Darrell A. Dromgoole, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Scott Cummings, Associate Department Head and Program Leader; Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Effective newsletters don’t happen by accident—they take time, effort, and deliberate focus. Newsletters can serve a number of purposes. They can create or increase awareness, provide basic information, or provide a brief overview technical subject matter material in terms that can be understood by the general public. However, there are few situations where an e- newsletter alone will accomplish a project’s education goals. In situations where target audiences are motivated and have the opportunity and ability to act, an e-newsletter may be all that is needed (Rothschild, 1999). E-Newsletters are very effective in supporting and reinforcing educational material as part of a larger multi-faceted educational intervention.
While e- newsletters can be an effective part of an educational strategy, they do have certain limitations (Broussard & Flores, 2007). Research indicates that people tend to scan e-newsletters for interesting information, and rarely reads the e-newsletter in its entirety (Broussard & Flores, 2007). While effective at conveying new ideas or general concepts, e-newsletters are possibly not the best method for conveying highly technical or extremely complex information (Broussard & Flores, 2007). In the case of providing clientele with very complex concepts or research results it may be more advantageous to present this type of information in a bulletin, fact sheet, or a more intensive training activity, which could be referenced in an e-newsletter as a source for further information (Broussard & Flores, 2007).
The following are some steps when conceptualizing an e-newsletter:
Extension educators may discover that their e-newsletter has a dynamic purpose: The goal could be to inform readers, and to increase clientele participating in educational interventions. It’s okay to have more than one motivating factor. However, try not to be too broad.
The following are some tips associated with conceptualizing an e-newsletter (Broussard & Flores, 2007)
Below in Figure 1 is an excellent example of an Integrated Pest Management newsletter produced by Kerry Siders, Extension Agent – IPM in Hockley, Cochran and Lamb counties that is designed to provide growers with crop management updates. The entire newsletter can be viewed at http://counties.agrilife.org/hockley/files/2020/08/August202020.pdf.
Figure 1. Example of IPM Newsletter.
Figure 2 provides an example of the Know and Grow e-newsletter from Harris county designed specifically to educate “Green Professionals” such as nurserymen. The entire e-newsletter can be viewed at https://us9.campaignarchive.com/?u=60c39f8f45214bc663259a157&id=18d31f1ad4
Figure 2. Example of Harris County Know and Grow e-newsletter.
Figure 3 provides an example of an Agriculture Newsletter from Nueces County. The entire newsletter can be viewed at https://nueces.agrilife.org/files/2020/07/July-Newsletter.pdf.
Figure 3. Example of the Nueces County Agriculture Newsletter.
Figure 4 provides an example of a Better Living for Texans Newsletter.
Figure 4. Example of Better Living for Texans Newsletter.
Figure 5 provides an excellent example of a Master Gardner Newsletter from Denton County. The entire newsletter can be viewed at https://dcmga.com/files/2020/04/The-Root-May-2020-Newsletter.pdf.
Figure 5. Example of a Master Gardner Newsletter from Denton County.
How can Extension educators determine if their e-newsletter is really doing what it is intended to do ?There are difficulties in thoroughly evaluating impacts of newsletters alone, and the effort may not be worth the cost in time and other resources (Broussard & Flores, 2007). Before launching a full-blown evaluation effort, it is important to revisit educational plans and determine if the e-newsletter is supporting the Extension educational program or simply serving as a calendar of events. Extension educators could start by asking yourself the following questions (Broussard & Flores, 2007):
Rather than conducting a detailed study of your newsletter to determine its impacts, you could consider these approaches.
Although newsletters are potentially useful educational communication tools, they may not always be the best choice for conveying a particular message (Broussard & Flores, 2007). In some cases when conveying highly technical information it may be more appropriate to use a fact sheet or technical report. As a stand-alone educational method with other complementary educational events, the newsletter provides limited benefits in most situations. Newsletter effectiveness is best determined as part of a comprehensive program evaluation.
In upcoming Next Step to Success blog we will discuss developing and writing engaging content for newsletters.
Broussard, S. & Flores, K. (2007). Are Newsletters Effective? Assessing Their Role as a Communication Tool. Purdue University Extension fact sheet # FNR-269-W.