WEB REVIEW: A succinct, smart newsletter emerges from e-clutter

Jim Cota
March 5, 2011
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Jim Cota

I get a lot of e-mail. It’s one of the occupational hazards of being in this industry, where everything we do is online in some form or fashion. While we’ve seen a tremendous growth of social media in the past few years, e-mail still reigns as king of business and personal communication. Many of you may decry this as being detrimental to the quality of communication, but the fact remains—for many of us, e-mail has simply become a fact of life.

To no surprise, companies have been using e-mail to communicate with customers and prospects for years. Everything from general correspondence to special events to items triggered by user behavior is standard fare in most marketing communications plans.

For you, these messages look like newsletters, sale and promotional announcements, or any number of other ways to increase engagement. Some may simply be functional, like order and shipping confirmations. At their worst, these messages are poorly written and boring. The best, however, feel like conversation.

I was reminded of this today while reading the Indy Spectator.

Of all the e-mail I receive (and remember, I get a lot!), this is one I make time to read. The Spectator’s aim is to inspire people to “discover new ways to love Indy.” Each message is a succinct mix of things happening in Indianapolis, big and small, important and everyday. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read of something about which I was previously unaware, each time coming away feeling like I know this city and its people just a little better.

To be clear, Indy Spectator is not the place to turn for critical reviews of any given topic. Since it aims to spread the word about great finds in Indy, its articles naturally tend to be positive. (If a writer has a bad experience, he or she simply doesn’t write about it.) The result is an upbeat collection of the best Indy has to offer. It’s well worth opening and reading.

Recent articles covered topics as diverse as the Earth House Collective, the best places in town to train (and treat) your dog, a review and visual tour of the Central Library, and a roundup of coming spring and summer concerts. Sign up on its website (www.indyspectator.com) or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/indyspectator), where it has been highlighting “365 Ways to Love Indy.” 

Because it covers such a wide variety of topics, the articles are written by people with experience in individual industries. One cautionary note: You should know that the authors are occasionally involved, either directly or indirectly, with their subjects. The issue about the Earth House Collective, for example, was written by the executive director of that organization.

Still, the overall writing feels like one friend sharing a tip with another and the conversational tone seems to fit the aim of the publication.

There are a couple of marketing lessons here: If you’re not communicating regularly with customers and prospects, you really should be.

And, if you think you don’t have anything to say, you’re wrong. As I explained to someone recently, we all have expertise and unique experience. You know valuable things that you can share, and it’s the combination of expertise and experience that matters. Other people may know about engines or marketing or bird calls or whatever … but no one else has the same combination of knowledge and experience you do. You are unique, so the combination of what you know and what you’ve done is also unique. This is your voice; use it! (And be sure to let me know where I can subscribe!)•


Cota is creative director of Rare Bird Inc., a full-service advertising agency specializing in the use of new technologies. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at jim@rarebirdinc.com.


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  1. Socialized medicine works great for white people in Scandanavia. It works well in Costa Rica for a population that is partly white and partly mestizo. I don't really see Obamacare as something aimed against whites. I think that is a Republican canard designed to elicit support from white people for republican candidates who don't care about them any more than democrats care about the non-whites they pander to with their phony maneuvers. But what is different between Costa Rica nd the Scandanavian nations on one hand and the US on the other? SIZE. Maybe the US is just too damn big. Maybe it just needs to be divided into smaller self governing pieces like when the old Holy Roman Empire was dismantled. Maybe we are always trying the same set of solutions for different kinds of people as if we were all the same. Oh-- I know-- that is liberal dogma, that we are all the same. Which is the most idiotic American notion going right back to the propaganda of 1776. All men are different and their differences are myriad and that which is different is not equal. The state which pretends men are all the same is going to force men to be the same. That is what America does here, that is what we do in our stupid overseas wars, that is how we destroy true diversity and true difference, and we are all as different groups of folks, feeling the pains of how capitalism is grinding us down into equally insignificant proletarian microconsumers with no other identity whether we like it or not. And the Marxists had this much right about the War of Independence: it was fundamentally a war of capitalist against feudal systems. America has been about big money since day one and whatever gets in the way is crushed. Health care is just another market and Obamacare, to the extent that it Rationalizes and makes more uniform a market which should actually be really different in nature and delivery from place to place-- well that will serve the interests of the biggest capitalist stakeholders in health care which is not Walmart for Gosh Sakes it is the INSURANCE INDUSTRY. CUI BONO Obamacare? The insurance industry. So republicans drop the delusion pro capitalist scales from your eyes this has almost nothing to do with race or "socialism" it has to do mostly with what the INSURANCE INDUSTRY wants to have happen in order to make their lives and profits easier.

  2. Read the article - the reason they can't justify staying is they have too many medicare/medicaid patients and the re-imbursements for transporting these patient is so low.

  3. I would not vote for Bayh if he did run. I also wouldn't vote for Pence. My guess is that Bayh does not have the stomach to oppose persons on the far left or far right. Also, outside of capitalizing on his time as U. S. Senator (and his wife's time as a board member to several companies) I don't know if he is willing to fight for anything. If people who claim to be in the middle walk away from fights with the right and left wing, what are we left with? Extremes. It's probably best for Bayh if he does not have the stomach for the fight but the result is no middle ground.

  4. JK - I meant that the results don't ring true. I also questioned the 10-year-old study because so much in the "health care system" has changed since the study was made. Moreover, it was hard to get to any overall conclusion or observation with the article. But....don't be defensive given my comments; I still think you do the best job of any journalist in the area shedding light and insight on important health care issues.

  5. Probably a good idea he doesn't run. I for one do not want someone who lives in VIRGINIA to be the governor. He gave it some thought, but he likes Virginia too much. What a name I cannot say on this site! The way these people think and operate amuses me.