Bill Volckening is an ASCA Level 5 Masters Coach. He is the head coach of the Tualatin Hills Barracudas, a Masters swim team in Beaverton, Oregon. Bill is the United States Masters Swimming Editor for SWIM Magazine; Editor of the MACA Newsletter; USMS coordinator of the NIKE Champions Clinic; webmaster for the Oregon LMSC website and the Tualatin Hills Barracudas website; and event director of the February Fitness Challenge.
A few years ago, a colleague told me “You’ll always know you’ve got good stuff when people try to steal it.” The coach was referring to team outfitting – specifically warm-ups, T-shirts and caps. “Tell the swimmers to watch their belongings.” he said. “Our new warm-ups are awesome, and they’ll walk if we’re not paying attention. I felt uneasy accusing others of stealing, but I remembered it. A few years later, when I was working at another pool, I was reminded of the conversation. It wasn’t because our warm-up suits were vanishing, our team newsletters were disappearing from the bulletin board.
At first, I didn’t think too much about it. Paperwork often gets lost in the kids’ swim bags, only to be found months later, all soggy and wadded-up. Even if the newsletters were getting home, people probably needed extra copies for their scrap books. One family requested extra copies because they were fighting over it. Determined to resolve the problem, I photocopied some extra newsletters for the team mail box. People seemed to appreciate it, but interestingly enough, the ones I posted on the bulletin board continued to disappear.
Several months later, I received a surprise e-mail message from a person unknown to me. The subject read ‘newsletter,’ and it said, “I was visiting the pool this weekend, and I saw your team bulletin board. That newsletter is the best one I’ve ever seen! I was so impressed, I took a copy with me…(hope that’s okay)…how do you do it?”
As surprised as I was to receive this message, it explained why the newsletters kept vanishing. People liked them. If this story has stirred your interest in producing a high quality newsletter, continue reading. Follow these steps, and you’ll discover your newsletters are stolen from the bulletin board.
Start by selecting the appropriate tools. Computer equipment, such as desktop publishing software, digital cameras, scanners and CD-ROM clip art packages are some of the most valuable tools to a newsletter editor. Next, make some determinations about how the newsletter should look. The choice of standards, such as fonts, graphics and layout should ultimately contribute to a cohesive style. Continue planning by making some decisions about production, such as: the approximate number of pages, type of materials, frequency of publication and method of delivery. Budget is the most important consideration when planning production because it determines the amount of printed material you can produce each year. Once the plan is established, start delegating responsibilities. The most successful editors orchestrate the contributions of many individuals, but the greatest pitfall is doing everything yourself.
When first choosing a desktop publishing program it is important to understand the similarities and differences between the various types of software packages. The most appropriate program may not necessarily be the most costly or elaborate one, but it should have enough features to suit your needs. One of the least expensive options is to use the newsletter template available in several of the home office programs such as Microsoft Works. However, if you have resources, Adobe PageMaker and Quark Xpress are two of the most highly recommended desktop publishing software packages. Both of these programs have the capacity to determine page size, set columns, place graphics, wrap text around graphics and rotate text and graphics. PageMaker creates HTML files and allows users to easily export fully formatted electronic documents for e-mail delivery and web download. Learning how to use PageMaker and Quark isn’t too difficult. It just takes some time. In the long run, creativity is a much more valuable commodity than the technical expertise.
Style is one of the most important considerations in newsletter production. Before working on the specific contents, it’s a good idea to sit down at the computer for a day, play with some standard features – such as layout, graphics and fonts – and establish a template. A “template” is the basic framework that establishes a pattern for the newsletter. It provides a planned structure for the newsletter’s layout and style. Because the style of a newsletter should reflect the character of the organization, time spent creating the template is time well spent. The term “layout” refers to the design and arrangement of text and contribution to the style, because it determines how easily people can read the newsletter. “Fonts” are different types of lettering. A selection of fonts can usually be found in computer software and on the internet. Graphics also come from a variety of sources, including photographs, drawings and computer clip art.
