Guild Guide: Making a solid news update for your group
Remember when email newsletters were basically everything? I remember around the turn of the century when being able to mass-mail a newsletter was a Big Deal, when it was what made everyone sit up and notice that your organization was really moving up in the world. You had big money to throw around because you had an email newsletter.
Nowadays, you generally forward all email newsletters directly to the trash without giving them more than the most cursory glance. That's just the ones you choose to sign up for, too. They've become a more beneficial form of spam, essentially.
That's not to say that they don't have uses. Email newsletters are actually a pretty good way to convey information to your members in a quick an effective format, and for some sorts of guilds they're better than having a full meeting. Even if your guild isn't meant to have an actual website, an email list can provide you with all of the information you need for easy reference with minimal effort. But you have to know how to use them to avoid just getting thrown into that digital dumpster.
So let's talk about how you can make an email newsletter useful, starting with the obvious first step...
Decide what you're using your newsletter for
If your response to the "what" is a matter of staring blankly and saying "using... news?" then perhaps you're not quite there yet. News is remarkably open-ended, and it doesn't cover the best uses of a guild newsletter. There are three main things that the format can do:
- Serve in lieu of a website: If your guild is small enough, you don't actually need to have a full website for some things. Just having a regular newsletter with the pertinent information can fill all of your needs so long as you use it right. A sort of "Monday Reminder" will work fine, with people having a regular newsletter listing members, contact information, and anything happening on a regular basis.
- Provide schedule reminders: When events are happening, it can be useful in smaller or larger guilds to have reminders close to the date of the thing. It's very helpful to have a quick reminder saying, for example, that so-and-so is planning something specific on a given day,
- Host updates and news: Admittedly, this is kind of the obvious thing to use a newsletter for, but it also does work very well for those purposes. If leadership changes, this is a good way to let people know. If a rule changes, this is a good place to let people know. When things are different this week from last, it's good to let people know.
Note that these purposes are not mutually exclusive. You can feel free to use your newsletter in lieu of a website, for example, while still including updates about what's happening this week (heck, it's almost encouraged). The point is just deciding on what your primary purpose is. If you're just providing schedule reminders, you should be prioritizing that over providing a regular contact list for the entire guild.
From here, let's go over what each of the possible purposes can use, starting with the first.
No website, newsletter!
For a small group of people, a newsletter can be an effective substitute for a website, because you can place the same information in that newsletter as you would otherwise find on a website. In short - you can quickly make a template in which you post the guild member's contact information and the status of any officers you have, just re-sending that template with any planned events for the next week and any updates in terms of membership or policies.
The only thing you lack with that method is a single reference point for the rules, and a one-time mailing of those with re-issues as they change will generally do the trick. We all have Gmail now, we can archive emails we need.
Advantages to this particular approach are a lack of maintenance and a smoother flow for members who don't want to fuss around with sites outside of the game; all they need to do is check their emails every so often. The disadvantage, as mentioned, is that you don't have a single central reference point, which can sometimes feel smaller.
In this format, the most important element will be the regular reminders of contact information and facilitating any necessary communication via this list. Updates are important, but slightly less so because in this particular set of circumstances the expectation is that most people are getting updates via the game.
I'm just a friendly reminder
This kind of newsletter has a very different goal. Instead of providing a two-way street of communication and offloading the duties that would otherwise make for a website, you're creating an update to remind people about what's happening in the guild on a regular basis. Which is useful; it's far too easy to forget, have things slip your mind, and then never sign up for events that sounded interesting.
In this instance, it is assumed that the guild does have a website of some sort, in which case this works well as a reminder of things that are planned. Weekly is still a good frequency for this sort of update, as it serves to just remind people of what's planned for the week.
The biggest downside, of course, is that you can find people forgetting about things that are added to the schedule at non-weekly intervals. If you send out an update every Friday about the following week and something gets added on Sunday for Tuesday, it can be a bit more easily overlooked. The result is that you need to make a point of coordinating what's being done and when to make sure that everyone gets their events highlighted.
It's also a good idea to include a reminder about how these events can be scheduled on a regular basis. Adding in major updates or news to this sort of update is useful, but by and large you should keep the focus on scheduled moments coming up soon.
All the news that's fit to rake
If your guild has a website, why would you need to include this? You have all of your news right there on the front page, there's no need to externalize it. Which is true, as far as it goes, but it's overlooking the fact that there's an advantage to focusing on news coming via newsletters instead.
News that's posted on forums require you to go to the forum and possibly miss things. News that's in a newsletter is easier to glance at and recognize as it happens. It doesn't even mean it has to be one or the other - you can easily have the news right there and have a link to an update on an official site if people want to discuss the changes. Doing both is more visible than doing one or the other.
When you're using a news update in this manner, you should probably be sending things out whenever there is new, along with a roundup of any major events biweekly. Big scheduled events also fit in nicely here, but they are by no means mandatory.
The downside to this, of course, is that someone needs to take even more time to collect and update everyone on news. This can easily mean that an officer needs to make a full-time job out of news updates, which is fine if that's agreed upon but probably isn't what everyone wants to do as an officer.
Newsletters, ultimately, are just like everything else in a guild's toolbox - they're a way of making sure that communication is happening within the guild and everyone knows what's going on. You need to make sure you know why you're using them, but if you know that, you can get some really long-term benefits out of their addition.