E-newsletters are less at risk than ever of becoming obsolete. Organizations — both nonprofit and businesses — realize, especially with more people getting their information online and on their phones, that newsletters are the hub of information people need to stay in touch.

If you don’t believe me, check your inbox. With every organization website you visit and everyone you order from, you receive their newsletter and other recurring emails. Sometimes daily. Sometimes multiple times throughout the day.

When done correctly, newsletters are far from being a nuisance. They are a useful marketing tool to build trust in your organization’s brand. They benefit the organization, whether a nonprofit or corporation, because they update people on what the organization is doing, and even where they are headed.

Your customer or donor may not know anyone personally within your organization, but your newsletter is helping them get to know you on a personal level. You build relationships with your readers, as if you were in their homes on a regular basis.

Instead of putting your newsletter on hold, make it a part of your marketing agenda as much as your website, social media, and other marketing channels are.

Newsletters are your opportunity to tell your story, share useful information, and build trust among your readers.

I have written about newsletters on a regular basis (you can do a search for “newsletters” in my blog) and produced  hundreds for clients and my own company. There are a lot of newsletter topics, but for this article, I will focus on building trust in your brand.

What should you include in your newsletter? And what are some tips to keep people reading?

What to include in your e-newsletter

First, to be clear, newsletters are not sales pitches. They are different from the daily email marketing sales pitches, advertisements, and “buy now” messages framed as e-newsletters that slam your inbox. While you should include your organization’s contact information at the end of the newsletter and direct your readers to your website or store, a newsletter’s function is to educate, to entertain and to inspire.

Your newsletter builds trust in your brand by making it about your reader. Your readers come to know you through your stories, pictures, the interviews of your employees or those associated with your organization. Your newsletter is the gateway to your organization as if you are inviting your reader inside for a chat. You become real to them. But you write with them in mind.

The content has to be at the top of your priority list for your newsletter. A well-written newsletter’s articles are engaging and informative. They answer questions. They give readers a behind-the-scenes look at your operations. They use creative storytelling to describe your services and products.

You can choose to write one article or several, but they should all be brief and give only highlights. This means the readers can scroll through the headings and linger on what appeals most to them. Link each brief article in your e-newsletter to the full-length piece on your website to direct readers to your site. This also tells you what people are most interested in because you can track website visits that come directly from e-newsletter clicks.

Include success stories, customer feedback, and other positive news your readership is interested in. You might include articles written by members of your staff. And not all news will appeal to all readers, even if it interests you. Always have in mind your readers’ concerns.

Include photographs (make sure they’re in focus) to complement your articles and news. You can use the group photo receiving a check from a donor or you, as the business, giving a check to an organization; however, make this type of posed shot infrequent. Make use of more storytelling shots, such as people using your products, kids involved in activities your nonprofit provides, employees working on a new machine. Think action, rather than staged. You do not have to hire a professional photographer, but try to get used to seeing life differently through the lens. Study photographs you like in other newsletters and marketing materials, and work on creating those kinds of images.

Maintain a healthy balance with content and images in your newsletter, especially if it is an e-newsletter. One image is fine, and you can include the rest on the web page you direct your reader to.

How often should you send your e-newsletter?

How often you send your newsletter depends on your organization, your audience, and your bandwidth. You could vary it and start slow, such as once every other month. But do send it the same day and time each month (or whatever interval you decide to use) so people will come to expect it.

You could then move into monthly, biweekly or weekly to stay even more on the minds of your readers. If you have a lot of events, a lot of activity, and constant movement within your organization, then weekly should be your goal to avoid cramming everything into a monthly newsletter. Avoid rehashing the same stories in the same way just to fill space, though. Keep the news fresh and exciting.

I would caution against sending one daily. That is a memo, not a newsletter, and one that will eventually be ignored, get you in the spam folder or make your reader unsubscribe. Newsletters are like special occasions or anniversaries — overdone, they lose their appeal.

The main thing is to keep your newsletter consistent.

Further benefits of your e-newsletter

Your newsletter is also a catalyst for repurposing your content. You can take snippets of your newsletter and format them for your social media and other marketing materials. It is also a great resource for continued media coverage on your organization. The stories you use in your newsletter should be shared with the media. Think about how to expand on the story, and then offer it to your media contacts.

Be sure to direct people to your newsletter through your media channels. Each time people visit your website, make sure it is easy for them to sign up for your newsletter, either through a pop-up box or at the point of purchase or donation. Have a place on your social media channels for them to sign up as well.

Your newsletter should also increase your website traffic if you direct subscribers to your site for more content.

Great newsletters are shared. Readers will forward e-newsletters to friends, family, colleagues and other contacts when they think an article will appeal to them. Those are people you would not have reached otherwise.

And finally, your newsletter primes your readers to make decisions to buy from you, donate or explore your organization further.

Remember that with each newsletter, you are trying to gain your reader’s trust. You are raising the bar on integrity with your business with each story you share. Building relationships takes time, and sending regular newsletters is a good way to start the process.