This is an e-mailed newsletter sent weekly from W14 – an online community for people that live in the W14 area code in London.
W14 is one of the better hyper-local communities, but their newsletter could be a little better.
- Pick a name for the newsletter. Newsletter W14London doesn’t sound great. Pick a community symbol and include that in the name.
- Big story in the subject line. Think of this as the headline of a newspaper. Pick a story, person or a question that will persuade people to open the e-mail. "e.g. JoeSmith sees a robbery in progress!"
- Short introduction. I like the brevity, but this is too brief. How about a single paragraph from the editor briefly summarizing what to read. Highlight the one thing to read.
- Use names religiously. Mention names in nearly every headline. Show who this news is affecting. Look to local newspapers for guidance here. The more names you use, the better. Without names you're not building a genuine sense of community.
- Don't copy your sector's news. The above headlines read too similar to a local newspaper. They're boring. Focus on different stories. Focus on discussions people can participate in. Highlight issues that have divided the community. You can rewrite local stories. e.g "Ole Mexico Restaurant applying for licensing" becomes "How many of you WANT to drink at Ole Mexico Restaurant?" and "Robbery outside Charleville mansion - Can you help?" becomes "Read JoeSmith's account of a daylight robbery outside Charleville Mansion - how would you have reacted? Did you see anything?"
- Promote the top members. Your newsletter is a place where you can shine attention on the top members. Find ways to highlight these. Consider a short interview, a guest column, a member of the month profile or a top-5 suggestions pieces. Or, my favourite, day in the life of.... <- always popular.
- Religious tracking. Scientifically measure your community newsletter and the links members click. Identity the most popular types of stories and repeat them more frequently.
Community newsletters are an excellent way to develop a sense of community amongst members. They engender a spirit and recollections of local community newspapers. Make sure you make the best use of yours.