Continuing Education

As a believer in life-long learning, I was pleased to recently receive my Professional Writing Certificate Specializing in Marketing and Public Relations from University of Calgary. I completed the certificate over several years whilst working and running my writing business. The study really helped me develop my professional writing skills and specialist knowledge.

A range of courses were covered in the study program—from Copyediting and Proofreading to Strategic Writing for Public Relations and Marketing. Although all the courses were useful, I found Copywriting – Words that Sell and Writing Effective Online Content particularly useful and inspiring.  

Just one of the many big learning takeaways: Any business stands to reap the rewards if they develop and implement an effective content marketing strategy to build their audience. Few businesses do this well. Small businesses stand to win big (for a small outlay) when they engage an audience with useful content and become sought after for their trusted expertise. This all takes time, of course.

Enough of the learning takeaways! If you’re interested in developing your writing skills for your workplace or as a freelance writer, I highly recommend the Professional Writing Certificate. Here’s a link to University of Calgary.

And if you don’t have the time or resources to study right now, you might like to get yourself a copy of these outstanding books (my top 3 from the program):

1. Everybody Writes, Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley

2. The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert W. Bly

3. Public Relations, The Essentials of Style and Format by Thomas H. Bivins

How to write a great newsletter for your small business

For good reason many businesses and organisations publish newsletters: they’re a great way to communicate to their market.

By sending out a newsletter to your customers and prospects, you can let them know more about how your business can address their needs.  Your newsletter might also serve your employees, allowing them to learn more about the business and giving them the opportunity to have their voice heard.

Writing a great small business newsletter is not without its challenges. Quality content is the key. As any good writer will tell you, you’ve got to put yourself in your readers’ shoes—what will they get out of reading your newsletter? Here are 5 key points to keep you on track when writing:

5 key points to writing a small business newsletter

  1. Newsletter aim
  2. Audience
  3. Content
  4. Format
  5. Frequency

To explain these, I have presented them below in a simple case study.

Case Study: Sandy and Ben’s Mobile Car Detailing Service

Sandy and Ben’s Mobile Car Detailing Service

Sandy and Ben have been running their mobile car detailing service for some time now. They have plenty of customers, but they realise they could do better if they encouraged their customers to book their cars in for regular detailing. They decide to achieve this through a regular newsletter. Here is how they go about it using the 5 key points listed above.

1. Newsletter aim

Sandy and Ben agree on their newsletter aim:

To build a base of 100 regular customers within 12 months by letting people know about the true value of the car detailing service.  

Their newsletter will drive home key messages such as how their services save people time and money, and how handwashing with specialised products and cleaning equipment produces far superior results than a run-of-the-mill automatic carwash.

2. Newsletter audience

Sandy and Ben employ 8 auto detailers. They all do a great job. Although Sandy and Ben value their employees, they realise there’s little point in publishing an employee newsletter for such a small audience. So, they decide to create a newsletter for both employees and customers.  By targeting such an internal / external audience, they can raise everyone’s awareness of the business, and they can give their regular customers and employees the recognition they deserve.

3. Newsletter content

Sandy and Ben realise their newsletter had better be informative and entertaining if they hope to engage their readers. Like all of us, they’ve seen way too many spammy newsletters that simply try to sell. So, they decide to include the following:

  • Information such as prices, services, deals, booking info, etc.
  • Short and engaging articles: anything from a spotlight on a customer or an employee, an event or non-profit group that the business sponsors, hints and tips about car detailing, etc.
  • Personal messages from Sandy and Ben about their business, their customers, and their community.
  • Small talk from employees or customers–their feedback, ideas, and stories they would like to share.

There really is no limit to the number of story ideas that Sandy and Ben might generate around their business! The more good content they share, the more their customers will get to know and trust them and their key messages.

4. Newsletter format: print or digital?

Although there are some advantages with a digital newsletter format (including free layouts and distribution through an email list), Ben and Sandy decide to focus on a simple low-cost print newsletter—one they can hand to their satisfied customers along with the keys to their freshly detailed cars.  Their customers will hopefully read the newsletter and keep it handy for next time they book.

5. Newsletter frequency

Sandy and Ben are very busy with daily business operations. They have little time to write a newsletter, but they understand the importance of producing quality content to achieve their business aim. So, they decide to publish a monthly newsletter—allowing them time to come up with the kind of content that everyone will want to read.

Publish, monitor and improve

Having worked their way through the 5 key points listed above, Ben and Sandy publish and distribute their newsletter to their customers. And they measure the response to see if their newsletter achieves its aim. Along the way they strive to improve their content and continually come up with fresh story ideas. Their monthly newsletter takes time and effort to produce, but the long-term payoffs are well worth it. The payoffs from publishing a great quality newsletter can be worth it for your business too!

Now it’s your turn!

I hope you have enjoyed reading this article and are inspired to write or improve your small business newsletter. May it bring you many rewards! You are welcome to comment below or contact me: Did I miss any key points? Do you agree / disagree with any points? Would you like more information? I am very happy to share your thoughts or answer your questions.

Next month’s blog post: Letter Writing—The Lost Art Of

When was the last time you sent a hand-written letter? Whether it was last month or last millennium, chances are, the person who received your letter also read it carefully. Would they have done so with an email or social media post? You’ve got a month to think about this and the huge implications! I look forward to surprising you with “Letter Writing – The Lost Art Of” very soon.

Planned publication date: Monday 17th February 2020.