Sunday, December 6, 2009

Less is More: How to Get Your Employee Newsletter Read

I am guessing that you're pretty good at arithmetic. So, let's have a little math test. What is the increased percentage in the amount of readable content in an employee newsletter that is two pages sent monthly versus a four pages sent quarterly. Music please...

The answer is 50%. Employees will have 50% more content to read per year with 24 pages corporate wellness newsletter delivered in monthly 2-page bites versus a quarterly 4-page newsletter corporate wellness newsletter equal to 16 total pages delivered to them during the year. 16 pages + 8 Pages = 24. 50% more. 16:8

Surprised? Okay, next quiz. Which of these two types of newsletters is most likely to be completely read? Same Jeopardy music please.

I don't have arithmetic or social proof, but I believe the monthly, 2-page newsletter will more likely be completely read by employees. Do you think that I am right about this? I bet you do agree. Think about it. Frequency versus quantity. Less versus more?

The logic is this. The competition your newsletter faces is time. Four page newsletters are at greater risk for not being read because either employees don't have the time to read them, or the opportunity to be distracted is ever present.
It's that simple.

But here is the key issue. You have more efficiency with a 2-page newsletter and because employees are more likely to read two pages versus four pages, the newsletter can do more good. (Now we are getting someplace in this discussion.)

Quarterly newsletter with four pages each do not provide enough frequency to promote an EAP or other helping program. Why show up only quarterly with a folded 4-page newsletter, when employees need much more of a continual stream of information than that to help them deal with all the problem they face?

Now, how do you feel about quarterly, four page newsletters? Click here to get a brochure about FRONTLINE EMPLOYEE EAP NEWSLETTER or here to learn about WORKLIFE EXCEL (essentially the same newsletter, but with more "corporate appeal". You know, the kind of newsletter you send to "the Board".

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Get a Super Looking Nameplate for Your Newsletter

Let's face it, looks do matter. You may have a great newsletter with super articles, but you really need to get your appearance spruced up. Let me recommend a couple options that can save you hundreds of dollars.

In my last post, I forgot to mention a web site called Elance.com. It is the crossroads of the world for people who want to buy services of all kinds and people looking to sell them. From legal help to number crunching, from data entry to graphic artists. You name it, it's at Elance.com. You can have 20 bidding on producing an outstanding nameplate for your employee newsletter within 24 hours, and they will be so polished and amazing that you won't know who to pick. And, best of all, the prices will be fantastically low.

I found such a guy by the name of Joe Richards. He now works for me producing great nameplates for FrontLine Employee subscribers. Would you like to see one? Click here. How much?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Your Masthead, Nameplate, Flag

Here is the answer to the $64,000 question--What is the top of your newsletter called? Answer: It is called the nameplate or flag. It is not called a masthead. The masthead is the who, date, copyright, etc. - all of the details.

So, do you need an awesome looking, incredible looking, nameplate for your newsletter?

Take a look at this: Take a look at this transformation, click here. This newsletter called FrontLine Employee. The publisher will let you change the name of the publication to one you like better, and for new subscribers they will create a professional nameplate for you for only $75. Their phone number is 1-800-626-4327. Don't risk it, you get a free trial to the FrontLine Employee here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Maximizing the Power of Company Newsletters

Most organizations of any appreciable size have an internal house newsletter. Are you mentioned in it every once in a while? Better yet, do you answer specific questions employees have about EAPs, or even discuss certain personal problems that might attract employees to inquire further about the chosen topic? One of the most powerful utilization techniques we've tried is encouraging employees to call us and request handouts on popular topics we offer for free. Recently we offered a handout called "13 Ways of Getting to Work on Time". The phone rang off the hook. These callers can translate into EAP referrals and boost your utilization rate. In addition, placing an article of this type in your company or corporate customer's newsletter has high value for its editor who has the singular mission of encouraging employee readership. Plus, these editors are frequently starved for content, making it likely they will accept virtually anything you have to offer that's reasonable. Consider different topics that you might insert in such newsletters. Come up with one for every issue. Here are a few topics to get you started: 14 Sure-Fire Ways to Organize the Top of Your Desk; 15 Ways to Use A Kitchen Timer to Make Your Life Happier; "The Care and Feeding of Teenagers: 10 Parent Tips"; "Care-givers for the Elderly: Ten Stress Management Tips" You can easily develop handouts like these by looking in the literature sitting on the shelf in your EAP office, or contactin local associations that devote themselves to specific human problems like the eldercare example above. You will soon train employees to look for things for free, and with such familiarity, will come a "de-mystification" of the EAP. This will make it more likely that employees will call when they have personal problems. This type of promotion is called increasing "top-of-mind" visibility.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Never Start A Sentence Like This

Get employees to dive into your articles. Don't force them to wander down a path to discover your point through twists and turns. If you drag them along, they may turn around and go back. The secret for doing to effective article writing is to appeal to the human instinct of desire and greed. Satisfy desire immediately in your article. Ready for a test? Okay tell me, which one of these articles about resolving conflict with your coworker satisfies your desire for actionable information best? A or B

A. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to almost never have conflicts with people at work? By...

