We're digging into the vaults like Indiana Jones for one of our own articles published almost five years ago. Why? We wanted to take our own medicine and get back to basics with our own newsletter. Newsletters have become a common part of online company's marketing repertoire, but the goals of sending one aren't always clear. The ideas Bryan wrote about in this article way back in the day are still relevant. He urges us to educate, enlighten, and inspire our subscribers.
In the design world, a few words go a long way
It takes more than just great imagery to get noticed. For designers, newsletters can create relationships, increase your "value" and build your personal brand. Promote yourself and your ideas through words as well as images.
Now more than ever, businesses want designers who can not only come up with slick graphics, but also develop concepts that carry a message. A portfolio of images rarely shows depth-- the opportunity to articulate your ideas, build strong relationships and sell yourself often gets lost in the visual presentation. A newsletter can help you overcome this by providing showcase for your talents and skills. It's not a one-time affair, but rather an ongoing activity that keeps you connected to people who find your work interesting.
"Yeah, yeah...I've done the blogger thing."
Unlike short diatribes, links about the coolest online collection of pickle photos or the sweetest new flash animation, newsletters aim to create a longer, more meaningful connection with the reader. Newsletters have the potential of educating, enlightening and inspiring-- all of which foster community, while also drawing attention to your design contributions.
I can't tell you how many people ask me, "Well, what would I say in my newsletter?" That's like getting up in the morning and trying to figure out what you have to do for the day. Once you get into a routine, it just happens. As a designer, how many times are you challenged during a day? These things that challenge you are all topics that potential clients, bosses, customers and other designers will find interesting. Press checks, funny bugs, design history, conversations with your mom trying to discuss CSS, your take on browsers or executive management mishaps are all fair game for newsletter content. What is important is that you let your personality shine through your words.
Reasons for a Newsletter: Education, Branding and Community
Writing a newsletter is important whether you have your own company, or work in a large organization. Here are three reasons why taking the time to write is worth your effort:
Every designer comes to a point in his or her career where they're challenged to either move into a higher position or start a company. This career change rarely happens by luck--it usually takes a lot of hard work. To advance within your career, you have to keep learning. A newsletter creates a good excuse to look at what you do from the outside and analyze pieces of your job as a designer. Creating a good newsletter requires that you invest time into learning about design.
Showing yourself that you are capable of articulating your ideas will not only give your confidence a boost; it will also convince your bosses and clients that you are knowledgeable about design. Ultimately, these are the people who will help you advance your career. It is in your best interest to show them that you are motivated, consistent, well-rounded and educated. When difficult projects or tough problems occur, people will come to you to for solutions. A newsletter is the first step in convincing potential clients or your office that you can think beyond a nice layout. Building credibility will take some time, but your efforts to expand your design knowledge will be rewarded.
"I thought branding was for huge companies?" Not anymore. Personal branding is about creating a voice that is unique-- whether you are a designer in a large corporation or a one-man shop. Your design skills, personality, demeanor, work ethic and knowledge are all parts of your personal brand. A newsletter can spread your brand in a consistent and unique way. A newsletter is just one strategy for communicating your values, but as an individual this investment will give you the greatest return. Companies have the benefit of advertising, sponsoring huge events and naming stadiums after themselves. As a lone designer you need to use other ways of putting yourself in front of an audience. A newsletter is a low-cost, guerilla tactic that garners attention.
Great. Why care about your brand? Without getting into long details, your personal brand has an effect on your salary, perceived know-how and general likeability. Have you ever been frustrated that the marketing department gets to call the shots, or that guy pushing papers next to you makes more money? Branding is about perception, and you need to put your best foot forward when people make decisions. A newsletter makes you multidimensional and forces people to look at you as more than just a pixel pusher or "artist". It raises your stock. People will always try to label you-- just make sure that you are the one in control of the name tags.
A newsletter is a great first introduction; it's also an excellent way to keep old clients and coworkers aware of your new endeavors. As a one-man shop, people are always interested in how I find clients. The reality is that most of them find me through referrals or by word of mouth. A newsletter is a great way to facilitate this process. A consistent monthly newsletter is an unobtrusive way to check in with people to let them know you are still working away, doing your thing; it fosters an environment that encourages people to communicate with you. Even if you work in a closed office, you will be surprised at how people will approach you with new ideas. Once you make a concerted effort to make yourself accessible, people will be inspired to share their thoughts with you.
It's viral. A newsletter gives you exposure that other people are interesting in sharing. You may not get a million people signed up for your newsletter, but even a couple hundred people can start to create a larger following. Consistency is important. People will follow as long as you put forth the effort.