1 November 2006
Dr. Moria Levy
A critical activity when setting up Knowledge Management solutions is marketing the solution. Many of us tend to think that marketing is an activity which is completed when the solution is launched, yet in reality marketing the solution is an ongoing activity which should be performed regularly. One of the most successful marketing tools, especially when dealing with portals, knowledge websites and communities is the newsletter. An electronic newsletter is a structured and designed mail message distributed to all potential users. It is used to acknowledge users as to new central subjects presented in the website/portal/community, those which we especially wish to communicate.
Using the newsletter applies a vital principle of pushing information to users; information which the users are sometimes unaware exists since they are not exposed to it.
Hereby are some principles that will assist us in intelligently using a newsletter:
It is recommended that the newsletter includes up to five subjects of different compositions:
One or two new and important professional subject;
A main topic;
Important events which have either taken place or are planned to take place;
Important discussed which have either been discussed or are planned to be discussed;
A "soft" organizational topic, such as pictures from the last departmental trip.
The composition should be such that will combine professional core subjects on one hand and present the 'killer application' which will attract the users to the website/community/portal.
Frequency and timing of use
It is important to define the frequency of using the newsletter according to the reality in which the website/community/portal operates. Solutions in which the information updates regularly can probably be presented in a weekly newsletter. If the information is rarely updated, it should be directed to a monthly or even bi-monthly newsletter.
Before deciding on its frequency, remember that preparing the newsletter requires resources. It is therefore recommended to use a reasonable and realistic schedule which does not require too much effort. It is also important to simultaneously try to combing the schedule of sending the newsletter and the organizational schedule. For example, for human resources websites, it is recommended to set the newsletter's date close to the date the workers receive their paycheck, since in these dates the need for a website is great as many questions rise; the newsletter might possibly be a source for answers.
The schedule, besides being realistic, should also be a refreshing factor in the worker's routine. It is important to generate expectance on behalf of the user and not create a newsletter overload which only tires the users and alienates them from the website/community/portal.
In terms of designing the newsletter, it is important to design it according to the spirit of the website/community/portal so that it is not unfamiliar to the user and he/she can immediately connect between the design and its origin. It is recommended to use pictures which attract the eye and stimulate one to review the subject in depth.
Make sure that each subject presented in the newsletter includes a presentation of the subject in title-form, a short summary of the relevant information and a reference to an elaboration in the website. We thus create stimulus and in order to review in depth the user will turn to the portal/website/community. Nevertheless, it is important to refrain from creating a false illusion: do not be tempted to communicate subjects temptingly when you know you can't possible meet the expectation you created through the newsletter. This situation will surely generate much harm that will be very difficult to fix.
The newsletter is merely a means to an end, and should be treated as such; it should not be considered an objective. It has much potential if used intelligently and should be utilized in order to communicate important subjects to potential users while communicating the subjects we find important as website/portal/community leaders.