It’s All About Hats: Are You Wearing the Wrong One?

By Jessica Albon

How to write a newsletter: it's all in the hat

I formed a resolution to never write a word I did not want to write; to think only of my own tastes and ideals.
C. S. Forester

Is this your approach to your own newsletter or blog: to write only what you want, to think only of your own tastes?
If you’re like a lot of business owners, your first, and only, consideration is whether or not you’re interested in a topic. To me, this is akin to thinking your best niche is people who are carbon copies of you. (Like life coaches who only work with women between 45 and 48 who have recently been divorced, have no kids, like to play the ukulele, and watch documentaries about parrots who save people from burning buildings.)

It’s not inherently wrong, but it is limiting, and probably not in the best interests of your readers (and, therefore, you).

If you were working for a big magazine, there would be writers, editors and a publisher. When you write and publish on your own, you have to wear all three hats (along with newsletter / blog designer, copyeditor, printer, etc.). Unfortunately, most small business owners focus exclusively on the writer and publisher hats, leaving the editor hat to collect dust. This results in content that excessively mirrors your personal tastes, that includes only the articles you wanted to write. This simply won’t deliver well-rounded value to your readers!

Let me give you an example. 90% of manuscripts received by children’s book publishers are about a child getting a new sibling. That’s because it’s a topic with inherent conflict that most writers have something to say about. But, wouldn’t it be silly if 90% of the books *published* were about new siblings–it simply isn’t necessary to have that many books on the topic.

When you wear your writer’s hat too much, your content may become the equivalent of being 90% about new siblings.

The publisher hat, on the other hand, is all about the bottom line. Where’s the money? How do we keep our advertisers happy? What’s the bottom line? Because it’s the publisher’s job to ensure the company stays afloat, the focus tends to be on profitability. To much of the publisher’s hat can lead to a blog or newsletter that’s overwhelmingly stuffed with self-promotion and advertising.

If you want to keep a balance in your approach, you need to take a step back and put on your editor’s hat. In fact, you really ought to spend the *majority* of your time wearing the editor’s hat. That’s because the editor is focused on selecting content that has lots of value to the reader– delivering the articles that readers *want* to read. This is what will make your blog or newsletter a success–wearing more of the editor’s hat.

To wear the editor’s hat, ask yourself these five questions:

  1. When’s the last time we published an article on this topic?
  2. Why is this of interest to readers?
  3. Is publishing this article of sufficient benefit to our advertisers? (For instance, if your company [your primary advertiser] is an SEO firm, you wouldn’t publish an article on swimming pool safety.)
  4. Are we keeping a good balance on the topics our readers need to know about?
  5. Are there any segments of our audience that we’re under serving?

In order to run a thriving newsletter or blog, you need to make sure you’re spending plenty of time being the editor. So, take off your writer’s hat, and take off your publisher’s hat, and be the editor.

And, if you happen to want to write children’s books and want to get published, stay away from the new sibling stories ;-).