There are many ways to enhance desktop publishing documents with images. When using original, flat artwork, a scanner is one of the best devices for converting the artwork into a digital image file. If the newsletter requires a lot of photographs, a digital camera is an excellent investment. There are several models with different features and prices. One of the easiest to use is the type that stores images to standard 3.5’’floppy diskettes. After storing the picture, the diskette simply pops out of the camera and into the computer. Another great source for images is CD-ROM clip art. Clip art is a valuable resource for newsletters requiring different types of illustrations. If your budget doesn’t allow for a CD-ROM clip art package, there are many ways to get clip art for free on the internet.
The process of creative decision making can be very rewarding, particularly if the newsletter editor has a clear vision that is supported by the organization’s Board of Directors. When I joined the staff of the Tualatin Hills Barracudas, I proposed an upgrade of the team newsletter. There was a tremendous amount of support for this proposal, and very few limitations. The first step was to select a clean, readable font for the body text. I selected a justified, true-type font called ‘Tahoma’ 10-point, because it is compact enough to allow for a good use of space, but large enough to read. The next step was to select a variety of display fonts and graphics for the headlines and regular features. In our newsletter, the eclectic assortment of display fonts reflects the diversity of our team, and the antique style graphics appeal to Masters swimmers, while contributing to a traditional looking publication. The template also included a front page header, return address, web address, page footers, caption text, page-break guides and a masthead with the club officer contacts.
When preparing a newsletter template, it is a good idea to establish a plan for production. There are several important determinations in planning production, such as the number of pages, method of distribution, frequency of publication and cost. Newsletters are typically printed (or photocopied) and mailed. When planning a newsletter that will be printed or photocopied, it is particularly important to evaluate the budget. Start by researching the cost per printed page. Use this number to determine the total cost of each newsletter by factoring the number of recipients with the number of pages and annual editions.
The following example outlines a simple method of determining the total annual expense of newsletter production. The proposed newsletter is a four-page document. To give it a more professional look, the editor decides to print it on 11 x 17 size paper and fold it in half. If it costs seven cents to copy each side of a double-sided 11 x 17 page, it would cost 14 cents to copy a single, four-page, folded newsletter. With 100 recipients, the total cost of printing each edition would be $14.00. The newsletter would be a monthly publication, with an annual cost of $168 for printing. Using the U.S. Postal service for delivery would cost 33 cents per copy, which adds an additional $396 annually to the expense. Given these factors, the approximate yearly cost for a monthly newsletter would be $564. When budgeting for production costs, be sure to include miscellaneous items such as paper, printer cartridges and mailing labels.
Because of the considerable cost of printing and mailing newsletters, editors have implemented a number of ideas for working within their budgets. The most significant cost savings comes from eliminating postage. More than 70% of the expense is saved by delivering the newsletter by hand rather than by mail. Other options include reducing the number of pages, publishing the newsletter less frequently and developing an internet delivery system. Recently, newsletter editors have started to produce electronic documents available via e-mail and the web. Undoubtedly the most popular type of electronic document is the “PDF,” which stands for “portable document file.” A PDF is a fully formatted document that looks and prints exactly like the original. The beauty of the PDF file is the ease with which it is uploaded into web sites. In sharp contrast to printed documents, PDF’s offer dynamic, full-color presentation, conservation of natural resources and savings in production time, all at a reduced cost. Theoretically, production costs could be completely eliminated with the advent of the PDF. Once everyone has the technology, this theory should become a reality.
The key to success in coordinating a newsletter project is to clearly delineate the responsibilities and delegate to as many people as possible. Since the most successful editors orchestrate the efforts of countless contributors, it is important to be well-organized, deadline oriented and easy to reach. The prospective newsletter editor should establish a variety of methods for people to make contact, including voice mail, e-mail and fax machines. More importantly, successful editors immediately return phone calls and e-mail messages. Some of the most important contributors are columnists, photographers, proofreaders and production workers. Even in the smallest organizations, these responsibilities can be covered by the members and the Board of Directors. Although it’s not necessary, it is advantageous to locate people who have visual communications and computer backgrounds. Set yourself up for success by delegating, rather than volunteering to do all the work – and when you tack a copy of your latest newsletter to the bulletin board, don’t ever expect to see it again.