We spend a lot of time thinking about employee newsletters.

After all, they are the backbone of internal email–which, if you haven’t noticed, is our jam.

So needless to say, we’ve done our research. And we thought that we had seen it all.

That was until we discovered a newsletter that shook up our perspective and had us rethinking what is possible when it comes to internal newsletters.

It opened our team's eyes to the potential that email newsletter’s letters had, not only for us in our own comms and marketing efforts, but for internal communicators everywhere.

We’re inspired. And now we’re ready to convert you into a newsletter-lovin, hit-send-joyfully believer. We’ve found four newsletter examples that are chock-full of important takeaways and lessons for communicators on how to take your employee newsletters to a whole new level.

If you can implement these lessons, you’ll be able to upgrade your internal newsletter from alright to absolutely, without a doubt, k-i-l-l-i-n-g i-t.

Newsletter Example #1: The Hustle

For most of us, this was the first email we ever looked forward to seeing in our inboxes every single day. We still find ourselves chatting about the newsletter content throughout our day, and are so eager to talk about it that we are always checking to see if others have read the latest edition yet.

Are we engaged? No waywe are full on hooked. And over 1 million subscribers feel the same way.

hustle-newsletter.png

The Good:

  • The Hustle is great at sourcing what is relevant to their readers and focusing on just a few of the most important stories.

  • Their format is easy read (they make great use of headings, subheadings and plain text) with lots of in-text links for continued reading and story sources.
  • They have unique calls-to-action that make you laugh and think while you share.

  • The have recurring content blocks like Friday Shower Thoughts, From Our Toolbox, and actually-fun-to-read sponsor pitches that you come to expect and always enjoy.

The Amazing:

  • Their copy is unreal. They have the uncanny ability to condense complicated stories into just a couple sentences that help you understand what the heck is going on in the world and why it matters.  

  • Their subject lines are the best. We love seeing them in our inboxes. They always have us chomping at the bit and wondering what in the world is waiting for us in that email.

  • They’re down-to-earth. You won’t find corporate jargon or back-patting here. They are obvious and transparent when they are advertising, and they are always trying to improve their methods and content.

The Takeaway for Employee Newsletters:

  • Your copy matters. Making people laugh and think is the best way to get them engaged and hungry for your next newsletter.

  • Narrow down your content. Make the newsletter snackable. Pick just a couple of topics and ideas and explain them clearly and concisely. And use in-text links so people can do their own research if they want to learn more.

  • Text is back. Besides the header image, which honestly, we rarely even look at, the Hustle has no images and is still the most engaging email in our inboxes.

  • Balance consistency with creativity. Keep the formatting consistent so people know what content can be found where, but also try different features and see how they perform.

  • Use headings and subheadings liberally–they help break up the design make the content more scannable.

Newsletter Example #2: The Skimm

The Skimm, though controversial, boasts an open rate of over 40% (which is super high for an external email dontcha-know).

With over 6 million subscribers, they have over 1 million people opening their newsletter, including a bunch of high-profile celebs like Oprah, Sarah Jessica Parker, Trevor Noah, Shonda Rhimes, and Chelsea Handler.

They’re clearly doing something right.

skim-newsletter.png

The Good:

  • Their snarky pop-culture references make the news more interesting for those less inclined to read or consume the news daily.

  • They’re branding is obvious and on-point. From their logo of the slim silhouette woman in pearls, holding a cellphone to the hip green palate and stylized share icons, they are targeting a very specific audience of females in their 20-30s, and doing it well.

The Amazing:

  • It looks great. Their font choice, the story format and layout, the headers, and the brand colored in-text links makes everything look well-put together while still easy to read. They don’t even use images!

  • They break it down. Complicated news stories are broken down into the main takeaways and spiced up with cheeky copy that keeps people engaged.

  • They make it personal. On every email they shout out to all their subscribers who are celebrating a birthday. Their style makes readers feel like the newsletter is just a candid conversation between friends.

The Takeaway for Employee Newsletters:

  • Make it accessible. Ditch the corporate talk and adjust to the literacy and knowledge level of your audience. You don’t need to make it more complicated than it has to be.

  • Talk to your audience in their language. Use memes, stats, videos, quotes, images - whatever you need to meet your audience where they are at.

