To newsletter or not to newsletter

A lot of companies are keen to jump on the 'company newsletter' bandwagon as an outlet for talking to their market and current customer base. It's nuthin' new - the newsletter has been around since the dawn of business - it's just easier to distribute now through digital channels.

I am signed up to several, and read them mainly because I'm always asking myself, "Can and should we do a good newsletter for Hatch?"

The word good is pretty key in that sentence. The vast majority of company newsletters that I receive are almost entirely self-serving - they mainly involve the company banging on about how smart it is, how great it is, how great its employees are, and how great its customers are. And, they are almost always about the company's core business, which if you're aware of the company already, you really don't need to know more about.

Honestly? Even if I'm your number one biggest fan, a newsletter like that is a) not interesting and b) actually off-putting. It undermines the very purpose of the newsletter itself - to build brand reputation.

If your newsletter is gossipy, funny, or says something completely new (such as putting our monthly statistics that only you could publish) then fair enough. Or if you put out a newsletter with interesting material that has very little direct relevance to your brand, that can work too. An example would be highlighting the work of local up-and-coming artists or local free Wifi cafes - it obviously depends on what industry you're in. But if you look at your newsletter and find that it's just a bunch of self-serving goop, directly related to the work you are doing, spare yourself the trouble as it often does very little for your brand.

The reality is that putting together a good company newsletter takes a lot of time, even more creativity, and can't just be an activity crammed into a full schedule at the end of the week. If it's going to be a key communications vehicle, it needs a fair amount of resource put against it - not just the summer intern's activity. And before hitting 'send', someone in the organisation really needs to take a critical eye to put the kibash on any parts that sound like your company is collectively patting itself on the back.

I can only think of a handful of newsletters that meet these criteria and they are all really professionally done, and clearly take some time to put together. And I don't roll my eyes when I read them.


Twitter a PR love-in, says Hitwise

Hitwise posted a picture today of the news sites that receive traffic direct from Twitter. And oh, oh yes, these numbers are sweet.

Twitter delivered a staggering 9.7 per cent of all its traffic to sites in the 'news and media' category in April 2009.

Why do we love this? It is the best PR tool since sliced press releases. It proves that the Tweetvolution was largely thanks to PR people and journalists championing it. It goes further to show the power of PR. And finally, one could even extrapolate that this means PR people do, indeed 'get it,' and understand how to utilise the digital medium.

It's also super interesting to see which news sites are using Twitter the best. Although The Guardian will always front itself as top of the pops in this regard, even Sky News, who some Guardian journalists guffawed for appointing the media industry's first 'Twitter' correspondent earlier this year, is attracting more traffic from Twitter. She's doing a great job and props to Sky for the foresight as it's obviously not done them any harm.

We like this very much. Thank you, Hitwise.


Extreme Homeworking

In case you didn’t know this week is Work Wise Week, the fourth such annual effort to get firms to act more flexibly in the way they operate.

I’ve been lucky enough in recent years to work at a progressive firm (Rainier PR, now Speed Communications), which actively promoted remote working and enabled it through laptop provision, home office broadband contributions and Internet-ready phones. We operated – as our clients expected – efficiently. No “sorry, I’m on a train, I’ll look at your email when I’m back in the office” excuses, which has no place in modern PR (or any industry, frankly).

For the last few months (alas, ending at the end of June) you could say I’ve been experimenting with ‘extreme homeworking’ – living in Valencia where my office is, in the cooler times of day, a roof terrace [pictured]. All you need is a phone and Internet connection and you ARE an office.

That’s the luxury of being freelance, I guess, but allowing some form of remote working is a prudent move for companies of any size for numerous reasons:

- Employee morale – especially for workers with children
- Productivity – e.g. people can work from home while waiting for the gas man or if they’re not too sick to work but couldn’t face the commute
- Service – you’re always available in work hours, wherever you are. It makes you look good/effective
- Reduced overheads – less power and real estate costs through hotdesking – great!

Just make sure you have the bandwidth, policy and remote security in place, plus make sure you’re using efficiency tools such as GoToMyPC to allow IT to deal with any remote tech issues, or Doodle to schedule meetings.

I could go on and, yes, I know, there are people out there who will argue that some employees might see homeworking as a day off but they would be found out pretty quick and dealt with, as you don’t really want someone so unprofessional working for you anyway.

I just think that two hours at home, mentally fresh and ready to work, is a better way to spend your time than on a train/tube/bus with the rest of the world hemmed in like a sardine while your blood levels rise.


Emperor’s New Media Clothes?

A few years ago the favourite spiel of corporate spokespeople in the IT trade was “one day we’ll stop calling it ‘e-commerce’, it’ll be simply ‘commerce’”.

I would like to say the same for ‘digital’ PR. Every week another PR firm wheels out a ‘digital arm’ to deal with its clients’ online profile, which makes me ask the same question I used to while a director at Rainier PR (now Speed) – isn’t this something all PR people should know about anyway?

Yes, yes, yes, I know, there’s a role for traditional PR and that goes without saying, but you need to know how to make the most of all platforms – digital or otherwise – to fill the PR skill set, and that includes digital media with all its myriad facets.

You know what comes next. “One day we’ll stop calling it ‘digital PR’…”