I had the great pleasure of facilitating a chat show for a group of 25 participants on the topic of newsletters. We listened to three different experiences:
Vanessa Meadu works for 2 projects at the World Agroforestry Center in Nairobi. She coordinates and distributes a monthly newsletter and uses a blog and a social bookmarking site to share constantly links and relevant stories among the team to then make a selection of those for the newsletter. She sees the newsletter as a good way to attract readers to the website which now registers more visits to the document library with higher downloads even from older publications. The use of web 2 tools for progressive bookmarking help her to publish the newsletter quickly at the end of the month and avoid last minute stress. Her public is primary scientific staff who has access to the Internet and understands English.
See an example of a newsletter
Michel Demers represents a network of Veterinarian Experts on Biotechnology, Epidemiology and Food Safety (CENTAUR Network). The newsletter has 2000 subscribers in 17 countries. It allows to make a selective subscription to specific information related to user`s interests. It is a 30 year old well grounded network of experts. The network is doing a special effort to reach people who lack connectivity as for example in the Caucasus, through intermediaries. They also meet face to face every two years to keep the network alive. Michel insists of the important role of the middle age generation who has to bridge the technology friendly young professionals with the older generations who often are reluctant to use new technologies.
Stephane Jost shares with us his recent experience of setting up a newsletter on the linkages between Climate Change and Food Security. It was set up together with a website after the related high level conference last year, and using the event participants a starting mailing list. The newsletter is deliberately focused on a specific topic, and published in three languages with a journalistic tone and approach. Flash note are also distributed for important announcement. The newsletter boosts the visits to the website.
How to handle multiple languages to reach more and very important users? Some think that good professional translations are crucial but others say that it is too expensive. One participant says that her community of practice does volunteer translation to allow community members to use content. Another participant points to machine translation as a reasonably good way to understand information in other languages.
How to get more interactive with members? Some ideas that popped up: Organize face to face meetings in addition to electronic communication, do surveys with subscribers on usefulness, use social media
How to handle a mailing list effectively? For this question we would have needed some technical input.