12 Steps to Creating an Ezine
Now that you’ve decided to create your own ezine, what’s the best way to begin? Here are 12 steps that have proven useful to many people just starting out.
#1 Create a list of topics
These can come from many sources. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
#2 Decide on how often to publish
You’re probably better off writing once or twice a month. Less than that and people will forget about you. Writing weekly is tough on you and might be too often for your readers as well unless you keep your articles very short.
#3 Build up a backlog before you start
If you outline three or four articles at the beginning, it will give you the confidence that you can do this. Then, even if you get too busy to plan your next issue, you can relax a bit knowing a lot of the thinking has already been done.
#4 Keep your writing informal
If you write like you’re speaking to a friend across your kitchen table, a lot more of your personality will come through. It’s unlikely your high school English teacher will grade your writing, so relax already!
On the other hand, you don’t want to let a lot of obvious mistakes get out since your readers will make judgments about your attention to detail based on what they read. At the very least run your spell checker at the end. Also, it’s a good idea to have a trusted friend or colleague read your article before sending it out. It’s so easy to overlook your own errors since you know what you meant to say. Someone else will find words you left out, missing punctuation, grammar errors and so on. Plus, if they don't understand your message, you have a chance to make it clearer before you go public with it.
#5 Consider using content written by others
At some point you might find yourself without enough time to prepare an article by your deadline. Or perhaps you’d like to bring a new perspective to your readers. For whatever reason, you may want to have someone else write an issue for you occasionally.
If your business is part of a larger organization, they may have material you can use in your newsletter. There are also many online resources that archive articles on every topic imaginable. My last newsletter suggested several places you could submit your original articles to. Those same websites might have just the thing you need to send to your readers. Be sure to include the author’s copyright and contact information.
#6 Start with a plain text e-newsletter
Although most people can receive HTML email (in other words, they can see colors and pictures in it), not everyone can and not everyone prefers that format. In the beginning it’s much simpler for you to create your documents in plain text.They will go out quicker and be received faster as well. Later on, if you decide to offer an HTML version, be sure to let your readers decide which version they’d prefer. List management software (see #11) can automatically send each person just what they want and you only have to prepare the HTML version.
For ease of readability it’s a good idea to format your text to 60 characters per line. If you use a monospaced font like Courier your lines should end at the same place on everyone’s system.
#7 Create and build your mailing list
So who are the lucky folks who will receive your words of wisdom? In these days of spam in every inbox, it’s critical that you have specific permission to send your ezine to everyone on your list. Current clients and customers already have a relationship with you, so they can probably go on your list if you have their email address.
Gaining new readers can be done both online and off. Your website can have a page or section describing your ezine along with a form to input an email address. If you ask for their first name as well, you can personalize each email. Your email signature box is another place to put a brief advertisement about your newsletter.
If you have a storefront business, you can put cards at the register or desk that can be filled out. You can enter the addresses into your system later. One client of mine has placed a computer kiosk right by the door. That way customers can sign themselves up as they leave and get on the mailing list automatically.
#8 Offer a way to leave the list
There are many reasons someone may want to stop receiving your ezine. A few will decide it doesn’t meet their needs, and some will find they just don’t have time to read it very often. At the bottom of each issue explain how to get off the list. Make it simple! If you’re creating quality content, you’ll always have more people joining your list than leaving.
#9 Put a copy on your website
This will add extra value to your site’s visitors and perhaps convince them to join your list. Put the article’s keywords into the title tag and when the search engines index your page it will act as an additional gateway to your site.
#10 Keep your list cleaned up
Each time you send out an article you’ll find some of the mailings bounced back to you. If the reason says, “mailbox full” I generally keep that address on my list until it happens a few times. If the address itself turns out to be bad, delete it right away.
#11 Consider purchasing list management software
You can certainly send out a newsletter using your regular email program, but as you grow your list you may find it can’t do all you’d like.
List management software is designed specifically for this purpose, so it has many extra features you may find useful.
Packages vary, but most of them will automate many functions, freeing you up for other tasks. Here are a few I find useful:
These or other features may be important to you. Doing a search on Google for “list management software” will bring up plenty of options for you to consider. After doing lots of research based on my needs I chose Constant Contact. Check out their site or take their online tour to see if it meets all your requirements.
#12 Test, test, test!
Once you’re all set up and ready to do a mailing, be sure to send a single copy to yourself first. If you have a friend or colleague who will help out, send them a copy as well. Testing on as many types of computers and email programs as possible will keep down the number of surprises you get when you mail to your entire list.
Even though I have a template set up to keep the format consistent from issue to issue, I always find typos, omissions and other errors during my testing. Most of the time I get them all before I do a mailing, but no one’s perfect. Good luck to you!
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