Your teenagers have some 4,000 adverts that work to capture their attention every day, and that is a conservative estimate. So how can you go about getting their attention and be different from the other 3,999? Do something different. Go old school, keep the postal service in business, send out a newsletter. Really? Yes, Really. Here’s a some ways to create a newsletter that engages the teen.
Your disadvantage: You don’t have tv, millions of dollars in commercial appeal, do not have the time to inundate them with your message.
Your Advantage! They don’t watch tv as much (videos on the internet), you don’t need millions anyways, you know them personally and that is a step ahead of any marketing agency.
Why a paper newsletter? If you have taken our Surviving to Thriving training session we speak to having a communications plan for not just your core, but those curious and those in the community. Too often we get caught in the trap of communicating to our core, but yet we have so many more to communicate to that we probably only have their physical address.
- Design Counts: Wonder why Apple is such an appealing brand to teenagers? It isn’t just that their computers and gadgets are superior to everything else on the market (somethings are), but it is their attention to design. They’ve slimmed down functioning to give a sleek design element and people enjoy and revel in that. Do Not, pull up the old Publisher templates with clip art. They look cheap and that can be translated as “this is not really that important.” Whatever your program is, spend time working on a simple, yet captivating design. If you are not at all skilled in designing, no problem, do a Google search for some templates you can download for free or purchase. I see spending $30 on a good newsletter design as a great investment. I like to think an hour or two of my time is worth a whole lot more than that amount of money and I could then take that 1-2 hours catching up with teenagers in their circle.
- Think in Chunks: Wired magazine did an article years ago on Snack Food Culture where they highlighted our trend to chunking our information and taking it in ‘snack sized bites.’ How many words of a 1000 word article do you actually read? Not all of them, you’ll scan, some of you will just like this article because of the bold face type and bullet points, I’ve chunked my information. Put your information into your design in chunks with some eventual ‘next step’ ie. visit website, register on facebook, etc. Keep information in blocks and keep it small.
- Images Speak: Have some photos of the specific teens you are hoping to target with the newsletter. Not sure what that means, have a few kids in mind that you want to see this more than others. Next month switch that up. Want to get sneaky, employ the technologies of variable print, that’s a whole other level. This also brings up the notion of printing in colors. Doing a full color print can be expensive, but choosing a different colored paper or a heavier weight paper gets you almost there for less cost. However, if you are doing the newsletter with a nice design and in chunks then you are probably downsizing your newsletter to just one page. Images are something teenagers are looking for, they want to see themselves, their friends living life. You can even be tricky by putting unlock codes to photo posts on your website to tease out to kids to look for the newsletter.
- Personalize! This might be the most important part of the whole process. Get the teens attention by personalizing their newsletter. I don’t mean by just doing some mail merge that puts a “Hey Gavin, …” but leave some open space to write a personal note “Hope you did great at your soccer game last night! Maybe I’ll see you Sunday and you can give me a play by play!” “We prayed for you and your drivers test this week at youth last night. Good Luck!” Want to get even crazier, write your note over the other printed materials. Watch the kids bring that up when they come to church next “What was up with that?” “Why do you write notes to me over the newsletter?” This may not give some ground breaking conversation, but it is engagement where you might not otherwise had any, so we call that a start to building relationships.
- Mix it Up: Don’t always send the same newsletters. Have a few postcards thrown in there. Always directing people to that main hub of information, which could be the church or a youth website, maybe Facebook page, etc. I call this my p90x method, if the brain knows what to expect it will skip what it usually doesn’t connect with and go to the part that it does. Mixing it up forces the brain to adjust and look over all the information shared.
Want to explore that Variable Print idea? Give the folks at UMR Communications a ring, tell them I sent ya. They work with churches all the time on various sized projects from posters to 40 page booklets. They can even help you with your design, print and then mail it.. You miss out on that personalized writing part if they mail it for you.
Here’s a mock Newsletter I drew Up.. Kinda Like it, might be using it for my own Youth Ministry, with some photo and information changes.
Gavin Richardson is Digital Community Builder for YouthWorker Movement and the Short One at YouthWorker Circuit. He has been in youth work for almost two decades now, has been a writer and consultant on numerous internet and published projects for the church. He’s often a speaker around the country on church communications and community building. His current projects are working on developing online Youth Disciple Groups and finishing a new book “Sticky Sheep.” He is the part time youth guy at Good Shepherd UMC in Hendersonville, TN. If you ask, he will say that he is a “misfit” of the church. He lives in Nashville with his wife Erin, son Brooks and dog Crimson. You can connect with Gavin (and he’s totally cool with that) through http://about.me/gavoweb.