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

March 5, 2011

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!)•

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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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