How to create a successful newsletter: expert secrets

23 September 2021Reading time: 4 min.

Commit to be constant and original with curated content. Having a newsletter isn’t like writing the occasional post. Consistency is key. Set a frequency (daily, weekly, monthly) while deciding upon themes and your format. Is it worth it? I think so.

How do you make a successful newsletter? 

Why make this commitment? 

Our latest is this follow-up by Domitilla Ferrari who spoke with Luigi Centenaro, author of Digital You: Make a Career out of Personal Branding Online (Hoepli 2021), to answer these questions.

Do you read newsletters? If yes, which ones? Most importantly, at what time of day?

Absolutely. I mainly read them for work purposes, usually early in the morning. For example, I read newsletters by Alexander Osterwalder, Peter Diamandis, David Orban, and Guy Kawasaki. For more personal reasons, I read those on skiing, golf, and anything related to health and parenting.

We said in this article that a newsletter attracts a lot of attention when coming via mail. However, you first need to trigger interest in order to collect the addresses of where to send it. 

Since this is part of your job, can we plan a newsletter sending based on our own recognizability (or skills)?

I really believe that newsletters are valuable for personal branding. A good newsletter, though, is about creating value, not self-promotion or spam. That’s why I’ve always recommended attracting subscribers by sharing useful resources. For example, from the beginning, I chose to share tools — an entire visual thinking toolkit for those who want to jumpstart their career. It’s a set of PDFs that I continue to update, expand, and send along with news about our publications, events, cases, etc. The results are in the figures: sometimes our opening rates go beyond 50%! However, the choice of what to share must start from an extensive design approach: it must always be a strategic choice. Typically, newsletters and the interest they trigger must be consistent with our value promise and our positioning

Do you talk about engagement in your latest book? How should we activate and cultivate it?

I focus on LinkedIn, but you can easily extend it to your entire online presence. Engagement is the most important metric of all. In a certain sense, it quantifies what we call “social proof,” i.e. the validation by others we know. For example: when we feel somewhat insecure, we tend to turn to thought leaders, colleagues we consider more influential, or even superstars in the industry because we see them as more competent. Why do we assume they have such competence? Because they have more engagement! The online growth of a personal brand calls for becoming a point of reference. Here, we aren’t looking to exploit people’s insecurity, but to ignite everyone to authentically share their expertise. It’s a win-win. Everybody improves both their knowledge and their influence.

Professionals who aim at developing their digital brand should keep their eye on different types of social proof

  • First of all, references from experts who are respected by community members; by association, the respect somehow transfers to the advised party.
  • Stay in touch with your reference communities: many followers make you gleam with “more relevance” so it’s a good start. However, you better attract the right type of followers.
  • The level of your posts’ content attractiveness on the various platforms and channels: interactions are already endorsements in a certain sense, aren’t they? Further, every share will further bolster our visibility. The social graph expands a lot, as you know, and we reach two degrees (and a half) of separation.

I happened to hear that our personal online presence was once neither required nor valued by companies. How does being personally relevant today add value for the company you work for?

With Silvia Zanella of EY, we’ve written an entire book on this topic (Personal Branding for the Company, Hoepli, 2019). Some companies’ take on the impact of personal branding on their business model is so backwards that it still makes me laugh. Nowadays, dozens of companies all over Europe contact us to enhance the personal brand of their talent. 

This involves numerous implementations:

  • the personal brand of top management (including the CEO) positions the company with regard to the audience where they’re really relevant;
  • the personal brand of managers improves their leadership and influences the success of their teams in attracting more opportunities, customers, and/or projects;
  • the personal brand of collaborators enhances diversity and mutual trust, and helps people gain a more strategic vision of their professional development;
  • the personal brand for employee advocacy, i.e. when some collaborators are chosen to represent and amplify the corporate message, improves the attractiveness of the company, also as an employer;
  • the personal brand of sellers helps their image as sector experts rather than mere salesmen, supporting their credibility in giving advice on the applications of products and services. They must focus on their own professionalism.

So don’t worry: promoting your skills and passions is not counterproductive. Rather, it’s useful for all of us, as well as to the company we work for. Now, such a commitment might not be so hard if you set your own ways and schedule. September is a good month to make plans. Maybe you’ll be sending the first issue of your new newsletter in January. 

Start getting inspired by some concrete examples: subscribe to the Semerssuaq* newsletter by Domitilla Ferrari and follow the monthly appointment with the MailUp newsletter

This article was written by

Domitilla Ferrari

Domitilla Ferrari

Domitilla Ferrari is a lecturer in Digital Communications at the University of Padua. She lives in Milan, where she works as a B2B Chief Marketing Officer. She holds a degree in Psychology of Marketing and Communications and an MBA from the Bocconi School of Management. She's one of Italy's most influential marketing and digital experts. Since 2003, she has written the blog Semmersuaq, and since 2012, she has sent out a newsletter to about 5,000 communications professionals.

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