Sourcing Quality Editorial Content for Email Newsletters

  |  August 6, 2012   |  Comments

Learn how to create engaging content for your email newsletter, how to identify quality content, and get creative with content types and sourcing options (with bonus printout spreadsheet).

I am a big fan of well-done email newsletters. Why? Because they are one of the best ways to build relationships via email and boost your email return on investment (ROI).

As I've mentioned in past columns, editorial email messages (read: email newsletters) generate very high open and click-through rates compared to other types of email messages. Done properly, with a mix of no more than 40 percent marketing content and at least 60 percent editorial content, they can be a huge driver of conversions and revenue.

The biggest challenge that I see my clients face is sourcing quality editorial content for email newsletters. Here is an exercise I use with my clients (there's a spreadsheet for you to print below); it's simple and it will help you create engaging content for your email newsletter.

First, let's talk about how to identify quality content. You're looking for information that:

  • Is engaging for readers
  • Is informative, entertaining, or both
  • Addresses a problem or promotes a desire the readers have
  • Supports your business goals

A great piece of quality content meets all four of these criteria; if it doesn't meet these four criteria, you should work with it until it does or not use it. A quick word on the last item, "supports your business goals." This doesn't mean that it should be promotional, just that it is in line with what your end goal is. A business goal could be showcasing your knowledge of the needs of the industry or other things that build relationships with your prospects and clients.

Next, you need to get creative with content types and sourcing options; I think of this as a mix-and-match proposition. Here's a short list of options:

Types of Content
  • Passive
    • Articles
    • Interviews
    • Quotes
    • Statistics
    • Images
    • Videos
    • Events coverage
    • Case studies
  • Interactive
    • Quizzes
    • Polls
    • Questions
    • Giveaways
    • Social
      • Blog(s)
      • Networks
  Sources of Content
  • Repurpose
    • Website
    • In-house publications
    • Industry publications
      • Articles
      • Statistics
      • Quotes
    • Social
      • Blog(s)
      • Networks
  • Create
    • In-house team
    • Partners
    • Customers
    • Industry players
    • Paid writers
    • Readers

Notice the many different types of content, or content presentations, I've listed. Making your email newsletter more than just a bunch of articles helps with engagement. There is also some content that lends itself better to certain presentations than to others. Be sure you include both passive and interactive content in your newsletter.

Also, don't think that every item has to be 500 words or more. I like to mix in quick quotes and statistics to add interest. Only the quote or the stat actually appears in the newsletter, although I always include attribution with a link back to the original source for people that want to learn more. This is a great way to repurpose third-party content in a limited way.

Where to get the content is another conundrum many of my clients face. While it's always nice to create content from scratch, don't overlook the value of repurposing.

If you've got a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, or another social network, or if you have one or more corporate blogs, there's a huge repurposing opportunity here. Pulling in interesting posts or, even better, comments, is an easy way to get content for your newsletter and drive people back there to contribute to the discussion. You can do the same with third-party blogs, but I love using social to drive email subscriptions and then using email to drive people to engage with you socially.

OK, here's where the exercise comes in.

You'll want to print the image below, or recreate it. You'll need to set aside some time (30 minutes to an hour) to focus on this exercise without any distractions.

click to enlarge

The easiest way to begin is to think in terms of content you can repurpose. From there, let your imagination wander to what you could create from scratch. You should be familiar with what's available to be repurposed from your own company and the broader industry, but if you're not it's OK to be vague and go back to the Internet later to get more specific.

Your goal should be to have at least one item for each content type - even better, to fill the page with 24 content item ideas (they don't all have to appear in the same issue of your newsletter), which will give you a good starting point to develop your next editorial calendar.

Give the exercise a try and let me know how it goes!

Until next time,



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Jeanne Jennings

Jeanne Jennings is a recognized expert in the email marketing industry and managing director of digital marketing for Digital Prism Advisors. She has more than 20 years of experience in the email and online marketing and product development world. Jeanne's direct-response approach to digital strategy, tactics, and creative direction helps organizations make their online marketing initiatives more effective and more profitable. Digital Prism Advisors helps established businesses unlock significant growth and revenue opportunities in the digital marketplace; our clients learn to develop and implement successful digital strategies, leveraging data and technology to better meet bottom line goals. Want to learn more? Check out Jeanne's blog and Digital Prisim Advisors.

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