The no-tears guide to newsletters

Newsletters do more for business than just spread news. A newsletter can benefit you in a variety of ways, depending on how you use it. It might foster workplace community, improve investor confidence, or bring in a new stream of customers.

If you’ve been tasked with starting a company newsletter, you may be at a loss for where to begin. Of course, you can always hire a content creation company to take the job off your hands. But if you’re determined to go it alone, these simple steps will get you over the hump and on your way to being the talk of the town (and the office).

State your mission

First of all, decide how your newsletter’s success will be defined. Your audience will determine the objectives of your content. If it’s an internal staff newsletter, maybe the goal is to disseminate important information and foster employee connections. If it’s for shareholders, you may want to show how your business is growing and generate excitement. If it’s for the general public, you’ll likely be looking for bridges between popular topics and your company to get people interested in what you do. 

In any case, you’ll need one or two central goals to focus on. It’s a good idea to create a list of these objectives and keep it close at hand. It will help you know where to start each time you write. When a newsletter draft is nearly finished, compare it with the list to make any final improvements.

Set a realistic schedule

All regularly-scheduled writing projects face the serious threat of burnout. You might start out with a huge gust of enthusiasm to write a newsletter every Friday, and within a few months find yourself struggling to keep it up. 

That’s not to say some people can’t pull off a weekly newsletter successfully. But look honestly at your workload and the rate at which your company generates news. If you have a small team and you’ve got a lot on your plate, a monthly update might be a better fit.

Set a content creation schedule to make your newsletter successful

Be sure to create a schedule you can stick to

Get to the hook 

People are often busy and distracted, so there’s no need for suspense in your newsletter. Don’t be afraid to put your most interesting story right at the beginning. If people are intrigued early, they’ll read on to see if the rest is just as good. And even if they don’t, at least you’ve gotten the most important news across.

Each section of your newsletter should have a punchy headline. Headline writing is a craft in its own right, but don’t be intimidated. Headlines should be short, to the point, and in the active voice. It shouldn’t be too hard to get a sense of what the article is about; people will skim past headlines they don’t understand.

Gather real news

The most crucial ingredient in your newsletter is, of course, news. You can’t refine it until you have some raw material, so start by brainstorming all the content you can.

When it comes to research, you don’t have to work in isolation. Take some time to ask your coworkers for updates and events they think are important. Individual success reflects positively on the team, so you might also encourage colleagues to submit personal accomplishments to be featured.

Collaborating with coworkers will provide content that connects with its audience

Fellow employees can provide some of the best content

Additionally, some newsletters might have sections for relevant industry updates. You don’t want anyone to upstage you in your own publication, but showing awareness of current events in your field demonstrates competence.

Switch up the format

Variety keeps readers engaged. Interviews with employees or outside peers are a great way to mix it up, and the interview process itself could be a networking opportunity. You might have another section for rapid-fire updates: tidbits of news that don’t merit a whole article. And don’t hold back on images; visuals break up the page nicely and grab the reader’s attention.

Technology is a big factor in how creative you can get with formatting. If you’re not very tech-savvy, consider using an e-mail management service like MailChimp. It will let you arrange your text artfully and bring designs and graphics right to the reader’s inbox. It also provides analytics, so you can track readership and optimize your strategy based on how people are interacting with the newsletter. 

Sell yourself

If you want your newsletter to reach the general public, you’ll need to go big. Make it easy for anybody who interacts with your company, even fleetingly, to get on the list. Prominently display sign-up links on your website, during purchasing processes, and anywhere else you’re publicized.

Make your newsletter user-friendly to generate traffic and draw new readers

It should be easy for readers to subscribe—and unsubscribe

We’ve all had that irritating newsletter we can’t seem to unsubscribe from; you don’t want to be one of those. Provide an unsubscribe option and be sure it works. But while unsubscribing should be easy enough, subscribing in the first place should be even simpler. You might have noticed that since online purchases usually already require an e-mail address, a lot of companies just add a “sign up for email updates” check box to their checkout page. This is a great example of a quick and easy way to draw new readers.

When in doubt, trust your gut

Take all of these factors into account, and then breathe. At the end of the day, one of the most important parts of writing a newsletter is, if possible, enjoying it. Anything written in a tortured state of mind will be torturous for the reader. Depending on your brand and your audience, your newsletter might not be a barrel of laughs, per se, but as a human being, your instincts are probably pretty good on what other people actually want to read. Listen to those instincts. They’ll usually steer you true.


If you’d rather leave your newsletter to the professionals, get in touch with our marketing team at VeraContent who have years of experience delivering email content in multiple languages.

