Ms Spitfire is pacing up and down her sea facing office. She wants a company newsletter sent out every week to all employees at NAIL, informing them of the latest activities and wins of various teams. But first, she must figure out some newsletter basics.

Ms Spitfire: Dang! What’s a newsletter really for? What brief should I give to my team so that they can get started on this asap, and do not face a mishap down the line? Do you have any damn #@#@! knowledge on this?

Well, Ms Spitfire, here are some tidbits related to newsletters of various types and purposes that you may find helpful.

At one company, the internal employee newsletter was eagerly awaited and browsed every morning. The sections that garnered most attention – humor, news, puzzles, brain tickling challenges, and trivia.

Not quite the old serious stuff you would expect a corporate newsletter to spread to employees. But this is precisely how readership taste defies mission based activities.

Your business newsletter must have certainly taken care to include the fun and interactive stuff. And there is the first clue to planning out to create a newsletter – its success or failure would depend on how well your conceived sections and categories are received by the audience.

Although we now have digital and online or e-newsletters, its roles and functions have remained unchanged.

Internal corporate newsletters, apart from the usual connecting and bonding factors, serve as a general purpose platform to inform on company activities, bolster its vision and strategies, send out subliminal messages of brand and community, and add a cultural layer.

They are also a good tool for HR and management to stay visible, and obtain feedback on internal events and activities. And the fun element.

It’s not a mean job. Apart from the newsletter conveying in a subtle way your management or business story, putting it together each day, week or month can be a real headache.

Consider the following challenges.

1. If it’s a new edition, conceptualizing for the name and internal sections of the newsletter, and periodic themes. Ideas are easy to come by for this, and are usually based on the role it is intended to play. Try running an internal survey to take inputs. The best names usually convey a lot in one or two words, and relate to the publishing vertical or organization’s mission or carry subtle references to its industry and areas of operation.

2. The difficult terrain of obtaining regular inputs from various functions, departments and people. One company solved this by appointing a content representative at every internal division.

3. Writing and editing a newsletter also demands detailed attention – it’s all in the language and presentation that the appeal of a digital newsletter lies. If we search for samples of online newsletters, it’s easy to spot many that are stuffed to the neck with text and content.

4. On the design front, we know how shabby and drab some industry newsletters look. We also get to see spic and span, visually heavy newsletters, or those with pure utility in mind. One company changed their newsletter style from text to visual layout oriented, and began to get the layout fixed first before going to create content.

5. And finally, the fine art of promotion. Contests, reader submissions, and offline visibility are some traditional ways to promote reader interest. Innovative ways are always being found, and we now get to see screensavers, e-mailer promotions, merchandize, and special internal events.

Creating a newsletter, or an email newsletter, is thus time consuming when done well. So you must ask whether it is worth the attention and money spent. The answer to that will vary depending on the response from readers and your budgeted spend.

At regular intervals you can ask whether the content or design needs a spruce up. And whether it can be grown into a larger platform, like a magazine. One major company began with an online newsletter, and gradually evolved it into a full-fledged intranet.

Newsletters need not be boring or stuffy. Good newsletter writers and editors can bring in the needed style and tone to various aspects such as titles and subheads, captions, and clear and creative use of language.

Finally, outsourced newsletter content can miss out on your unique and in-house culture, the inside humor (when handled carefully), and references that carry special meaning to your team. So keeping an internal editor who can bring in this customization can pay good dividends in increasing readership and interest.

Ms Spitfire: Hmmm… brings peace to me. I better get the ball moving fast as there appears to be a lot to take care of.