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Question: What kind of newsletter content works best?

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Answer: Best practices continue to evolve for developing effective content in a lead-generating, stay-in-touch e-newsletter. Here are five tips for 2005:

1) Keep it short--500 words or less.

2) Build each issue around one article. That’s right--just one article. I used to recommend that a content formula contain three to five "features" for each issue. No more. Readers are so time-strapped it’s harder than ever to get their attention. Stick to one editorial item and you’re much more likely to get a response. If you must include other information--upcoming events, quick tips, etc.--list them at the bottom or in a sidebar. And limit the number!

3) Refer readers back to your blog for between-issues news. Blogs, or Weblogs, are fast becoming a must-have communications tool for savvy companies. They enable you to respond to and comment on news related to your industry niche in a more timely manner than a monthly e-newsletter. And if you use a hosted blogging service like TypePad.com, you’ll find it a whole lot easier to "publish" through your blog than to format and send out an HTML newsletter.

4) Consider creating an RSS feed for your e-newsletter. RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is a highly effective way to distribute different kinds of news about your company to precisely targeted audiences. So you might develop separate RSS feeds for your e-newsletter, your blog, your press releases, etc. Put RSS capability on your To Do list for third or fourth quarter 2005 and you’ll still be ahead of the curve. Two good places to learn more about RSS (and to subscribe yourself to RSS feeds) are www.Bloglines.com and www.Feedburner.com.

5) Finally, e-mail isn’t dead. Of course, you knew that. But it’s a good thing to keep in mind with all the buzz about blogs. The most effective e-newsletters will be ones that are tightly integrated with every channel of online and offline marketing and communication. That includes blogs, RSS, your Web site, postcard and other direct mail campaigns.

Debbie Weil is an online marketing and business blogging consultant. She blogs at www.DebbieWeil.com and www.BlogWriteForCEOs.com.Visit her main site at: www.WordBiz.com. Read her e-newsletter at www.WordBizReport.com.

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