Regular printed newsletters let you promote messages, distribute information and share inspiring Scouting stories. They help members feel part of a community of like-minded people, and it is important to build a sense of ownership by making sure that your members have the chance to contribute.
Engaging with your readers
Regular newsletters can become much-loved ‘friends’ with loyal readership bases. Readers know when to expect them, and will engage with them positively.
Used well, newsletters can be social tools, prompting debate and conversation. They break down barriers by letting you share information between Scout Groups, Districts and Counties, and reduce communications overload by combining a number of messages in one package.
Right content mix
Newsletters need a good balance of content and tone. It can be difficult to convey very serious messages alongside particularly light-hearted or informal social updates, so think of your readers first.
The regular nature of newsletters mean that they are not always suited to urgent, time-critical messages or information that might be sensitive or controversial. Newsletters are also the wrong medium for sharing dry and information-heavy updates.
Organising the workload
Consider how the publication will be organised and managed. A newsletter is a team effort that needs people who have a good command of English, grammar and spelling as well as an enthusiasm for generating contributions. Let members know how they can get involved, and highlight that their writing will be edited to fit the style and purpose of the publication.
Think about the needs of your principal readers, as well as the local area’s key messages (agree these with your manager). Ideas might be:
- round-up of news from your area
- upcoming events
- regular message from your commissioner
- update on national Scouting news
- update on guidance
- a day in the life of xxx
- good deed of the issue/everyday adventurer of the issue.
- The best newsletters are constantly evolving to reflect the needs and interests of their readers. Get regular feedback.
- Think about your busy reader. Present stories as summaries first, allowing readers to turn to more detailed content if they wish.
- Have a mix of regular features alongside the news content.
- Bring your newsletter to life with pictures and colour, including local photos to showcase the exciting activities that Scouts enjoy. Ask permission from parents to use pictures of local Scouts or use the brand centre image library.
- Keep design and layout simple, and make sure your text is easy to read and in line with guidelines issues in The Scout Association’s text style guide. Follow the brand guidelines and use the Scout tone of voice and graphic style to help members feel part of the wider organisation.
- If creating a PDF version with hyperlinks, think about printed copies and ensure that hyperlinks are also seen in text format. You could use a URL shortening service (Tinyurl, Bitly, Olwly, etc) for neatness.
- Make sure you include contact details and clear information about contribution deadlines.
- Think about whether your newsletter will be read outside of Scouting. If so, the content will need to be broader to inform and gain the interest of a wider audience. Also ensure it follows brand guidance to build a wider understanding of Scouting, and avoid Scout jargon in order not to alienate non-members.
- Keep the tone informal but always proofread your newsletter and ask yourself 'would I be happy if this was read by anyone outside of Scouting? Does it show Scouting in the way we would want it to be viewed publicly?'
- Consider your budget carefully. Take into account frequency, number of copies required, number of pages, paper quality and distribution. To save paper costs, get your important message across concisely and only produce a printed newsletter a few times a year. You can use online communications to fill the gaps in between publications.