep it simple. A simple title helps with recall, readability and means it’s easy to say out loud too.
A few more genuine internal newsletter titles:
Hudl → The Weekly Hudl
Lime Scooters → The Limelight
Casper mattresses → The Snoozeletter
Whatever you do, avoid ‘ [COMPANY NAME] Newsletter’ because this does not evoke the idea of something inspiring or worth reading.
To signal that the newsletter contains new content every time, consider giving each newsletter a theme that’s represented in the subject line. For example, ‘Pushing the Envelope: The holiday edition’.
Or, if your newsletter will be based on a specific ongoing theme, its name could show this. For example, if your newsletter is going to be about digital knowledge sharing, it could be called ‘The Digital Imperative’. Each edition could have a different name relating to the part of the theme it’s exploring, eg ‘The Digital Imperative: How to create better social media content’.
In a busy working day, the subject line needs to make employees believe it’s worth their time to open the email. So make it hard to ignore and easy to see what the value will be for readers.
Keep your subject line short and sweet. Make it quick and easy to understand (plus optimised for mobile) by staying under 40 characters, or around six to eight words.
The opening few paragraphs are the place to restate what your newsletter is about and articulate the value it’s going to bring to your internal audience. It’s also the ideal place to quickly run through the contents.
‘Every month, we’re sharing our carefully selected picks of the best articles, videos, thoughts and more – all relating to our Hero Method for marketing. In this edition of The Digital Imperative Newsletter …’
The style you write your email copy in will be led by your company’s tone of voice. However, good body copy in an internal newsletter is like any good copy. It’s digestible. And it’s written like a human wrote it – not a business bot.
To create digestible writing, you need to think about the recipient and consider how you can make the writing easy, quick and enjoyable to read.
Here are three tips to help you do that:
People are busy. They don’t have time for long, unwieldy prose in a company newsletter. Respect their time and energy and write an email that’s clear and concise.
This means using more full stops and more paragraph breaks. More full stops mean shorter sentences. Shorter sentences mean we get to the point quicker and can take in the information in each one easily.
People read left to right. Align your text to the left so your copy is positioned to match. This allows you to draw the reader’s eye down the page, so they’re more likely to read more of your email.
If you’re including numerous components in the email, make sure the writing in each component is aligned left to right, like this example from General Assembly:
Click image to enlarge in new tab / Image source: Campaign Monitor
Body of email newsletter from General Assembly, with main headline ‘YOUR WEEK AT GENERAL ASSEMBLY BOSTON’.
The email has multiple sections, including news stories and listings. The first section is full width with a headline, running text and a full-width call to action button. The next two are two-thirds-width running text plus text call to action alongside an image. There are also course listings, each one with an illustration and the title and date and time below. Finally, there are listings for ‘This Week’s Events’. Every element has left-aligned text, including the headlines and titles.
Of course, you’ll probably need to communicate any crucial changes or updates to the products your company sells. But try to focus on the story rather than the product features themselves.
For example, if you’re a software business and you have a new product update, rather than just including a straightforward update on what the product now does, take an editorial approach. Go and interview the person or team responsible for this update to get the story behind it. What was the motivation for the change? What will it mean for users? That’ll be more engaging and make news updates easier for employees to remember.
Add plenty of catchy headings to lead the eye down and help with readability and navigation. The example below from design platform Canva shows how nice, snappy titles help you scan the content and contribute to a good overall design.
When writing headlines, focus on the benefit for the reader, as with Canva’s ‘Up and running in no time’. Keep headlines to four or five words so they stand out and can be easily and quickly scanned.
Click image to enlarge in new tab
Canva email with multiple stories, each with colourful graphics, headlines, running text and calls to action. The headlines are: ‘Set up shop on Facebook’, ‘Up and running in no time’, ‘How to set up shop’, ‘Shout about your shop’ and ‘Do more with Pro’.
Always include a call to action (CTA). Or have a few CTAs peppered throughout if you’re sharing numerous resources and pieces of content.