B. Avoiding almost all conflicts at work is easy if you...

Hmmmm.

Yes. You are correct if you chose "B".

Never, ever start a sentence with the phrase, "Have you ever wondered..." or similar phrases that cause your reader to "donate" their precious time to you with patience as you arrive at your point in a leisurely way. Get to the point quickly. You can laugh if you want, but an employee who desperately needs the content in your article about avoiding conflict, may never read it. And that could, in theory, lead to untold damage and loss. Am I right about that theory? Yes. Think about it.....

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Secret Weapon Increases Employee Readership

It's time for another visit to the newsletter ideas department. You will like this newsletter tip that you will soon claim as a secret weapon for increasing the likelihood that employees will read your company's employee newsletter. If you use a newsletter template, you may not see this technique, so be sure to include it. The technique is the "drop cap".

It's likely that you have been manipulated (in a good way) by this scientifically proven technique to increase article readership by as much as 25%. A drop cap is the first letter of a paragraph or story increased in size by some significant measure in order draw attention to the beginning of the article in such a manner as to cause it to be read.

As you can see in the image below, the first letter of the paragraph is larger. This technique grabs attention, is optically pleasing, and will help you busy employee readers grab the article with their eyes and start reading it.

Use drop caps. MS Publisher has a special tool for this purpose. Don't try to create it from scratch. You'll go crazy. The drop-cap tool in MS Publisher is located under format -- choose "Drop Cap".

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Clip Art for Your Newsletter

There is a ton of free clipart on the Internet, but believe me when I say that most of it is not worth pursuing. It is time consuming to find the image associated with a specific topic, and there are many hoops you must hurdle through to get the image you want for free. Time is money and the best source that I have found on the Internet is Clipart.com. You can get photos or clipart, although it is named "clipart.com". The price is only $159 per year for unlimited downloads of the artwork. That is a great bargain, and with over 6 million images, you can't go wrong. Stay away from "free clipart" is my recommendation. (This post is from the been there, done it, and got the T-shirt and scars to prove it department.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Solving Problems with Supervisors

Your employee newsletter or workplace newsletter has endless possibilities for managing risk. Consider writing an article to help employees take action and be proactive about fixing relationships with their supervisors when problems arise.

Not getting along with the boss will rank high on any employee’s list of stressors. Taking initiative to fix the relationship is tough, but payoffs are huge for reduced conflict, increase productivity, and the viral improvement of morale.

Further deterioration of a supervisor-supervisee relationship makes it tougher to repair down the road. Employees should be prompted to take the time to define the real issue creating problems in their relationship before such a meeting however.

The next step is discuss one's perspective with a confidential, professional helper to gain clarity on the purpose and need for the meeting with a supervisor. An employee assistance professional (no not an 800# cubicle counselor in cyberspace) is the ideal confidant. The goal for the employee is an improved relationship, not finding fault. This takes some coaching by the counselor because employees typically have convinced themselves that the supervisor is out to get them. A role play can be immensely helpful.

Has the employee played any role in the problem? Do communication issues in the past contribute to the difficulties that are experienced in the relationship at present?

Employees won't get very far if they don’t accept the universal principle that each party in conflict plays a role in contributing to it. Your workplace newsletter can offer this guidance and appear as neutral and powerful source of the information. (Simply use parts of this post in your article. Massage the content you see here to make the point. You can get more articles, just the text without royalties on similar topics at WorkExcel.com)

Continuing..after preparation, the employee explains in plain, unemotional language the observations and concerns about the relationship. An employee should use I statements. “It appears that we are having difficulties in our relationship.” or “I have been concerned about the way we communicate", etc.

An employee trying to fix a relationship with a supervisors should apply universal rules to the process. 1) Be positive—not cocky or passive aggressive. 2) Don’t act like you’ve cornered your boss. 3) Let the boss respond to your statements without interrupting. 4) Always let the boss have the last word. And 5) initiate regular contact with your boss going forward. Do not let any more trees grow between you after chopping one down.

