There used to be a service that provided “canned” content to be used as filler for employee newsletters. I never understood why.

A newsletter is precious real estate. Even an e-newsletter only has so much space available before the reader gets distracted or loses interest. So why would you waste space on bland, generic content that could be found anywhere?

Regular newsletters with solid content create an ongoing relationship and bond with readers. As a big fan of newsletters, print and electronic, I love what web usability expert Jakob Nielsen says of newsletters: that “they work their magic over time.”

In a report on email newsletter usability – which I think also applies to print newsletters –  Nielsen says, “Users are getting pickier and pickier about which newsletters they’ll read.” (The link goes to a generous executive summary, or you can buy the full 586-page report.) That means your newsletter should contain useful information, your company’s or your association’s perspective on timely issues, news about what’s going on in the company and industry happenings that might affect your company – in short, the kind of content readers can’t find elsewhere.

I was speaking with a colleague recently who was struggling to come up with newsletter content ideas. In my opinion, you’ll find lots of ideas just by being curious and by paying attention to what’s going on in the organization. I get some of my best content by asking “Why?” and “How?” Here are a few ideas:

  • Talk to division heads. What issues are they facing? What successes?
  • What innovations has the company introduced? How did they come about?
  • What issues does the company face? How must it change? How can employees help?
  • What is the company perspective on the latest news?
  • Profile a department or employee.
  • Use a recent meeting or seminar as a jumping-off point. What related tips would employees find helpful?
  • How can employees take charge of their own careers? How can people keep their skills sharp or develop in new areas? What resources exist within the company to support their efforts?
  • Share best practices for something relevant to the company/association.
  • What are the stories behind the business?

Well, you get the picture. There is always content to be found; you just might have to dig a little. But for heaven’s sake, don’t give your readers bland.

Image: Stuart Miles and