7 Rules to Rock Your Newsletter

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Ascension Media

We believe digital media isn’t about the cool tools. It’s about using the power of technology (implemented with the human touch) to help you find, reach, and engage with your customers as you nurture them into becoming your fans and advocates.

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Remember the old days… when we actually wrote letters.

On actual paper. And used an actual stamp. Then we tucked it – with our good wishes – into the mailbox to be delivered to our friend or family member, across town or across the country or the world? 

As we dropped the letter into the mailbox, we imagined how their face would light up when they opened their mailbox and saw our sweet letter waiting for them.  

And remember how fun it was to receive a card or letter in the mail? That excitement and anticipation as our finger slid open the envelope and we pulled out what was waiting inside? Then sitting down and savoring it, reading the words, feeling emotions, and likely reading it again.

Putting More “Letter” in Your Newsletter

Nowadays, most of our correspondence is done with email, and your good e-newsletter can still evoke the same positive emotions as a handwritten letter.

Likely you receive some of these email newsletters… the ones you signed up for with the excitement of a five-year-old anticipating a double dipper ice cream cone.

You admired this person, company, or product – so much so that you eagerly gave them your email address in exchange for their newsletter. You wanted to be part of their journey. To know what was happening with them first, before they shared the news in other places. You wanted to keep in touch.

You could not wait for that first newsletter to hit your inbox.

And then it did.

What happened next paved the way for you to keep looking forward to every issue. You couldn’t wait for the next edition to arrive in your email, and you set aside time to actually read it. Sometimes, right then and there.

That’s how we want it to work.

But Something Else Happened

You waited and waited. That first issue never came. Not even a cold, clammy automated response confirming you’d subscribed. Nothing.

Or maybe you got the first issue. Hooray! You opened it, eager to read every word.

But reading it was like reading the op-ed section of the newspaper or the stream of consciousness ramblings of a delusional recluse.

Or maybe instead of actual words and sentences, the newsletter made you scroll through screen after screen of flashy boxes announcing special after special. You felt like you’d just stepped on the used car lot.

Just in case, you gave the newsletter another try, or two or three.

But you couldn’t shake it. You felt let down, even a bit sad. Your ice cream cone just plopped onto the sidewalk, sticky rivulets of chocolate spreading toward the gutter.

And then you unsubscribed.

It didn’t have to be this way.

The ROI of Delicious Content

As a case in point, our luxury lodging client has doubled their room bookings since we launched their newsletter in early 2020, including very strong reservation numbers even during 2020 and 2021 with all the challenges brought on by COVID.

Each monthly issue of the e-newsletter that we create for them included a story – how they were negotiating the challenges, honesty about their struggles, optimism at the future, appreciation for past guests and looking forward to seeing them.

Not only did past guests make reservations for stays months into the future, but they personally called the owners to see how they were doing.

This is the power your newsletter has to connect, human to human.

Seven Ingredients to Making Your Newsletter Delicious

What is it that separates email newsletters into those that we love – the ones we can’t wait to receive (and even share with our friends) – and those that just clutter our inbox unopened… or worse, motivate us to unsubscribe? 

Here are seven  ingredients to make your email newsletter more “letter” and less “news” – and so delicious that your reader will look forward to every issue.

1. Start with your automated welcome email.

Remember the five-year-old waiting for that ice cream cone? When your reader signs up for your newsletter, they are excited! They can’t wait to hear from you!

This first interaction of your auto-response welcome message sets the stage for your relationship, so treat the opportunity as a golden first meeting. You’re about to hand your reader a double-dipper ice cream cone.

Instead of using your email system’s default message (probably something as brilliant as “You’ve subscribed to Acme’s newsletter. To confirm, click here.”), your welcome email can be, well, truly welcoming.

Write in your own human voice and let your reader know how excited you are to have them with you! Share what’s coming up and what they can look forward to. Ask them a question – like what they do, what they hope to read or learn, what piece of the welcome email they liked most.

The double-dip bonus of this is your readers connect with your genuine interest and appreciation in having them on the journey, and their response tells the email gods like Gmail and Yahoo that your newsletter is wanted, not spam to be sent to the Promotions tab.

The most important part of a newsletter is the letter, not the news.

Ann Handley

2. Envision writing to one person.

The next step toward creating a delicious newsletter is writing it for an actual person, not the dreaded (and lifeless) feeling of “Dear valued customer.” Ugh.


Instead, how about writing it to an actual customer? Even if you don’t know all your customers personally, you can imagine a Sally or Stuart. Put yourself in their shoes. They’re already interested in your company or industry, so what can you share that’s valuable? What would they find interesting? Can you share something that’s educational?

This might sound grandiose, but it’s true: how can their life be improved by reading your newsletter… whether that’s information, humor, helpfulness, or another quality?

3. Include a personal story.

As the saying goes, “people do business with people, not businesses.” Readers subscribe to your newsletter to learn something about you and your business, not dry descriptions of a new product or tables of data that show the company’s growth.

Your story can be something that’s happening at your business or brand, a story about you as the owner, a seasonal memory that relates to your business. Anything, really. anything.

Because when you share a story of real life, you connect with your readers at a human level, not transactional. And that connection develops the long-term relationship and helps your reader want to be a long-term customer.

Need some ideas? How about introducing your team. Share how you overcame a recent challenge with the reader in mind. How you helped a customer with a challenge. If you have a brick and mortar business, what’s new? Is the menu updated at your restaurant? Do you have new plush bathrobes at your B&B? Is your auto repair shop using a new tool that will help you diagnose customer’s cars more quickly?

4. Make it personal.

Count the times you use “you” in the copy. Did you run out of fingers? Good! Keep going. Sally and Stuart will feel like the heroes of the newsletter. And they are.

5. Share special offers… but not JUST special offers.

You know those coupon packets or flyers that arrive in the mail every single day? Be honest, how many of them do you read? Unless you’re actively looking for a new lawn care service or replacement windows, they usually go straight to the recycle bin.

The same thing can happen if your newsletter only has coupons, the latest sales, specials, BOGO offers, etc. It’s great to sprinkle in some fun specials now and then — especially if the offer is available only to your newsletter subscribers — but an entire issue of special deals can start to feel spammy.


If offering lots of monthly specials is part of your business model, think about making a special issue for deals and coupons. That will leave room in your regular newsletter for deeper content.

6. Help your readers share your newsletter.

Provide a way for your readers to easily share your newsletter with others. Your happy readers are the best ambassadors for your company. If they find your content relevant, valuable and enjoyable, they’ll want to share with the people they care about.

7. Keep the layout easy, breezy, and readable.

It’s likely that most of your readers are using their cell phones or other mobile devices to read your newsletter. Even if your newsletter is 1,500 words, it doesn’t have to feel like a college essay.

Use short sentences and short paragraphs. Break up text with subheadings. Use white space, and different formats for different content, like boxes, sidebars, and quotes. Include photos, but not too many, and be sure the image sizes are optimized for the web.

Sign Me Up!

Your email newsletter is one of the most effective ways to reach, connect, and develop relationships with your readers and your customers.

By focusing on content that’s delicious and valuable, your list will grow while your customer loyalty deepens. And that’s a story worth telling.

Are you excited to share your stories through hand-crafted newsletters that connect with your customers? We’re here to help!  

We’ve created audience-engaging newsletters for luxury wedding/lodging venues, restaurants, wineries, sports/fitness coaches, antique shops, and more.

Let’s create one for your business!

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