REAL newsletters

Oct 08, 2023

Successful newsletters are relevant and valuable to readers, easy to consume, actionable, and loyal to your brand.

Best-selling author Samantha Bennett believes that “for 80 percent of people and organizations, newsletters are a big waste of time,” and I tend to agree. In numerous strategic meetings, when discussing potential action items related to marketing, branding, and positioning, newsletters are often thrown out as a suggestion. They get lumped in with conferences, social media campaigns, website updates, blogs, podcasts, and other items in typical marketing menus.

Newsletters seem like an attractive proposition since most people know what they are and believe they understand what it takes to put one together. Can anyone develop a newsletter? Sure. Will they do it for the right reasons, develop a proper approach and content, and will the intended audience engage with it? Probably not.

The allure of checking a box on the action item list, the warm and fuzzy feeling of “doing something,” and the inevitable pats on the back for adding a communication channel to the marketing mix are, for lazy and egotistical reasons, potentially irresistible. If you are thinking about developing a newsletter, do society a favor and stop. Do not stop the process, but rather analyze if you fall into the 20 percent that Bennett suggests as those who will not waste their (and others’) time.

There are some common threads shared by successful newsletters that make them REAL – Relevant, Easy, Actionable, and Loyal. Let’s explore the fibers that could piece together a meaningful newsletter:

  • Relevant. Marketing cartoonist Tom Fishburne said, “The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.” Effective newsletters share meaningful information for the audience, avoiding overtly salesy language. Are your current and potential clients interested in reading how awesome your firm is again and again? This is not about you! Focus on content crucial to their businesses. Ask yourself if the intended topic/theme is one that has enough meat on its bones for ample “relevant” content. This will also help you determine the right cadence of your newsletter (if you end up doing one). By distributing concise and engaging content, you are doing the best marketing because it won’t feel like marketing to your audience.
  • Easy. Most people only read headlines. Do not expect readers to consume lengthy, in-depth narratives. You are not performing investigative journalism. Share enough information to tell a short story and satisfy most of your audience. Also, select only a few entries per edition to maximize the opportunity for high engagement. Bottom line, make it “easy” for the audience to read your newsletter.
  • Actionable. Newsletters should include calls to action or at least the option for the audience to take action. By making newsletters “actionable” and providing links as part of your write-ups, you are catering to the two types of readers – the ones who are satisfied with your summaries and the ones who require more information. Links are also the perfect vehicle of proof that your content is based on recently published information. This is also an excellent way to keep the write-ups short.
  • Loyal. Your newsletters (if it makes sense to have any) should be a reflection of your brand. Are you known for being brainiacs who live and breathe data; for being uber creatives who push boundaries and think outside the box; for being formal at all times; for being informal? Decisions on content, tone, imagery, and other elements ought to be “loyal” to your brand. It is also wise to integrate your company culture and values into your newsletter processes and choices. FranklinCovey’s chairman of the board, Robert Whitman, said, “Everything about your company can be replicated, except its culture.” Reflect your culture and make your newsletters unique.

This is a plea for more meaningful newsletters, and if you have existing ones or are considering developing new ones, that they can be classified as “REAL.” 

Javier Suarez is a principal marketing manager with Geosyntec Consultants. Contact him at

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.