WorkExcel.com)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Employee Newsletters: Entertainment or Risk Management in Disguise?

A newsletter is written to a captured audience -- your employees. They are at work and anything you offer them in writing has a fairly high likelihood of being read. With this in mind, it is a smart move to consider how to use your employee wellness and productivity newsletter as a tool both to help them and to help your company. Employee newsletters can influence behavior, and it is from this vantage point that they derive their power as risk management tools.

Helping employees and helping your company are not diametrically opposed. Many people, especially some organized labor folks I know, would maintain that anything good for the company is inherently bad for employees. Bull. Let's take a look at how a newsletter article on a simple subject can become a powerful little piece to protect a work organization, even while it helps employees. See below.

Most employee newsletters help employees manage stress. That's a good thing. But if you are thinking strategically with your newsletter, you would write articles to help employees with stress, but keep the topics of stress focused on critical issues facing the workplace or its work culture.

Below is a simple article, and an example of addressing stress management by building resilience. Future stress anticipated in the company directly influenced the timing of the article. It's purpose is to help employees, but also the company in general.

(Yes, you can use this article in your current newsletter if you include "used with permission, by Daniel Feerst, WorkExcel.com)
=================================

Building Resilience to Prepare for Stress

Don’t wait until you are on the skids with stress. Start beating it back before it arrives by building resilience. Building resilience is not a passing pop-psychology fad. The American Psychological Association has weighed in on the strategy and endorsed a 10-step approach.

How many of these tips do you follow? Which ones would be good to work on more?
  1. Build effective, supportive relationships with others.
  2. Avoid “catastrophizing” (seeing crises as insurmountable).
  3. View change as part of life, with new opportunities accompanying it.
  4. Be proactive. Move toward your goals. Don’t let things just happen to you.
  5. When faced with problems, act decisively. Don’t just go with the flow.
  6. In the midst of a crisis (or sometime soon after), ask yourself, “Can this event change my life for the better in some way?”
  7. Nurture a view of yourself that includes the ability to withstand adversity.
  8. Practice not zeroing in on the worst part about a crisis or adverse experience.
  9. During a tough time, practice looking forward to the hoped-for conclusion and resolution while avoiding the visualization of your worst fears.
  10. Take care of yourself by maintaining your physical and mental health, because this makes it easier to bounce back when adversity strikes.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Go for Short Articles

It seems people are in such a rush all the time. To some extent it is true, and it is necessary. Financial security is guaranteed by no company as it nearly was by so many in prior decades. This concern about the future, combined with rapid-fire messages fueling consumerism drives society to work hard, faster, and participate in an ever increasing, multi-tasking world.

The introduction above to this post is the rationale for having only short articles in your employee or company newsletter. When I author articles for newsletters, they are 72 to 228 words in length. That's pretty punchy. But what I have discovered, is that employees prefer short over long. With short articles, you can communicate the essentials, and because the reader can see who short the article is, will be drawn to read it completely.

When employees see long articles, with narratives that drone on, they mentally reject reading them. Make your articles short, and you will help your employees more.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Do It Yourself or Hire a Newsletter Writing Service? Or ...

Doing your own employee newsletter is a nightmare, better to have someone else do it right? Actually no, it's easier to do it yourself, and it's cheaper. No, I am not crazy. What's important is finding the best of both worlds to accomplish this feat. You need everything done for you--definitely. And then you need to be able to change anything you want in the final product, and keep doing it if necessary. You should never have to go back to the newsletter writing service to make another change. A newsletter writing service for your health and fitness newsletter for employees is a great thing, but check out the options by Googling "editable employee newsletters" to see the options. There are few companies that will let you do this, but they are few. Do not subscribe unless they let you email them with newsletter topics you want them to consider. Also, make sure you can create your own look and get a custom nameplate designed. Make sure you can edit your newsletter in MS Word or another program like MS Publisher. Find these options, and your weekends of struggle to get a newsletter written are over.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Stop Panicking about Copyright

Did you know that it is impossible to copyright an idea? You can copyright creative works and the entire paragraph you are reading now can be copyrighted, but I can't copyright my subject or the idea I came up with to discuss this subject with you. You can also write about it if you wish.

And this is the point: Frequently, it is not content that you are looking for. Instead it is an idea. Once you have the idea, then writing about it is fairly easy. The idea however must exist.

You can stare at a blank page, and not know what to write about. If you have ever experienced this phenomenon, it is not the lack of an article and text you face. It is an idea. Once you have the idea, everything starts moving forward. So you need ideas to write about. To get ideas, visit firstgov.gov and search any word. See what comes up. Then ideas will begin to pop into your mind. For really good brainstorming instruction, purchase the book: The Writer's Idea Book by Jack Heffron

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Get an Insurance Discount for having an Employee Newsletter!

