Even in today's digital world, print newsletters and mailers can be a great way to communicate with your members throughout the year. Whether your goal is to educate members about their benefits and rights or simply to build camaraderie, effective direct mail campaigns can be a powerful member engagement tool.
Mail Your Way to Stronger Communication
With your membership spread across work sites, communication can be a challenge. But it's crucial, since it not only keeps members informed about what they need to know to succeed at home and on the job but also keeps them engaged with the union. Without reminders, members can forget the value their active participation in the union carries for them.
But why newsletters — and why print? Sent out on a monthly or quarterly schedule, newsletters lend a consistency to communications that keeps the union from straying too far from members' minds. And because newsletters can accommodate a mix of different content, they leave room to build the union's sense of culture and community.
For unions, printed materials may be a better choice than email because your members may not be tethered to computers or mobile devices at work and could be less likely to turn to that technology at home. Even if they do, today's email inboxes are so full of messages — most of which aren't that important — that your newsletter might actually get more attention if it shows up in an old-fashioned mailbox.
Plus, members might digest the information you present better when it doesn't arrive on a screen. In a recent survey, 88 percent of respondents understood, retained or used information better when they read it on paper versus electronic devices. The survey also showed that 81 percent of people found printed media to be a more relaxing read.
Develop the Features of a Robust Newsletter
Not all members will be equally enthusiastic about every news tidbit and safety tip. So bring in a mix of information to keep things feeling fresh. Include practical information, articles that help build culture and camaraderie and a little bit of fun content so members always have something to look forward to, even if they're not sure everything in the newsletter will apply to them.
Inside, content options might include:
- Timely information on benefits and member rights
- Member success stories or feature profiles
- Tips on how to stay healthy at work or other important skills
- A wrap-up of interesting industry news
- Union trivia
There is one thing that should never go into a newsletter. Since even the best newsletters — print or digital — can fall through the cracks, avoid using mail letters to convey urgent information requiring immediate action. Save unexpected updates and alerts for in-person representatives or mass text messages. Apart from that, the material in your newsletter is up to you. Include at least a few sections as recurring features each month to build members' expectations. If a regular section is starting to feel a little tired, though, don't be afraid to experiment with something different.
As diverse as your newsletter content may be, don't underestimate the importance of keeping a consistent tone. You want your newsletter to be immediately recognizable, even as what's inside changes. Effective direct mail campaigns start with compelling designs to draw and keep members' attention. For a newsletter, come up with a creative name that gives the publication an identity and taps into the union's core values.
Then use clear, engaging imagery that makes sense based on your audience. For example, a teachers' union might focus on education-related images — or even photos of actual members. The goal is to help members relate to the content you want them to read. Just like the information you include, aim for a good mix of graphics — like photos, cartoons, infographics and charts — that can pair with text to keep readers engaged.
Home in on Engagement
Engagement starts before the first newsletter even goes out. You can build excitement for your mail campaign by giving members the opportunity to get involved. For instance, a survey will tell you what members want to see. Within the newsletter itself, featuring members — either as subjects or contributors — in profiles, opinions pieces or announcements about promotions and weddings can help members feel that they play an important role in the finished product.
Because print materials can't be tracked as easily as digital ones, it may be hard to know whether your members are engaging with your newsletters. Include a call to action (CTA) — an instruction to readers to take some specific action — to see whether your content has inspired your members to take a recommendation from the newsletter. Maybe it's enrolling in benefits or signing up for a new union mentorship program. Make your CTA clear and concise, and put it in a prominent spot.
A well-designed newsletter can be a gateway to member engagement, connecting your members to each other and to the union as a whole. If a direct mail campaign makes sense for your union, be sure to craft it with your members in mind. They'll recognize the effort that goes into strengthening the union's sense of community and identity.
With 15 years' experience writing for publications including The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, The Christian Science Monitor and Newsday—Deborah Blumberg specializes in business and finance and health and wellness. She writes about topics including corporate communications, financial markets, real estate, renewable energy, cancer, health education, nutrition, supplements, the microbiome and functional medicine. She was a Knight Center fellow and a Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism fellow. Her time working in marketing and communications at JPMorgan Chase taught her how to best tell a company's story. She's adept at turning complex ideas into compelling copy. She's also an officer of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and a Women in the Visual and Literary Arts board member, and she is fluent in Spanish.