So you want to write the perfect newsletter.
Excellent! But how do you start? What, exactly, are you going to write about? How can you capture and hold the attention of your readers? How can you keep them reading right to the end? And what, exactly, do you want them to do when they get there?
Answer? Use what I call…
‘The Blish model’
OK, a word of explanation… In 1984 I published my first novel – in fact the first of three*. It was the fulfilment of a dream I’d had since I was ten years old. And I have always given the credit for that success to the man who started me off on the right track – James Blish. So I’ve been sharing what he taught me ever since.
Back in 1972 Jim Blish was guest of honour at one of the regular meetings of OUSFG (the Oxford University Speculative Fiction Group). We invited him to give his critique of the stories we’d just written for our magazine, Sfinx (launchpad for many SF writers of my generation.)
He was incisive, witty, and (in my case) absolutely merclless… And when he’d finished ripping my teenage ramblings to shreds, he told us how a story – any story – should be constructed.
Including your very own email newsletter…
It isn’t enough to ‘just start’ a piece of writing, as any good journalist will tell you. There has to be a ‘hook’ – something that will grab, and hold, the attention of even the most casual reader.
In an email, that’s the subject line (or they won’t open it), the headline (or they won’t read it) and the first paragraph (or they won’t go on reading it…)
So ‘Our latest newsletter’ isn’t likely to hack it, while ‘The five best-kept secrets of online sales’ might just get their attention. And as for that first paragraph – well, you read this far, didn’t you?
So, we (hopefully) have your attention. But we also need to keep it.
In a short story, that’s usually done by catapulting the central character into a challenging problem — a problem that often becomes increasingly difficult to solve until, in fact, it seems impossible to do so.
So here’s your problem – how do you turn that vague idea at the back of your mind into a piece of copy that doesn’t just engage your audience, but directs them towards the most critical point in that perfect newsletter – your call to action?
One good way is to put yourself in your reader’s shoes. What kind of problems could they be facing that you – or your product or your service – could solve for them? (Witness the first paragraph of this post…) State that problem clearly and concisely – and make it sound as challenging as possible!
And then, equally clearly and concisely, you can explain how to solve it.
To do that, it’s important to have a line of argument – a logical sequence that leads your reader inexorably towards the conclusion that what you’re asking them to do makes sense, and should be done sooner rather than later.
Which leads, of course, to your call to action – your one-line conclusion to the argument.
In a story, that would be the point at which your main character finds the answer to that otherwise insoluble problem you described back at the start – using the little throwaway line you carefully planted somewhere back around paragraph three…
In a business email, a letter, or a newsletter, it’s much the same – your solution to the challenge you presented at the start. And to which your product or service offers the perfect solution…
So what’s my call to action?
Simple. If you want to write the perfect newsletter, either keep reading this blog (and others like it) – or hire a really good copywriter.
We have a whole team of them at Mill House Media!