  • You don’t need images to make your newsletter look good. Experiment with brand colors, lines, headings and other small customized details to make an impact without having to use and source images.

Newsletter Example #3: Next Draft

Next Draft is like the smarter older brother of the Skimm and the Hustle. It is more mature and strikes a beautiful balance between the long form and short form newsletter. The breakdown makes the content easy to digest but informative, without being boring or superficial.

And they’ve got plenty of social proof: All the best writers and journalists love this newsletter, according to the sign up page.

Fun Fact: The author, David Pell (self-proclaimed editor of the internet), was sending out newsletters before it was cool. That’s right, pre-internet he was sending out daily news roundups to his friends and colleagues. He’s the original newsletter master.

nextdraft-newsletter.png

The Good:

  • He only ever focuses on ten topics and ranks them from most important to least important. This means you know you are getting the most talked-about news of the day and nothing more.

  • He takes a well-rounded approach by supplying a number of links and takes on a single issue.

The Amazing:

  • He’s able to condense the complicated and nuanced into a couple sentences and a killer headline to give you the gist.

  • His writing is fantastic. He combines a journalistic approach with the snappy wit of your favorite uncle. The combination makes him come off as serious, without being boring, and personal without being too sentimental or cheesy.

  • His design is simple and lovely to read on mobile. The fonts and design are so attractive that he doesn’t need images to make the newsletter aesthetically pleasing.

The Takeaway for Employee Newsletters:

  • You don’t have to be silly, controversial or immature to be interesting. Good writing is good writing.

  • Narrow down your focus to just ten topics and make them snackable. Rank them from most important to least, so employees know what they absolutely need to know.

  • Leverage different sources on the same story. For example, if you have a favorable customer story in the media, include insight from the various employees who facilitated the success.
  • Nourish your readers with insight that will make them more informed and engaged in what’s going on. Straight facts are fine, but perspective is more valuable.

Newsletter Example #4: DN Digest

DN (Design News) Digest is the only newsletter on this list that actually leverages images in their newsletter design. That’s no coincidence. Images can be a double-edged sword: They can either distract or draw readers in. As designers, DN knows how to draw people in with the right images and colors that don’t distract from the content.

dn-newsletter.png

The Good:

  • It is design focused without being design heavy. It proves that when it comes to great design, less is more.

  • It’s light. They know how to balance text and images so that the bolder the image, the less text they write. They make good use of links to keep the design clean and clutter free.

  • They know what their readers want. All the content is relevant, short, valuable, and nested in colored blocks that make the information the reader is looking for easy to find.

The Amazing:

  • They know how to balance colour, iconography, formatting, and images to create an easy-to-read newsletter that draws your eye to the most important information.

  • The use of iconography helps repeat readers identify what kind of content is beyond the links so they can find what they want easily.  
  • They keep it concise and engaging with lists. Everyone loves a good list, but their lists go above and beyond by being relevant, valuable and easy to scan. They display all the important information the reader needs to know before they decide to click.

The Takeaway for Employee Newsletters:

  • Your design should provide a good user experience. And in the case of newsletters, designers know that less is more. Help people find want they want easily, without cluttering up the email with tons of content or images.

  • Images don’t need to be big or pretty. There is no need to scour the internet for hours looking for the perfect stock photo for your feature. You can create an attractive newsletter with fonts, icons, and simple colour blocks.

  • Use colour and images to feature different content and strategically to guide your reader through the information.

How to Use These Newsletter Examples

Unlike the marketers that had to painstakingly craft, test, design, and fail over and over to perfect these newsletters, internal communicators already have an audience that is begging to be engaged. 

If you implement the takeaways from these four newsletters strategically, you will start to see a big difference in your employee newsletter engagement.

But there’s a lot here to work with, so think about your audience, how they want to interact with your content, and what your goals are for the newsletter.

Not sure where to start? On February 14th, 2018 we are hosting a Newsletter Redesign Webinar where we will take you step-by-step through your redesign using 5 beautiful new templates we’ve designed for Outlook.

Do you have any examples of awesome newsletters that have inspired you? We want to hear about them! Tweet us @Bananatag and share your the newsletter love.