Come on, folks. Seriously, I am a little tired of property casualty insurance companies pretending they don't notice all of the things that companies big and small do to reduce their legal, financial, and behavioral risk and liability. By that I mean, where are the discounts off premiums and deductibles? Companies need to be rewarded and share the returns.

If there was one full-time hobby I could pursue with glee, it would be helping companies like yours get premiums reduced and other monetary concessions for using your newsletter as loss prevention tool that saves money.

An employee newsletter can be used to remind employees to use safety helmets, lift properly to avoid back injury, and not sexually harass the secretary. They can be used to encourage employees to get to work on time, resolve conflicts earlier, and improve relations with supervisors (and vice versa.)

It is a fact: The more information about safety and wellness given to employees, the better its effect on behavior. And a flyer in a information stand outside the health office won't cut it. An employee newsletter is the only way to go.

Employee newsletters can encourage employees to manage stress, calm domestic violence, get help for psychological problems, and intervene earlier with teenager troubles. Alcoholics and drug addicts to wake up in the morning ready to dial the phone number to the treatment center of their choice, but they do slowly self-diagnose their condition and then enter treatment when a crisis appears and someone says "go now!" (That's how nearly all treatment admissions occur.)

So what types of losses associated with the above problems are prevented by dropping information in the laps of employees in the form of a newsletter they can quickly read? Tons of losses. And these losses will never be known. But, let me say this: Insurance companies know they are making a fortune in reduced payouts because of their insured companies that focus routinely on these issues. And please, don't argue for a discount with a measily quarterly newsletter. Employees need monthly stuff. Short, sweet, and to the point.

If you decide to seek a discount from your business insurance agent, let me know. I want to start telling the world about it and put employee newsletters on the map, where they should be as risk management tools.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Intervene with Your Newsletter

Did you hear that the Obama administration is stoking the furnace at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with the goal of going after businesses and industries that are continuing to ignore safety rules in the workplace? Oh, yeah, it's coming. Now, you and I both know that employees who violate safety rules cause accidents. But OSHA looks at reportable accidents and targets businesses for "corrective action" when they become aware of the numbers. Businesses get blamed, not individual employees. If you are not using your newsletter to educate and pound home the need to be safety conscious and follow safety rules, get going. The most frequently injured workers on the job in the USA are Hispanic workers. A big political payback is in the works and the legislation coming your way may be the Protecting Americ's Workers Act. This bill even includes new felony categories. Learn more by contacting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Appreciate your employee work-life-productivity newsletter. It is one of the cheapest forms of prevention you've ever taken for granted.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

You Know Enough to Write Like A Genius

I know, it's hard to think of newsletter content for your workplace newsletter. But I would like to give you a few tips. #1 Rule in this game---You Know More Than You Think You Know.

I have written over 2000 articles for company newsletters. But how in the world did I do it? It wasn't easy figuring out how, but let me give you a small secret that will take a bit of burden off our mind.

Take any article in any journal lying around near you and open it up. I'll wait...............

Now, when you begin reading that article, do it with two minds. One of your minds is reading the article for its purposes. The other mind is reading the article for "ideas". You should freely associate with this second mind. As you do, ideas for spin-off articles will come to mind. Have pen handy.

Let me do this myself and I will show you what I am talking about. Please wait while I reach for the nearest journal (seriously, I am doing right now....................................). Okay, I am back.

Now, I am going read the first article I can find in this magazine from the Employee Assistance Professionals Assocation. It just came in the mail.

The article is entitle Responding to Workers in Financial Crisis (They probably got the idea for this article from me -- I just wrote 3 fact sheets on this topic three months ago and sent the notice to 1600 EAPs.

Back on track (I am a little ADD)...Okay, I am reading. The article talks about ripple effects in the economy and people losing their jobs. Bingo - article idea. What is the impact of the financial crisis on sleep problems. Wow. That's a biggy. And what do people do, and what should they not do about this problem. What's dangerous. What's not. Are they using Uncle Harry's sleep cure, or do they have a sleep disorder. Are they taking Advil PM that can give you a stroke or heart attack with continous use?!!

There's your freely associated example. You try it. See if you do not come up with wonderful examples that you can pursue on your own.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Avoiding Sleepless Nights as a Content Writer

I absolutely hate to procrastinate, but I still do it. And I kick myself every time. Perhaps when easy-to-use resources exist to help you write a newsletter, it can become a curse. That's because you will wait until the last minute even more to write your newsletter knowing it's going to be easier. (The human mind is an amazing thing isn't it?)

