Email Newsletters, a primer — Foundation Series — Part Five


In today’s proliferation of media channels, the tried-and-tested newsletter remains a staple of the Marketer’s Toolkit. When used properly, it’s great to keep target audiences updated on what’s happening with your business in a personalized way.

But we’ve all experienced a newsletter fail, one that felt spammy or irrelevant to you. If writing the company newsletter is now on your list of responsibilities, we’re here to help. With a few easy steps you’ll be able to brush up on email marketing and start writing pieces that deliver value to your organization and your audiences.

CASL, Your New BFF

First, a very important note about legalities when sending newsletters.

As with all email communications, you need to know and abide by media laws. Here in Canada, that’s the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation, or CASL. At the highest level, CASL makes it illegal for Canadian businesses to wantonly send out spam. Now we know, you’d never do that, but alas, some marketers still do.

How do you do right by CASL? Know the rules.

Fact: It’s now your job to know the rules and play by them.

Heck, embrace them! It’ll either be a frustration for you or a creative challenge. Choose the latter, it’s much more rewarding. #CASLcompliance!

Give Them a Reason To Click

We gave you a pug looking sweet. And it worked. Here you are! 

So why is someone reading your communication? Why are they opening and better yet, clicking through to your site? You need to know that before you even ok the idea of a newsletter.

Ask yourself and your team:

  • Why are you sending this newsletter?
  • What is the objective of this piece of content?
  • What do we want the reader to do?
  • What’s the value to the reader?
  • What’s the value to us if they take the desired action?

If you don’t have answers, then you don’t send the newsletter.

Your readers chose to follow your updates and be contacted. You have been given access to their inbox, a chance to capture their attention. Don’t waste that on a general update. Put yourself in their shoes and give them a good reason to open the email. Give them another good reason to click through to your site.

Setting Up For Success

There is no excuse for ugly emails anymore. This is an extension of your brand — take the time to make it look good.

Some considerations:

  • What does your template look like, is it working for you, are you using it consistently for all messaging? Consistency is good for your readers. They’ll know how to skim it and where to find what they want from you, fast.
  • How does it look across various display sizes — mobile, tablet or desktop? Know what display the majority of your audiences are reading it from and start there.
  • Then, what can you do to optimize the reading experience on each display?
  • Are you using a email marketing platform (like MailChimp) or doing this old-school from your work account (please go with the former, please).
  • Are your templates CASL compliant (yes, there are rules)?

If your organization isn’t using a distribution platform already, and you need to do some convincing, here are some of our favourite parts of platforms that you just can’t get when using a conventional email system (like Gmail or Outlook). Yes there’s a fee, but the benefits outweigh the costs!

  • They store and archive everything for you (multiple distribution lists, past issues, etc)
  • They measure every campaign you send out (open rates, click through rates, unsubscribe, etc), enabling you to improve each time
  • Easy A/B testing for best outcomes on subject lines, again, enabling you to deliver what works best for your audiences and improve your marketing headlines over time
  • Easily be CASL compliant with your templates
  • Loads of support along the way

The end is in sight: writing and reviewing

Too many voices can be the largest hurdle to surmount when writing your newsletter. You may have multiple people sending you articles to include. Don’t be afraid to edit these into a consistent voice. The newsletter is from the company, and should be in the company voice — not Phil from Sales, Susan from Customer Retention, and Karen from Marketing all jumbled together.

Before you click send and feel the rush of accomplishment, have someone else proofread it. You’re officially too close to it to see any errors or opportunities for greater clarity now. Yes, it’s another step, but you’ll be happy you did this.

Ok, you’re ready to send! Congratulations, well done.

Now it’s time for analytics. Give it a few days and then pop into your platform and review your success. Is your open rate on target? Did you get a flurry of unsubscribes? Investigate why, read the comments and learn from them. Before you go to send your next newsletter, read through this again, is there anything you can do better based on the data?


There are a lot of steps that go into sending a newsletter. Here’s a checklist to make sure you don’t miss any!

  • Review your distribution lists. Are they CASL compliant?
  • Get your newsletter template in order. Is it optimized for multiple displays?
  • Answer these questions:
    1. Why are you sending this newsletter out?
    2. What is the call to action?
    3. What is the value to the reader?
  • Get your agenda in order.
  • Draft, revise, revise, revise
  • Revise again
  • Try out headlines, have three that you’re really proud of
  • Put the draft into the template
  • Have someone proofread it now that it’s laid out
  • Check your distribution list once more (for good luck!)
  • Send yourself a preview, test all links, fix any bugs
  • Send
  • Celebrate with self-high fives (very important)
  • Measure, measure, measure


Marketing Fundamentals: Headline Writing

One of the most important parts of any given email (whether newsletter or not) is the subject line. It’s a skill to write good ones. Practicing that skill, like all writing exercises, will make you a better writer and better marketer.

In his classic advertising guide, “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This”, Luke Sullivan wrote that the key to coming up with a great headline was to try to find as many solutions as you can to a problem by looking at it from different perspectives. Tasked with coming up with a headline for a bourbon, Sullivan considered the age of the beverage, the history of the brand, where the product was made, and how you drink it.

Sullivan equated headline writing to walking down a hallway filled with doors, which opened onto similar hallways with doors when opened. Maybe not structurally sound, but it’s a perfect metaphor for the ideation process — most subject lines will be bad, some will be okay, but only a few will be great.

The lesson for you: You could write the same bland yet proven subject line, or you could choose to experiment and see if something could possibly work better.


Looking to learn how to write better marketing materials? We can help. Contact us at!