The conveyor belt

The circulation of a regular email newsletter always seems like a good idea at the time. Delivering content straight to the inboxes of customers who, at some stage, have shown an interest in our services is a prospect that can so often prove too tempting to pass up.

But like the musician who releases a fantastic first album when most of their tracks were penned years ago – back when they were a lovesick teenager at college – we may have enough great content in the well to fill up three months worth of newsletters, but what about the next quarter?

Suddenly, at the behest of their record company, this musician is now expected to produce subsequent albums of equal quality in the space of a year or less. We’re also on the conveyor belt now. There’s a captive audience and with that the added expectation that our publication will continue in the same vein.

If we’re serious then we’ll need to assign people with the necessary roles and responsibilities. We’ll need time to get used to the publishing process. We’ll need to know what our audience wants and what we’re measuring. We’ll need a plan.

3 thoughts on “The conveyor belt

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  2. Rahel Bailie

    You make a good point, Richard. If I may look at the issue using a different metaphor, I would stop thinking “newsletter” altogether, and start thinking “the best of” collection.

    Newsletters are a hold-over from the days of pre-internet print. An organization couldn’t afford to tell its constituents about every noteworthy item because the cost of mailing was prohibitive, and the time involved in publishing, printing, and stuffing envelopes would have been overwhelming. The newsletter was a nice, tidy solution to gather up all the news in one place, and get any decision-making deadlines out there (a “sign up by 3 weeks from receipt of this newsletter”). In fact, the timing of events and decisions often revolved around the issuance of the newsletter (I am definitely showing my age here!) and the receipt of the newsletter was an event in itself.

    There is no longer a technical need to hold onto news for 3 months in order to issue a quarterly newsletter. Organizations can send separate communications for news and use a plethora of techniques to garner feedback from constituents. So how can/could/should affect the role of a newsletter? For organizations, the newsletter has become more of a compendium of “the best of” the newsworthy items since the last publication date. User expectation has also changed, with regards to what would be communicated on a scheduled cycle as opposed to time-sensitive news, and would not expect, for example, a decision-critical issue to be an item within a periodic newsletter.

    So while I agree that a conveyor belt metaphor works to an extent – you do have to produce before you can report – the impetus is not to produce for the newsletter but rather to use the newsletter to collect the “best of”, whether that be by theme, by time period, or any other facet of content. And that does mean, as you rightfully said, putting a plan into place and committing the appropriate resources to ensure that the newsletter lives up to its purpose.

  3. Richard Ingram

    Thanks Rahel.

    I was focusing more on companies who don’t produce a tremendous amount of content to start with. So rather than a collection of their best work it *is* the sum of their work for that period, or even dating back further.

    They can be easily wooed by the prospect of publishing content regularly to their customer base, but often they’re not prepared for the schedule they’ll have to keep to and overlook the importance of sustaining its quality once they’ve passed the honeymoon period.