How To: Finding a Voice for Your Club Newsletter
Award-winning editor shares tips for success.
By Rhys Davies, ATMS, ALS
Last August, I was fortunate to accept the Top Five District Newsletter Award on stage in Washington, D.C. during the 75th International Convention. As editor, I was elated to see that Toastmasters International recognized the hard work of my editorial team, and I was very grateful to have benefited by a supportive district team in the production of the newsletter. Further, it felt great to help the district fulfill its mission and vision through the newsletter, while connecting with a lot of members in each issue.
The thrill was about more than just the award though, it was about the experience I had as a newsletter editor. District Governor Troy Wruck encouraged me to develop a new format and layout for the newsletter. For my High Performance Leadership project, I created a mission and vision for the newsletter, recruited my team, created an action strategy and plan and led the newsletter team. I sold the idea to our district team, who in turn promoted the newsletter to our members. Last year, this vision became reality.
As great as it was to win the award last summer, I realize many clubs experience difficulties with creating a newsletter. There is often a steep learning curve when getting started, and creating one requires patience, direction and time. For novice editors who do not have the assistance of a mentor and little knowledge of available resources, producing a newsletter can be quite taxing.
I think most members don’t question the benefits of a club newsletter and/or Web site. Clubs that regularly produce newsletters usually achieve their Distinguished Club Program (DCP) goals with greater success. Members are also inspired whenever they see their achievement recognized in print, and they can stay in the loop with the newsletter if they miss meetings. The real challenge seems to be getting set up. So, how do you get started?
The Voice for Your Club
Producing a newsletter is one of the primary club duties for a vice president public relations, and serving as editor counts as credit for the 10th project of the Competent Leadership manual. As a review, Toastmasters International states that a club newsletter serves three key purposes:
- Document and publicize current events.
- Inform with educational material.
- Provide visitors with take-home information.
When these goals are satisfied, a newsletter provides a lot of information to readers. However, I feel that newsletters serve many other purposes, including:
- Connecting new members with the club.
- Encouraging communication among members.
- Recognizing members’ accomplishments through published stories.
- Inspiring all members to participate further in the Toastmasters program.
Finally, the overarching purpose of a club newsletter is:
- To help the club to achieve its mission and vision.
With all of this attention to detail, is there any strategy to planning and producing a newsletter? This sounds like a lot of work for one person. Is there a way to get the help from team members?
• Contact the new club president and offer to produce a newsletter. Ask about the president’s vision for the year, and discuss how the newsletter can support the club’s vision. Winning the president’s support is key to earning cooperation from club members.
• When the new club executive discusses its Club Success Plan, discuss how the club newsletter can help in the completion of club goals. Invite input from the club’s leaders on the vision and mission for the newsletter and help make the goals concrete.
• Create a newsletter committee. Your committee may include a proofreader and photographer if you wish to include pictures. You may wish to share training on all aspects of newsletter production with every team member. That way, everyone maximizes their learning from this project and others can step in to help.
• What type of content do you want and how many newsletters should be produced? By outlining details in accordance with the Club Success Plan and events in the Toastmasters calendar, you get an idea of what each issue will look like. Please note that for each newsletter, the quality of the content is more important than the volume of information.
• Contact each club member individually and sell your vision for the newsletter. By inviting individual input and establishing rapport early, members will be keen to participate in the newsletter. Please do this when there is no pressure to produce a newsletter. For example, talk to members before the summer holidays if you plan to produce a September newsletter. Members will be glad to supply information and articles when the time comes.
• For the layout, research other newsletters for ideas. Also, look at designing a masthead and layout very carefully, and keep this consistent for every issue. As you build the newsletter, think of the purpose behind the details. The layout may take about two weeks to plan and design. If you are not savvy with the computer, consider asking a fellow member with appropriate publishing experience and software to help you.
• Start your newsletter one month before publishing and ask members to submit articles at least two weeks prior to publishing. This will allow editors to proofread and correct articles.
• Look at other resources (district and Toastmasters International Web sites) for information on external Toastmasters events, as well as Toastmasters contacts you can report to your club.
Don’t forget: celebrate the completion of each newsletter, and send electronic or paper copies to each member.
Share Your Success
These strategies will help you get started but there are a lot of things you can still learn and contribute as an editor. When your term is complete, consider mentoring the next newsletter editor!
Rhys Davies, ATMS, ALS, is a member of Fun Speakers Toastmasters in Edmonton, Canada, and former editor of District 42’s Prairie Horizons Newsletter.