Blog or Newsletter, that is the Question

Blog or NewsletterAt my company, we send out a monthly publication designed for all employees that answers a common issue that has been coming into the help desk. Occasionally this is also used to promote some new bit of information or process to encourage people to use a new tool. Currently this is sent out as an email attachment and is then linked to our Intranet. Last week I was talking to a colleague about creating a similar publication for managers at a certain level, not for general consumption and I brought up the question of blog or newsletter…

Maybe you have asked yourself the same question or you have a similar situation in your company. In either case, a blog or newsletter, the information can be delivered, but the question is which will be more effective and offer the best return on investment.

Let’s look at a few factors that can help us determine that:

  • Audience
  • Resources
  • Content

Audience

To determine the best delivery method, one of the things you need to consider is audience.Ask yourself some questions about your audience…or better yet, ask them:

  • How are they currently accessing information?
  • Is the audience computer savvy and they can easily tap into a blog or do they need that piece of paper in front of them?
  • Are they on the go a lot and needing to see information quickly accessed through a smart phone or tablet or are they in their office regularly accessing files?
  • Are they interested in just receiving and digesting information or do they want to interact with it and other employees that are interested in the same topic?

Starting from what is currently a part of the audiences regular routine or type of tools they usually access makes it easier for them to adopt a new tool. It doesn’t have to be they methods they currently use in their work life, but this could be what they do in their personal life as well. If you are going to use something outside of their experience, it is important to identify some advocates; people who will not only adopt the new tool, but those who will promote it to others.

A blog has the potential to be a great learning tool that is rich with content and comments that spark discussion and collective learning, but this is only true if it is read and interacted with.

My company does not currently use blogs and this would be a new tool for us. It would be important for us to understand how many of our intended audience uses blogs on a regular basis and identify some advocates for this method. It is also important for us to understand the level and type of interaction people might want with the information. Our audience would be used to the idea of a newsletter that is delivered to their email and posted on the Intranet. Regardless of the direction we choose, we should talk to our audience and examine the effectiveness of the current tool. Does it in fact reduce help desk calls on the topics presented? Do people click on the link on the Intranet? Is the document being accessed?

 

Resources

In addition to examining the intended audience, it is important to consider the resources available to you. Sometimes resources lend themselves to one solution over another, these include time, talent, and material resources. The table below looks at some of these:

Newsletter
  • Write and publish newsletter and then a break until next cycle begins
  • More formal so time is spent editing to ensure high quality writing
  • Word processor and basic publishing tools are needed
  • Can be delivered physically, electronically or posted where it can be accessed
Blog
  • Single topic posts are written in a concise, informal style
  • Regular moderation of comments needed
  • Blog site includes writing and editing tools
  • Published digitally, link can be shared through email or social media tools, and can be accessed where it is posted

In our situation we have a very targeted audience. We only want a certain level of audience to receive the information. This is easy for us to accomplish through email and we have a sign-in area of our Intranet these employees. If we were to use a blog, it would need to be private and require user log-in. This can be accomplished through many commercial blogging tools or this capability may reside in a Learning Management System (LMS). Since our LMS does not have this capability, we would need to create a private blog.

Content

The intended content can also lend itself better to one medium over another. If the content will include many topics at one time, it may fit better into a newsletter style publication. Newsletters also tend to have a more formal style and for certain contexts this is important. Blogs are best when each post is focused on one topic. This focused style makes blog posts easily searchable and content more easily accessed at a later date, particularly if the post is well categorized and tagged with appropriate keywords.

The nature of blogs is social and the ability for readers to comment offers:

  • Readers can ask and answer questions
  • Readers from across the company can interact and develop connections
  • Readers can link to additional resources

In our situation the content is answers to frequently asked questions and problems. We have been presenting the information statically but since often there is a basic solution but specific circumstances require a slightly different approach, a blog would offer our employees the chance to ask questions about specific applications and situations.

What about for you? Blog or newsletter?

If you are interested in using social media as training tools, I recommend checking out “The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media” by Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner