Want To Join the Bandwagon? Be Sure It Has Wheels!

Here are two to-the-point questions recently posed by several association magazine publishers: "When is it time to launch an electronic newsletter?" and "Just because everyone's doing it, does that make it right for us?"

These are just the types of questions that should be asked by associations and businesses seeking to maximize contact with members, prospects or current customers. The trick is to generate the processes that will allow you to arrive at the right answer for your circumstance.

Take an association that currently publishes two magazines and a quarterly print newsletter. The organization has laid the groundwork (surveys and polls) to ascertain that the information that needs to get into members' hands is getting there through these means (on top of use of an up-to-date website). In this case, an e-newsletter may not be the smart move. Would its content be all that different from what already appears in the print publications? What advantages would the electronic distribution channel offer (more timely stories, smaller production staff) that meet a specific need in terms of information distribution?

For companies that advertise in the Sunday newspaper or on television, the question is whether a direct channel to their most valued customers necessarily generates higher sales or more loyalty. Is the technology appropriate for the audience these companies want to reach (i.e., the ones familiar with computers and e-mail)? And would the ROI merit executing the project in-house or outsourcing to a custom publisher?

A newsletter, regardless of its format, is a potent tool in the marketing arsenal. But there must be an underlying, compelling rationale for undertaking such an endeavor ? a reason for the newsletter to exist as it supports the organization's overall mission.

For the previously described association, until a case could be made that a newsletter would offer information of a different or new nature to members in a timely manner (how to improve business practices, recent court cases that could affect the industry) there is no need to jump on the bandwagon. For a consulting firm seeking to demonstrate thought leadership without making a direct sales pitch, however, a newsletter fits the bill quite nicely. Either way, the key is to have the purpose, goal and role of the e-newsletter firmly established before plans to move forward on the project begin.

Chris Scott heads Hodge Media Group, the custom publishing arm of Hodge Communications, Inc. Hodge specializes in strategic public relations and marketing communications for businesses, entrepreneurs and professional associations. Formerly an award-winning journalist, he brings over 20 years of experience to client engagements. Subscribe today to [email protected]! our free bimonthly e- newsletter and get a free special report: "Using Buzz To Create a Groundswell For Your Business."

Visit http://www.hodgecommunications.com

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