Even in this day of the Internet and social media, print newsletters can be an important marketing tool. They carry more weight, both literally and figuratively, than e-mail messages, which can be quickly deleted. Because they are tangible, they last longer. Recipients can keep them around to read, file them away and pass them on to others. And many of our potential clients and referral sources still resonate more to the printed word than to the Internet.
Print publications, however, present a number of challenges. First, they take considerable work to produce. Articles must be written. The newsletter must be designed. Articles may need to be cut or lengthened to fit. Photos, graphs or “call outs” must be selected to help with appearance and fit and to highlight important points in articles. All aspects of the newsletter must be proofread multiple times to make sure no error appears in print.
The second major challenge is the cost. Hiring a graphic designer, perhaps paying a writer, printing and postage are all expensive. One question in terms of postage is whether to pay to have undeliverable mail returned. The postage is more expensive, but doing so allows you to update your database, keep in better touch with clients and referral sources, and make sure you’re not sending a lot of newsletters to non-existent recipients. One approach is to pay the extra postage cost and update your database once a year, saving money on the other issues.
The third significant challenge is continuity. Newsletters (and most other marketing activities) work best if regularly repeated. Once and done is a method for wasting money, but not an unusual occurrence as attorneys get motivated to produce a print newsletter when work is a bit slow and then never get back to it when they get busier.
One solution to the challenge of creating print newsletters on a regular basis, but perhaps not to their cost, is to use a “canned” newsletter produced by an outside service. Here are a few that are worth checking out:
- Legal Matters by Lawyers Weekly: http://newsletters.lawyersweekly.com/newsletters/
- Ben Glass’s Great Legal Marketing: http://www.greatlegalmarketing.com/library/ben-glass-great-legal-marketing-client-newsletter-for-attorneys.cfm
- PDI Global (part of Thompson Reuters): http://pdiglobal.com/content-publications/newsletter-programs/law-firms/
- WPI Communications: http://wpicommunications.com/attorneys/legal-advisory/
If you choose to produce your own print newsletter, you will need to develop a schedule and system to make sure that you produce the newsletter on a regular basis, whether annually, semi-annually or quarterly – monthly seems like too much to do. Here are some of the issues (so-to-speak) that you will need to consider:
In order to produce the newsletter on a consistent basis, you will need to develop a very specific schedule. If you start with your publication date, you can work back through the following steps to make sure you get everything done on time. Here’s a sample schedule:
- Publication and mailing June 1
- Printing May 23
- Review proofs May 16
- Final edit May 9
- Graphic design April 25
- Edit content April 18
- Write content (due date) April 4
- Assign articles March 15
As you can see, this is a two and a half month period of time from deciding on the article topics to posting the newsletter in the mail. Clearly, this much time isn’t totally necessary given that newspapers publish daily, but it may be realistic in the context of a busy law practice.
The look of your newsletter is almost as important as the content. Make sure that you hire a good graphic designer, both for the basic look of the newsletter and to put each issue together. If you have a design that includes standard components – substantive article, case report, speaking events, news about the office, etc. – it should be relatively easy fit the articles in each issue. It will also help with planning, since you will know what categories of articles have to be prepared for each issue.
You can write the articles yourself, engage others on your staff, hire a freelance writer, or use different authors for different kinds of articles. Of course, you know the law and what’s going on in your legal community and law office best. However, you may not have the time to do the writing or you may not be the best person to be explaining legal concepts to non-attorneys since it’s hard for us to forget what we know and put ourselves in the shoes of readers with no legal background.
A number of on-line services link people needing content with freelance writers looking for work. Here are a few of these sites:
In most instances, your printing company can also mail your newsletters for you. Develop a relationship with a single company. Doing so will make everything run smoother as you get to know their practices and timing. You also may be able to negotiate somewhat lower rates by agreeing to a long-term contract.
Mail the newsletter to all of your clients, their family members and your referral sources, both those who have referred in the past and those who might in the future. The mailing list needs regular attention. People move, so their addresses and affiliations need to be updated. Hospitals hire new social workers; lawyers and CPAs join and leave firms; geriatric care managers strike out on their own; assisted living facilities and nursing homes hire and fire directors of admission. As you get information about new associations and addresses, update your database. At least once a year, find out who is working at the types of facilities that could refer quality cases. Fortunately, with direct mail you don’t have to worry about violating any anti-spam laws.