Newsletters Improve Lake Communication

EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT: Newsletters Improve Lake Communication

Jim Brakken

Communication is an essential component to successful lake management. Newsletters are one of the best means of communicating.  They engage members and non-members alike. Many lake orgainizations place very high value on newsletter communication. Here are a few ideas that may help you publish your own lake newsletter.

Content:  Your first priority should be your lake’s issues and organizational business such as meeting minutes and agenda.  Next, educational info, Wisconsin water issues and community issues related to your lake.  Finally, the fun stuff: Recipes, jokes, a lake bulletin board, cartoons, lake trivia, a ‘kids’ corner’ [written by your lake’s youngsters?], lake histories, photos, drawings, poems, fishin’ stories, web site hot lists and the like.

Editorial Staff:  Choose an Editor in Chief.  This person should have final say in matters of content.  All members should be encouraged to write or contribute ‘found’ articles, recipes, jokes, poems, etc.  Kid’s too!  The President should give a brief ‘state of the lake’ report in each issue.  One of the Editor’s jobs is to make all contributors read like Hemmingway or Frost.  Also, proof reading is really important.  Have someone other than the writer proof all copy.  No skimming.  Read slowly and carefully, marking errors with red pencil.  Spellcheck everything, even captions under photos.

Circulation:  Send copies to all members & associates.  Consider sending to non-members along with a membership application.  Other possible recipients? Consider sending to the Town Board, supporting businesses, neighboring lakes, library, Local & State Historical Society, your county lake association, WAL & UWEX.

Copyright:  All government publications are public domain.  Courtesy dictates that you cite the origin of the article and the author, however.  Titles cannot be copyrighted.  When using found articles, photos, etc., follow this rule:  If in doubt, check it out.  Most writers will give permission if you use their name.   To copyright your newsletter, place a circled c followed by the year and your name or the name of your association. No need to file with the U.S. Copyright Office unless you think you are sitting on a Pulitzer Prize.

Finance: Budget enough to include postage, printing, occasional software upgrades, photo processing, phone calls, the works.  If your organization is sending out agendas and minutes, simply piggyback your newsletter, saving postage.  6 sheets of plain, 8 ½ X 11 paper [or 5 and an envelope] weigh just under an ounce.

Sponsorship:  Consider soliciting ads from local businesses.  4 half-page ads should bring in enough to cover costs other than postage. (Some members may see this as undesirable.  Also, ad sales are not always easy, not always fun.) Other options include finding a ‘benevolent benefactor’ on your lake, organizing a fundraiser or developing a ‘newsletter fund’ in your association’s financial structure. Some grants may cover some newsletter costs, also.

Printing:  If you have it printed commercially, bring your newsletter to the printer in both hard copy and on disk. You may wish to have your newsletter printed on 11 X 17 paper. You’ll get a nicer newsletter, usually at a cheaper price. Tell the printer to keep it under an ounce, including your lake association’s minutes, if any.  In larger quantities, they can print, collate, fold, staple and seal a 12-page (6 back-to back pages) newsletter for less than a buck. Costs are less if you avoid colors, more if you don’t.

Extras: ~Ask your lake Secretary for pre-addressed labels.

~Consider your local high school business or computer class.  You can offer students ‘real world’ experience.  They will develop desktop publishing skills and, for an occasional pizza party, might be a real asset.  Problem:  School’s not in session all year.  Plan ahead.
~Include some lake photos.

~Include some clip art, but don’t over do it. Less is more.

~Consider including a membership form in each newsletter.

~Include a disclaimer so advertisers and others are not held responsible for everything within your pages.

~One association includes a lake map directory of paid members.  Everyone on the lake gets this copy, placing some real  ‘peer pressure’ on non-members to join.

~Share w/other lakes.  Build a resource file for future issues.

~Contribute your articles, etc., to LAKE CONNECTION, LAKE TIDES, your countywide lake group, your local press and other publications.

~Consider posting all or part of your newsletter on the Web.  Need help?  Contact your local school or library.  Or just ask one of the youngsters on your lake!

Good luck with the newsletter! Thanks for helping our lakes!