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June 19, 2001
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pany newsletters remain important communication tools, even in the age of e-mail, intranets, and instant messages, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Upper management can use newsletters to improve communications, address employee concerns, educate, publicize goals, and celebrate achievements.

And companies with multiple work sites can use them to generate solidarity among employees.

Despite predictions in the late 1990s that newsletters would be replaced by e-mail bulletins, and Web site postings, the medium is thriving, the Times reports.

Communications experts tell the newspaper that their polls and studies indicate employees still prefer to read printed newsletters, since they can peruse the publication after hours, at their leisure.

And despite the seemingly universal presence of computers in American workplaces, many hourly employees still don't have access to e-mail accounts and the Web during work hours.

Yet many companies have opted for electronic newsletters to save money, among other things.

At the Minnesota Life Insurance Co., moving the company newsletter online has saved about $30,000 in annual printing and postage costs, said the company's publications editor, Derek Wolden.

In addition, Minnesota Life now has the capability to continually update news at its site, use digital photographs to illustrate articles, and maintain an easily accessible online back-issue archive for employees.

But whether in print or online, newsletters must contain more than puffy propaganda or they won't be read, said Al DiGuido, chief executive of BigFoot Interactive in New York.

Betsy Ward, senior account supervisor with R&R Partners in Las Vegas, told the Times that newsletter editors must strike "a delicate balance between journalism and spin-doctoring."

To do this, they must survey the potential readers - employees - to learn their information needs. By addressing issues of concern and responding to employees' questions in the newsletter, management can show that it values workers' opinions and wants to keep them informed. It also can utilize the newsletter to educate and inspire its work force.

What types of newsletter content might achieve this? First-person pieces from the chief executive about long-term company goals and current challenges, insightful profiles of senior management, department spotlights explaining co-workers' roles and celebratory stories of employee achievements. A section for employee letters (with responses from appropriate company personnel) also can help convey the message that workers' concerns are taken seriously.

Newsletter language should be simple and conversational. To find the proper tone, consider your work force's educational range. Technical terms in articles should be clearly defined. References to resources with more information about covered topics should be offered in each issue.

Though many companies prefer to keep their newsletters cheerful, communications experts such as Michael Ertel of Marketplace Bank in Maitland, Fla., say bad news should be presented honestly.

In tough economic times, newsletters can become important communication links between management and staff. Rumors about layoffs, plant closures, and cutbacks can be addressed by senior management.

To view the Los Angeles Times article, click here.
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