We all like to think that member pore over their monthly or quarterly newsletters, reading every word and considering how they can use all the wonderful services the credit union offers, participate in credit union events, and convince their families and co-workers to join the credit union. Reality check: Is that what happens? Or do 80% of your members recycle their newsletters before reading them? Ouch. For many credit unions, a newsletter is the most important (sometimes the only) marketing tool to promote membership. Whether created in-house or outsourced, a newsletter is an investment of time and/or money. Is that investment paying off? Put your newsletter to the test by answering these 10 questions to insure your own newsletter’s effectiveness: Is the newsletters content focused on the credit union or on the member? Of course, it’s about the credit union, but if you focus solely on credit union information, you’re missing an important key to holding your member’s attention. Focus on the member by having each article and ad answer the members unasked question: “What’s in this for me?” Does your newsletter include articles that have nothing to do with the credit union? It may sound strange, at first, that a cu newsletter should not focus exclusively on the credit union, but think about it for a minute. Would you want to read 4 full pages about a financial institution if your weren’t the CEO yourself? Maybe you would. But how many of your members are so inclined? Include articles of general interest, a quote, a book review, a kid’s section, recipes, fashion tips, anything that would be appropriate and of interest to your membership. These are the articles members save your newsletter for. Is your style easy to read and easy to follow? In today’s world of mass marketing and 30-second commercials, you need to reach your member quickly, grab his or her attention, and hold it. Are you following an outdated format that used to work, but doesn’t anymore? Take a good look at the newsletters vendors and others are putting out, and see which ones hold your attention and which are just too easy to put down. If writing is not your “thing”, get a writer. Outsource to a professional copywriter or find a member who can volunteer his or her services. Why waste the expense of putting out a newsletter that members don’t read? If you write the newsletter yourself, have someone else proofread it for you. You may be too close to your own work to look at it objectively. Is your layout appealing? Shorter articles spaced with pictures and other graphics are easier to read than full pages of monotonous text. If you have no appropriate pictures to use, consider a “pull quote”, an important line or paragraph from the article, and use an enlarged repetition of that sentence in place of a picture. When you look at your layout, also consider the amount of columns. Wide columns take longer to read. Three columns per page are ideal, but even two is better than one. Your word processing program should allow you to view the difference with the click of a mouse. Play with the format to find the one that’s most visually appealing. Is your style consistent? If your newsletter is informal and “chatty”, all articles should reflect that style. The best way to insure this will happen is to review several articles in the past few editions, decide what your preferred style is, and put it on paper. Summarize it so it’s clear and succinct. Commit the summary to memory, or attach a copy of your “style statement” to your newsletter file (electronically or manually) and hold every article up to that standard. Are you trying to reach too many groups with the same information? Consider a kid’s newsletter, teens, or senior edition, where you can customize the content of articles, or just vary the ads to suit your audience. How is your newsletter distributed? Does putting it in members statements make a difference, or is it better to mail it as a stand-alone newsletter? Is the additional cost of a separate mailing justified? What about potential members-are they getting your newsletter? They should. Consider distributing it through your Sponsor Company or companies (with paychecks?) or throughout your community by putting it in popular stores and restaurants so that community members who are eligible for membership can pick it up. And if your newsletter is interesting, they will pick it up. Length. Your newsletter must be long enough to get your message across, but not much longer. Too short, and it looses the look of a newsletter, too long and its intimidating. Find the balance that works for your credit union. Frequency. How often should your newsletter come out? Less than quarterly means it’s not a newsletter, more than monthly is not necessary. But would you gain from a monthly, as opposed to a quarterly newsletter? Consider replacing your paper newsletter with an e-zine. It costs almost nothing to reproduce and distribute, and can be as frequent as you can realistically manage. How is your newsletter printed? Printing in more than black and white can be costly and may not be necessary. Check with your local copy shop. You may be able to get a good price on a better quality paper, or you may want to leave it the way it is, in black and white. Also consider “frames”, a full color frame for a newsletter you can print up in large quantities, and copy your newsletter text into it, one issue at a time as needed. Paper Direct and other paper suppliers sell frames, but you’ll get a better price, and exactly what you want, by printing your own. Considering the important role your newsletter serves (or should serve), outsourcing its creation and writing may be a good idea. If it takes you several hours to write, you may find it more cost effective to delegate. Set a goal to produce a newsletter members will read, clip, and pass on to potential members. It’s a worthwhile objective.and very much attainable.