How to create a newsletter people actually read

Trying to predict the next booming internet, social media or digital marketing fad might offer the same odds as Russian roulette, but there is one public relations strategy as old as the internet itself which consistently stays in style: newsletters. Despite its grossly exaggerated death, the newsletter has not only lived an arguably better life than many other fleeting mediums, it’s also thrived. It’s gotten better and it’s gotten stronger year over year.

If you find yourself questioning this, ask yourself how many newsletters you personally subscribe to and then ask yourself how you react when given the opportunity to sign up for yet another. It’s easy, it’s special because it’s usually customized for you with content you were already looking for when you were prompted to sign up, and it offers a ticket to cut through the overdose of Internet crap and the chaos of the latest trending Kardashian news.

The art of writing the perfect newsletter. A guest post by  Bridget Forney on   Newsletters are also easy to read, portable on a mobile device and convenient because everyone already has email. Readers don’t have to learn it, and it doesn’t go away until readers delete it – even if it means it lives in an inbox for a week or a month or longer.

Newsletters are also easy to read, portable on a mobile device and convenient because everyone already has email. Readers don’t have to learn it, and it doesn’t go away until readers delete it – even if it means it lives in an inbox for a week or a month or longer.

Daily, weekly, monthly, randomly: newsletters come in every flavor. But the most important reason you should pay attention to this medium’s success is because authors are using them to connect to people, to talk to their readers, to build actual relationships that transcend the limits of the Internet.

People are not looking for more content, they want less, and better. Offering your readers a newsletter can deliver that, and here are strategies to consider for building a newsletter that people actually want to read, and if you’re lucky, share:

Humans are creatures of habit. Leverage that.

We look for patterns and repetition by nature because we find it inherently comforting. Newsletters that arrive regularly, on schedule, or on a specific day, at a certain time offer the reliability of a familiar habit, a routine, that has the potential to build a massive readership.

Email feels good because it’s personal. Make the connection.

Making a newsletter personal to readers doesn’t always translate to just customizing the to/from fields with a name. You can make a newsletter personal by changing your tone and style. Some of the most successful newsletters with millions of subscribers are written to readers as though the words are spoken by your closest friend. Make that connection with your readers and adjust your style to connect with them.

Newsletters aren’t always about business. It’s about who you are, too.

Your newsletter can be a new space to be you, be fun and funny and open. The people reading your newsletter and what you put in it are typically opting in! They subscribed! If they don’t like it, they can unsubscribe. This might not be the part of your business that generates the most leads or makes the most sales right away, but it can be the highlight of your week to create something for people who are looking for it at the other end. Let your newsletter satisfy a personal need or interest, too.

Your newsletter is hitting inboxes. Make it count.

Providers like Gmail have evolved to better block spam. In doing so, a Gmail inbox is automatically divided into personal, social, promotional and forum messages so readers can easily prioritize their personal emails over retailer email marketing and newsletters. If readers are opting in, they’ll be looking for your newsletter anyway, but consider how your newsletter hits inboxes, how it looks and what is seen first. A journalist might call this an “above the fold” mentality. Make your subject line, first two sentences and everything else at the top of the newsletter count.

Don’t count your chickens. They’re not the focus.

Subscribers are generally hard-won when it comes to newsletters, due to the fact that inboxes are still a very “personal,” some call it, “sacred,” space. But a reader opting in to a newsletter with their personal email address can be more valuable than a Facebook Like or a Retweet. Even the most modest-sounding list serve of subscribers can generate a meaningful and significant amount of traffic and buzz around content. Don’t make a point to count your subscriber list. When you’re doing it right, it will grow organically and subscribers will share it.

From convenience and exclusivity to connection and routine, newsletters are having a revolution that isn’t dying down anytime soon. The relationship between the publisher and the subscriber can’t be denied. Even if the recipient hasn’t read your newsletter yet, they signed up to receive it because the person who sent it was smart and interesting. Is that you?

If you have a newsletter I can follow, I hope you’ll tweet me a link @BridgetForney. If you have a question about this article or your newsletter strategy, you can drop me a line at

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Bridget Forney

Bridget Forney is a writer and freelance public relations strategist in Baltimore, Md. She publishes an upstart newsletter, Forney File, which focuses on an under-appreciated, under-publicized or under-thought about life topic every month. Then a team of really cool intellectuals, professionals, illustrators, photographers and essayists narrow in on it and expose how it influences the basic things we say, think, do and work on day-to-day.

The File aims to help readers think about what drives their passions, thoughts and actions and just think of an everyday life topic super differently. You can subscribe to Forney File here:


Nora ConradComment