Do you dread writing your monthly e-newsletter? Does it start out well but quickly turn into an inchoate, baffling Rubik’s Cube of facts and opinion that gives you mental anguish and eats up your time?
I have good news. E-newsletters aren’t literature, and they aren’t medical abstracts. They are plain old copywriting and not intended to be works of art. You can easily reduce their creation to a series of formulas with strict limits—limits that can protect you from brain paralysis.
The following three tips will take some of the sting out of writing your e-newsletter.
TIP 1) WRITE FEWER WORDS
There is nothing wrong with brevity. When I attended my daughter’s graduation, the program named 17 department chairs that were going to introduce degree candidates. I armed myself with a Starbucks coffee, an iPod, and trail mix.
To my delight, I didn’t need my boredom-chasers. The department heads had been told to devote no more than 300 words to praising their students. This limitation moved the proceedings along nicely.
With so little time available, they began trying to outdo one another at the podium (“These intrepid software engineers have scaled the heights of coding while consuming mountains of pizza in pursuit of the synapse-shattering algorithms that will change our world,” etc). The ceremony flew by, filled with laughter.
That word limit stopped pomposity and boredom on a dime.
Brevity works even better on the Internet. These days, people want their messages delivered fast and without folderol. That’s one reason why Twitter rules the online messaging world.
Think about how you approach e-mail. You’re like a hummingbird, right? You dart from one thing to the next, trying to handle it all. You can’t wait to delete the extraneous. Your e-newsletter subscribers feel the same way. They will like you better (and be likelier to open your e-mail newsletter) if you keep your messages short.
If 300 words are all it takes to get your point across, stop at 300 words. Don’t feel like you have to fill up space.
To write with brevity, walk away from the computer often. The short, get-to-the-point writing that works for e-newsletters can’t be done the old-fashioned way, meaning sitting at the computer for hours, composing long-winded mini-tomes on the latest procedure or your latest promotion will not suffice. It is passé to spend a lot of time glued to your desk chair. When writing for hummingbirds, short bursts of creativity work fine.
To avoid getting bogged down, try setting a timer at 10 or 15 minutes. Whenever it rings, walk away from whatever you’re writing. Go for a stroll. Use the office putting green. Look out the window and daydream, or do some stretches. Use a part of your brain that controls physical movement.
During this time-out, your brain will continue to work on what to write next. When you feel a little breakthrough in some wording, or a shift in how you’re organizing your thoughts or something else, go back to the keyboard and start in at the breakthrough point.
If the above doesn’t inspire you, let your feelings guide you. When your brain feels like a worm wriggling inside a barrel of molasses, get up and do something physical.
You’ll feel it when the fog lifts. You’ll get a desire to fix something you’ve written. Now you can go back with a fresh perspective.
The big walk-away—letting it cool. Many successful writers build-in a “cooling off” period of at least 24 hours before declaring a piece of writing finished. Don’t publish your newsletter without taking advantage of this cooling-off period.
Think of your e-newsletter as a freshly baked pie that needs to sit on a windowsill before it can be eaten.
Why the cooling-off period? Because writing stirs the pot and gets you worked up about ideas, leaving you “too close” to your text to be objective. Certain cadences and logical progressions hold you in their grip. Only time away from the text can loosen the grip.
When you go back to your e-newsletter the following day, you will often see entire sections that need to be reordered. Once you set up the new sequence, the article you have been slaving over to make brief and to the point will flow so much better. If you’d published the newsletter before reaching this point of clarity, it would have read as muddy and unfocused.
TIP 2) START WITH A STORY
Make it about something important. Before you leap into your message, anchor the reader in a story about something human.
In my graduation story above, I made a point about brevity by painting a picture of someone trapped at a potentially endless, tedious graduation ceremony. The picture I painted was a useful illustration of how a human (me) might respond to a potentially intolerable situation. The story is more vivid and memorable to you than if I’d said, “Short messages are less likely to bore your readers.”
As you begin writing, visualize your readers sitting around a campfire—the place where all human communication began. For eons, people have been telling one another stories to bond and get their message across. They haven’t been quoting statistics or philosophizing.
Besides making your messages more vivid, your stories will endear you to your readers. And isn’t that really what relationship marketing is about? It’s not about the literal content of your message; it’s about you.
You could write about something funny that happened on the way to the office, something another patient said that got you to thinking, something you read in the paper or saw on television, or something your kids said—anything that shows you having a human response to a human situation.
TIP 3) IT’S OK TO REPEAT YOURSELF
“What should I write about this month?” Don’t get crazy thinking you have to change your topic every month. You don’t. You are more apt to make a strong connection with readers, patients, and prospective patients if your e-newsletter has a few ongoing subject threads.
Let’s say you’re annoyed at the low-impact facial rejuvenation trend. You believe non-SMAS lifts are almost useless and fillers only help younger faces. There are lots of angles you could use to convey this opinion. You could package the story many ways, as in the following example headlines:
- The History of the Facelift—From Shallow to Deep and Back Again
- Why the Best Surgeons Still Do Traditional Facelifts: Five Top Reasons
- Annual Fillers—The Cost Over 10 Years Versus a Traditional Facelift
Your strong convictions are what make you valuable to your readers. If your patients just wanted a recitation of what’s available in aesthetic medicine, organized by season without any editorial guidance, they could read a magazine or visit any of dozens of Web sites.
Of course, when there’s actual news to write about (“We bought some new equipment,” or, “We’re starting to do fat transfer breast augmentation”), it is time to devote your e-newsletter to topical matters and announcements. Otherwise, you are well within your rights to being a dog with a bone—your professional opinion is what makes you a valuable ally.
Publish like clockwork. Whatever you do, be consistent with your publication schedule. Train your readers to expect and enjoy your e-messages. Become a fixture in their lives on the Internet, and you’ll get or at least encourage them to call your practice today or in the future.
Joyce Sunila is a contributing writer forPSP. She can be reached at .