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A short history of punctuation (and why it’s an essential part of communication)

The tiny dots and dashes sprinkled throughout every piece of writing we read may at first seem trivial, but we often underestimate how vital punctuation is to giving words their intended meaning and communicating effectively. The example often cited to demonstrate this point is “the panda eats, shoots and leaves”. Remove the comma and the sentence changes from sinister to the more informative, “the panda eats shoots and leaves”.

Punctuation is viewed as something necessary for reading comprehension, but this wasn’t always the case. Humans recorded their actions and thoughts in writing long before the invention of punctuation. So how could they possibly decipher the meaning of written documents that provided no indication of where one phrase ended and another began? The answer is actually quite simple: writing simply wasn’t as important back then.

In the past, more emphasis was placed on spoken word. This was especially true in Ancient Greece and Rome where politics centered on verbal debates. It was not until the third century BC that Aristophanes, a librarian living in Alexandria, suggested what would become the first set of punctuation marks. The comma, colon, and periodos were represented by a dot of ink in the middle, bottom, or top of a line respectively. Each mark indicated a different length of pause and was a great aid to readers who, in those days, had to wade through texts multiple times before even hoping to grasp their meaning.

The Bible featured one of the first uses of punctuation

The Bible featured one of the first uses of punctuation

Marks such as these soon became popular with orators and actors, who used them as speaking cues to improve their speeches or to give better performances. The popularity of punctuation was in flux over the years that followed, though, with some choosing to use Aristophanes’ rules where others rejected them. The copying and distribution of the Christian Bible was punctuation’s own saving grace. Punctuation marks were included to help people read the Bible aloud, and since the book was widely distributed across a large geographic area, the marks became normalized and were more regularly incorporated in written works.

Like any aspect of language, punctuation has evolved over time. Languages that originally did not include any form of punctuation, such as Arabic and Urdu, began to include these markings due to Western influence. The usage and appearance of punctuation continues to evolve. At one point, the interrobang, though short-lived, was introduced to express exclamation and question. French author Hervé Basin made the argument to include six new punctuation marks, including the point d’ironie (irony point), the point d’amour (love point), the point de conviction (certitude point), the point d’autorité (authority point), the point d’acclamation (acclamation point), and the point de doute (doubt point) in an attempt to approximate the full spoken meaning of language in writing. Today, some would say that emojis could be classified as a new form of punctuation, in the sense that they follow their own set of grammatical rules and help add meaning.

Variance in punctuation is not limited to time, but is also quite noticeable across geographic and linguistic boundaries. Different languages have unique punctuation marks they use to convey a specific meaning. For example, Spanish and Catalan use inverted question marks and exclamation points at the beginning of sentences to clarify the tone of the sentence. The Armenian language uses a colon to represent a full-stop where English would use a period. In Arabic, Urdu, and Persian, which are all written from right to left, reversed question marks and commas are used. Japanese has round, unfilled periods.

The diversity of punctuation across languages is especially relevant in the context of translation. Punctuation has the power to give the same words written in the same order completely different meanings (like the panda sentence from before).

Punctuation mishaps

Punctuation can be the defining factor in whether or not you give your dear old grandmother a heart attack.

Therefore, it becomes incredibly important for the translator to incorporate punctuation effectively in order to convey the intended meaning of the translated work.  Avoiding this miscommunication when translating requires doing the necessary research to determine the punctuation differences between the source language and the target language. 

Far from being negligible marks placed behind letters and words, punctuation is an integral part of language. Punctuation, in the context of a sentence, becomes a unit of meaning without which we simply wouldn’t be able to grasp the true meaning as the writer intended. In the words of Edgar Allen Poe, “the writer who neglects punctuation, or mispunctuates, is liable to be misunderstood.”


Concerned your punctuation isn’t quite up to scratch? Let VeraContent’s dedicated proofreading team take a look at your content before you give the wrong impression.

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How to write a killer crowdfunding campaign pitch

Crowdfunding has been one of the biggest upheavals to the business world. It has shifted the control of investment and enabled a whole new generation of entrepreneurs to bring their visions to life. But not every crowdfunding campaign turns to gold. Here are five key steps for how to nail your pitch.

Choose the right crowdfunding platform

Before you start building your crowdfunding campaign, you’ll need to choose a home for it. Many entrepreneurs are getting off the ground using established crowdfunding websites. These sites offer a huge boost in visibility,  but they often hit you with high fees which can put a real dent in your funds. You may want to consider one of the smaller sites, each with their own benefits and niches.

