Like a broken tree branch slowly drooping towards the ground, the newsletter’s effectiveness has been on the decline for some time. There is a direct correlation between this decline and the way that your parents, students, and faculty receive information in today’s inter-connected world.
In addition to the societal change that requires a different delivery system, there are practical reasons to abandon the newsletter in favor of more effective methods. Interdependent Web, in “Top 10 Reasons Email Newsletters are a Bad Idea” states that an inherent problem with newsletters is that they deliver information that is often either “too early or out of date” (Stallings, 2011). In contrast, websites and social media are updated in real time and offer information at precisely the moment that people want to access it.
Newsletters also undermine your marketing and communications efforts by drawing your constituents away from the rest of the information they need to know. If your school wants parents to check your online calendar, find directory information, check student grades and assignments, read the latest announcements, or view photos and videos, you are undercutting your goals by sending them a newsletter. You are leading them into the false assumption that they have received all the information they need to receive, when in fact, there is a wealth of other information they need to access.
But perhaps most damaging of all, you are training your constituents to avoid the best source of information in your organization, de-incentivizing them to learn how to get to that information. The age-old proverb applies: “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but teach him to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” Parents who complain about not knowing where to access information should not be spoon fed a watered-down version of your communications information; rather, they should be taught how to access that information so they can realize the full benefit of your communications menu.
But people actually use email, you might argue, and they may be more likely to see something in their inbox than on your website. Yes, emails do have a relatively high open rate, at least in contrast to direct mail and other outbound methods. However, as Halligan and Shah indicate in Inbound Marketing, to properly leverage email, your primary use of that tool should not be to deliver information; it should be to direct your constituents to where your information is housed, and even this should only be done sparingly (2010).
The history of newsletters is rich and storied, but that story has been told, and it’s time to move on. For the benefit of your school and your constituents, resist the urge to maintain your email newsletter. Instead, move on to inbound sources that will pay you far greater dividends on your time and finances and while making your constituents happier.
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