Procrastination is about putting off the pain, and it can be so powerful that your subconscious mind will fight your conscious mind as you attempt to force your arms to move the keys on your typewriter.

So, here's a resource both to help you, while it offers you a curse of even further procrastination. So with awareness, take advantage of this resource. It's called www.firstgov.gov.

That's right, you've heard of it. It's the federal government web portal. Your tax dollars hard at work (some of them anyway) have produced a deep well of information on almost any conceivable subject. And most of this information is in the publican domain.

What's amazing is that information and documentation on this web site comes from a zillion sources, including local, county, and state governments. Do a key word search on any topic and you will discover information to prompt your articles and make life easier in developing content. Some of it can be used wholesale and without fear of copyright infringement.

Enjoy a peaceful night's sleep, but don't procrastinate.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Corporate Newsletters that Save Lives and Increase Productivity

Corporate newsletters are powerful tools and the most effective way to insert behavioral change information into the lives of employees who are moving at a fast pace on the job. Properly constructed with management goals and employee well-being in mind, these productivity tools can help resolve issues with problem employees, reduce risk to business customers, and even improve the ability of a smart insurance producer to build better relationships to sell insurance and improve marketing of risk management products. Corporate newsletters are grossly misunderstood as marketing tools, risk management reduction devices, troubled employee helpers, and productivity boosters.

When I first began writing the work-life-productivity newsletter for the 12,000 employees of the U.S. Congress, my mind was on entertaining employees and helping ensure that I would please the reader. Satisfying the host organization was the mission, but I soon discovered how to do that and much more.

Today, after authoring newsletters for over 50,000 companies, I can assure you that your corporate employee, work-life wellness newsletter is under-powered and under-utilized. Here is how to make your newsletter a instrument of change and directly responsible for doing everything you can imagine from improving customer service to preventing workplace violence.
Step #1: Divide the editorial planning of your employee/work-life newsletter, corporate newsletter, or planned newsletter articles into 12 topic areas.

These will include:

Improving Coworker Relationships
On-the-job Worker Productivity Tips
Balancing Work, Family, Home, and Community
Improving Personal Fitness and Effectiveness
Alcohol and Drug Education, Recovery, & Intervention
Team Building
How to Get Help Now (put information at end of articles)
Hot Work-Life Topics in the News (Seasonal depression, back-to-school, etc.)
Stress Management Tips
Improving the Relationship with Your Supervisor
Workplace Safety, Injury Prevention, and Recovery
Customer Service Improvement and Relationship Enhancement

These topics are the ones that I have discovered meet the most essential needs of employees and business managers in any company large or small.

Next - NEVER have a company newsletter of four pages. Employee will ditch it after 2 pages. So make them two pages. And make them monthly. This is an easy process with a customizable newsletter service - Google "Customizable Editable Employee Newsletters" to find resources.

Next - Distribute by PDF. Employees without computers can get hard copies. And make hard copies available in strategic locations.

Next - Never make articles long and comprehensive when they are associated with mental health issues. Instead make them motivating and captivating. For example, if an article addresses anger management--DO NOT make articles so comprehensive that employees "self-diagnose" and begin treating serious problems themselves. This can increase your risk because they will take half measures and avoid introspection and persistence. It takes a professional to keep this process going most of the time when serious problems exist.

Instead, provide enough information to motivate the reader to take the next step and get help from the company EAP or other resource (preferable a live health/counseling/mental health professional) who can work with the employee. Use this person's face in your newsletter during the year. It will improve the likelihood of this person being utilized as a helping resource. Do you see how doing this can reduce organizational risk? A person struggling with anger issues, who might be the next person to go "postal" in your company could be helped by a newsletter that "sells" help in this manner.

You can apply the above model of information, enticement, and referral to the next step to almost any corporate or employee behavioral problem.

To obtain 24 free newsletter articles that you can use in your own corporate newsletter right now, visit this link to request the download from WorkExcel.com in MS Word. There is no obligation or restriction on the use of these articles.Daniel Feerst, MSW, LISW is author and publisher of the employee newsletters for the U.S. Congress and publisher of the workplace newsletter FrontLine Employee and WorkLife Excel, available by subscription and used by thousands of companies nationwide. Click here to obtain them and learn more other corporate newsletters. You can reach Dan Feerst at mailto:publisher@workexcel.com. His phone number is 1-800-626-4327.

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