It’s time to get rolling on another newsletter for your ag cooperative or business and you’re in charge of gathering the stories or content. Suddenly, everyone is hiding from you. Writing an article is just not their favorite thing. You need ideas to help them get going.
Before you start tracking everyone down to find out what they want to say in this month’s newsletter, take a deep breath and keep in mind these important guidelines for your project:
- Make this issue valuable to your agribusiness and the reader.
- Grab your readers upfront. In this electronic day and age, you have a limited amount of time to capture someone’s attention. According to a recent study from Microsoft, researchers clocked the average human attention span at just 8 seconds, putting humans just 1 second below goldfish with an attention span of 9 seconds.
- What your general manager wants to see in your newsletter is often not be what your readers want to read.
- Make your newsletter interesting with solid, worthwhile information, interesting stories, testimonials from customers and employees, community features, and, of course, photos.
A Few Words About Photography
Keep your photos interesting and current from publication to publication. GET A GOOD DIGITAL CAMERA – cellphones will not get you the quality you need for print. Action shots are always preferred over posed headshots. Consider a nice mix of interior and exterior shots, new additions or modifications to your facilities, new equipment, etc. And always remember you are after the GOOD story—in pictures, too. Not that you got a new copier, but how has that copier made someone’s work life easier.
Now for Those Newsletter Content Ideas
Here are some thoughts to help you generate ideas for your next newsletter. (Hand this out to your department managers to get them thinking, too.)
- Front Cover. Your lead story should be the most interesting and important feature in your newsletter. Break yourself of the habit of putting A Message from the General Manager on the front cover. If your agribusiness does not have breaking news this month, a nice feature on an interesting agricultural topic would be great here, too. Maybe it’s something your general manager or division managers have read recently. Support your cover story with memorable photos, graphics or charts that relate and help tell the story.
- Departments. (Agronomy, energy, feed & seed, C-store, Board of Directors, etc.). What does each department need to communicate in this issue? Communicate that message by way of a story about a member who uses your goods or services, or an employee who helps provide excellent service. Make it REAL, as they say. This will take some forethought from your managers, but you’ll be surprised by the stories they can tell. Also keep in mind the time of year and upcoming programs or events that need to be featured, such as crop tours, field days, an upcoming open house, member picnic or your annual meeting.
- Photo Montage. (Tell a story in pictures.) Pick a space in your newsletter and use only photos to tell the story. Maybe it’s a grouping of photos from your organization’s summer picnic, staff members volunteering at a local charity event or “action” shots of employee families celebrating a holiday. The goal is to share “photo stories” that will engage your reader and draw them in to take a look.
- Construction Update. Almost every cooperative or agribusiness has some kind of building project in process. Keep your audience or members posted from month-to-month on major projects – AND get some quotes from employees or customers who will be positively impacted by these new additions or changes.
- History/Heritage Feature. Maybe there’s something historically interesting about your company that would entertain your readers. An important anniversary date/event celebrated each year. A “did you know” feature. How about “Fun Facts” about your elevator, cooperative or agribusiness?
- Education. Are there upcoming clinics, classes, recertification seminars, etc., that you need to let people know about? You might also want to highlight new products, equipment innovations or best practice.
- Seasonal Topics. These topics are driven by the time of year—perhaps a holiday or local celebration. You might even include a favorite family recipe from one of your division managers or another employee.
- Community Feature. How does your ag business involve itself in the surrounding community? Do you have a charity you support? Do associates, team members or employees serve on local boards or in community organizations? Is there a major community-wide event that can be featured? Do you sponsor local educational scholarships? Internships? Or even a summer baseball team?
- Technology Feature. Your business is innovative! You bring your customers and members the latest and greatest. Highlight a new process, system or equipment piece that’s interesting and valuable to the reader. Develop your own “Top 10 List” or a “How-To List” that would be helpful to those who use your services.
- Employee Spotlight. Pick a team member/employee who has a cool hobby, a talent no one knows about, or an honor he/she received recently and tell your readers about it. When sniffing out a good story, ask employees, “What would someone be surprised to learn about you?” Include a photo showing them in action.
- Member Profile. Maybe there’s a customer/member/shareholder/board member who has an interesting story to tell, too. In fact, make this a regular feature.
- Health, Exercise, Nutrition. How do employees stay fit while on the job? Any companywide initiatives? Do employees bring their lunches to work? What’s in the most typical lunchbox at your company? This would make a fun sidebar photo with just a caption—“Lunchbox Insights,” or “Guess who’s lunchbox this is.” Make it a contest and give away a savings coupon.
- Expert Advice. This feature could come “from the desk of” a division manager – maybe even credited to an industry publication – and include something new your manager just read about and wants to pass on to your newsletter audience. Again, “How-To” or “Safety Tips” are always good.
- Calendar of Special Events (or Reminders). Are there seasonal deadlines for purchasing products or services through your company? Any year-end “promotions” or discounts you want to feature? “Upcoming Events” – even if you do not have a specific date, do a “watch for more information” or a “Save-the-Date.” Along with photos, these are great ways to break up your newsletter so it does not look like a “wall of copy.” Consider highlighted quotes, information organized in list format, event reminders or coupons.
Keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to show the value of doing business with your organization. By engaging readers with timely and interesting content, you’ll take a major step in that direction.