To make sure your CTA is ultra-clickable, follow these pointers:
For everything you need to know about CTAs in emails, check out: How to write an irresistible email CTA.
The main thing to remember with your sign-off is that keeping the conversation going is key.
It’s important employees know there’s more to come, and a good sign-off will signal this. You can also use the sign-off to ask for feedback, contributions or opinions.
Let’s run through those in more detail:
Your final sentence or sign-off should anticipate the next edition by signalling when the readers can expect to hear from you again.
Here are a few sign-off ideas:
If you know what your next newsletter is going to be about, add a ‘Coming soon’ or ‘Coming up next time’ section where you tease what’s next up.
The closing paragraph or sentence of your internal newsletter is the perfect place to ask for feedback or even contributions to the next edition. We know we want to create something worth people’s time, that’s adding value to their busy day. Asking for feedback is a great way to make sure you’re doing that.
A few examples of how to ask for feedback or contributions:
‘We want to make sure we’re creating a newsletter that benefits you. So let us know what you thought of this newsletter by replying with what you found useful or what you think we could improve. Until next time!’
‘If you have any stories or articles you’d like to submit for next month’s newsletter, email [email address], or share them [add another way they can contribute]. Until next time, have a great month!’
Include a survey
Another option for collecting feedback is to include a survey for readers to fill out. To do this, you can set up a SurveyMonkey or Typeform and write a text-link CTA leading to the survey like this:
‘What do you think about this newsletter? We want to create something you find valuable and enjoyable, so we’d really appreciate some feedback. Take our survey – it’ll only take two minutes.’
Create a poll
And finally, consider asking people for feedback through whatever communication platform your company uses. This could mean a poll in Slack or via your internal intranet hub.
The poll function in Slack allows you to ask questions on a platform where your colleagues already hang out.
A poll invitation on Slack that reads: ‘[name redacted] has invited you to participate in their survey: What do you want to see in our internal monthly newsletter? and included the following message:
Hey team! We want to make our internal newsletter the most valuable to YOU! Tell us below what you want to see more of!
Other than asking for feedback directly, another way to see how your newsletter is performing is to check your open and click rates. You can do this via your email provider or CRM.
This is an example from MailChimp showing how to access data about your open rates:
Analytics area in MailChimp platform with dropdown menus to filter the data and create segmented groups of contacts. The following criteria has been selected:
Contacts match [any] of the following conditions:
[Campaign Activity] [did not open]
The final dropdown menu on the page is open, showing the following options:
All of the last 5 campaigns
All of the last 10 campaigns
All of the last 20 campaigns
All of the last 50 campaigns
All campaigns within the last 7 days
All campaigns within the last 1 month
All campaigns within the last 3 months
Any of the last 5 campaigns
Of course, data is just data. It’s what you do with it that counts. Check which newsletters perform better and discuss with your team why that might be. The key is to draw conclusions about what the audience likes and doesn’t engage with and do more of what they do like (of course) and less of what they don’t.
Remember, people don’t want newsletters, they want inspiration, entertainment and ideas. So, to signal visually that this won’t be just boring company updates, can you spend a little time and effort branding your internal newsletter? For example, give it a distinct name and a look and feel that is in your company brand, but perhaps indicates something more informal.
Here are a few tips on email design best practice:
So there you have it. Your complete guide to creating an engaging internal newsletter that will help build a community of company advocates. But, just in case you skimmed, here’s the TLDR recap:
For more email copywriting tips, check out the other posts in our email-writing series: How to write a human B2B email and How to write an irresistible email CTA.
Image credit: PeopleImages.com – Yuri A / Shutterstock
Stephanie is a senior content consultant who advises clients on all areas of their digital content – from social media and influencers to big creative campaigns. Her background is in social media and marketing, having previously been head of marketing for fashion brand American Apparel, as well as working for start-up social media app HeyHub.
Stephanie shares her expertise in making an impact online as a guest author on the Emphasis blog.
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