The most high-profile option is Kickstarter. The site is mainly for creative and tech projects and has an all-or-nothing funding policy. This means that if your campaign doesn’t reach its funding goal, none of the backers pay you anything. This has its disadvantages, but also reduces the risk for backers so they’re more likely to fund your project. Kickstarter’s main competitor Indiegogo is quickly catching up by offering more flexibility. It allows the all-or-nothing funding method, but also has the option of flexible funding, whereby you keep however much you’ve been pledged. Indiegogo also has a lot more campaign options.

IndieGoGo or KickStarter?

IndieGoGo offers more flexible funding options than competitor Kickstarter

The other giant currently on the crowdfunding scene is GoFundMe. This site is primarily geared towards individuals for personal needs rather than business ventures. GoFundMe is full of nice reminders of how generous strangers can be, but the site has been criticized for its usage fees. YouCaring has less name recognition, but is considered a strong alternative with no cost to use other than credit card processing fees.

Find the hook for your pitch

Once you have your platform, it’s time to start writing the pitch itself. Like any marketing campaign, it’s important to determine the problem your product solves and make your solution compelling to backers. 

If English isn’t your native language, you’ll likely want a multilingual content agency to prepare it for you, or at least edit it. You may also want to offer your pitch in multiple languages, which can be a bit tricky. Kickstarter doesn’t have the option to change the language, so you’ll have to put your translation on the same page, which could more than double the amount of copy your potential backers will have to read throughso keep it simple and concise.

If you really want your campaign to go viral, a well-made video is a great idea. This works especially well if your product is at all visually interesting, or if it does something cool that can be demonstrated. Smart gadget videos are catnip to Facebook sharers and their procrastinating friends. Invest in help if nobody on your team is savvy enough to make a good video. It will pay off. Also, bear in mind your video will need to be translated if you’re offering your pitch in multiple languages, although subtitles could be a simpler option.

In terms of style, phrases like “receive” and “offer” will pull better results than words like “help” and “support”. Make it clear why you need the money and why you’ve decided to crowdfund. People can be kind, but they’re also pragmatic; they want to know what’s in it for them. Speaking of which…

Make the backer rewards appealing

The most important thing in any marketing campaign is to make people want your product, but in crowdfunding, there’s an intermediate item to sell: your backer rewards. These are the bonuses that backers get for contributing, generally with a scale of increased rewards for larger contributions.

How to offer Kickstarter rewards

Make your rewards appealing and you’ll attract more backers, as this one from Bishop Games demonstrates

Don’t underestimate the power of these rewards. We all love free stuff, even when it’s not really free. Someone who’s teetering on the edge of backing you might well be convinced by a good reward. Set at least five reward levels, with each level getting all the benefits of those below it, plus something extra.

Be sure to have a stretch level as well—something way higher than you might imagine anyone would pay. Even if nobody forks out $10,000 to back your artisanal macaroni and get a custom piece of their face, you never know. It shows you take your project seriously and expect it to be a success.

See how others are crowdfunding

It’s always a good idea to peruse your competition. Most crowdfunding sites have a homepage that features high-traffic campaigns. Go see what they’re doing right!

Timebound - a succesful Kickstarter campaign

One of the top campaigns on Kickstarter recently was Timebound, an app that teaches you about history. That doesn’t sound like an obvious winner,  but the campaign surpassed its $20,000 goal in a short period. Why? It brands itself as “the app that makes time travel possible,” with the tagline “Live through the most important events in history—in real time!” That’s the kind of magic that people visit crowdfunding sites for. That’s not to say you can only succeed if your product promises actual science fiction, but almost anything can engage a certain spirit of adventure.

Get the world watching

Once you have a well-written campaign page with fabulous rewards, it’s time to get the world’s attention. Start by using any leverage you already have. It’s not unreasonable to post some sort of reminder about your campaign to your company’s social media every day. You can even start hyping it up before it actually launches. Just don’t bash people over the head with it.

Call on any famous friends your company has that can give you a boost. One tweet from a big name can change the life of a crowdfunding campaign. This is another thing you can be working on well before your campaign actually launches. People are more likely to support something that others are already supporting. 

 

There will always be a certain amount of luck involved in wooing crowdfunders, but all of these strategies will help ready your campaign for greatness. If you really want to get ahead, think about hiring someone who specializes in writing for crowdfunding. Experience with successful campaigns goes a long way to teach someone what works. This is why if you’re tackling the job on your own, researching successful campaigns is a great idea.

Crowdfunding ventures flop every day, but if you strike gold, your life could change overnight. With such bright possibilities, it’s no wonder crowdfunding is gaining so much traction. We hope these steps bring you closer to your golden ticket.


Need someone to take the stress out of writing your crowdfunding campaign? Whether it’s a multilingual pitch or in one language, VeraContent’s experienced multilingual copywriting and marketing team would be happy to discuss your project and make sure your crowdfunding campaign is a success.