Digital newsletters allow clubs to disseminate information with greater speed and ease than ever before, all at a minimal expense. The challenge is getting members to actually read it.
Newsletters, in print or digital form, are nearly ubiquitous at club properties. As a timely record of planned events and a source of relevant news items, they serve an important role—but just because a staff member prepares an issue doesn’t guarantee it will be read by the membership.
Private clubs seek to provide high-quality amenities to their members, and club-related literature should be no different. A monthly newsletter that consists primarily of solid blocks of text in a clunky format won’t be acceptable to members. Rather, an elegantly designed publication that is both easy on the eyes and can be accessed by members of all digital-literacy levels is imperative for high “open rates” and readership.
A Lesson in Design
When Alli Sloan came on board as the Graphic Designer at Greystone Golf & Country Club in Birmingham, Ala., last September, she saw that she had her work cut out for her. The staff member who had previously put “The Stone News” together on a bi-monthly basis did not have a background in design, while Sloan studied studio art and advertising in college.
|SUMMING IT UP
• Meet club members’ high expectations by producing a well-designed, easy-to-access digital newsletter.
• Additional e-blasts that go out weekly can supplement newsletter content while keeping members up to date on club activities.
• When designing a newsletter, avoid lengthy blocks of text and incorporate images throughout.
“[The newsletter] had that Microsoft Word feel to it,” Sloan says. “There wasn’t much of a grid to the design. It was sort of like everything was thrown on the page with some clip art and 15 different fonts.”
Sloan immediately got to work on the layout, using Adobe InDesign to first establish a grid for each page and scaling back the proliferation of fonts to achieve a cleaner, more streamlined and professional look.
“In school, I did a lot of typography and layout design, and I concluded that simple is better,” Sloan says. “A lot of times, I want to add these extra flourishes, but when I sketch it out on paper, I realize it’s too complicated. I try to keep it simple and look it over before adding a little bit of flair once it’s laid out.”
With a goal of keeping Greystone’s 850 members up to date on current events and any changes that are happening around either of the club’s two clubhouses, the newsletter has “a lot of ground to cover,” Sloan says. Departments include messages from the President and General Manager, membership news, new-member introductions, an events calendar, menus, and a directory. Sloan also uses Adobe Illustrator to promote events with full-page “ads,” which she then repurposes for e-blasts.
For content, Sloan requests writeups from staff members a month before an issue goes to press; but getting everyone to meet deadlines, she notes, is “always my biggest challenge.”
To ensure that all members have newsletter access, Greystone’s Admissions Director distributes printed copies to new members. Once their information is entered into the club’s system, they begin receiving e-blasts containing the newsletter every two months. The newsletter is also easily accessible on the club’s website. Sloan keeps the directory updated if e-mail addresses change as well, and if members opt out of the digital newsletter, they are opted out from all club e-mails.
A local company prints 250 copies of Greystone’s newsletter, which are then displayed throughout the clubhouses. It’s also published online through Flipping Book, a digital format that allows the user to flip through pages like a print magazine, and that works on all devices—“a big game-changer,” Sloan says. The newsletter is then distributed to members’ in-boxes via an extension created by the club’s website provider.
In addition to the bi-monthly e-blasts, Sloan sends out e-blasts throughout each week as needed, with flyers and reminders about events, and any new information that’s relevant to members, such as reminders about golf course closings for aeration or other housekeeping notes.
Businesses of all kinds rely on newsletters to not only share information, but stay top-of-mind with customers. These tips for effective design easily apply to club and resort newsletters as well:
But even the most elegantly designed newsletters can be overlooked by some members. “I would say about half of our members prefer digital, and half want it in print,” Sloan says. “I have heard people say, ‘Oh, y’all have a newsletter? I’ve never seen it.’ So we get the people who love it and use it, and other people who are surprised it exists.”
Work in Progress
Three years ago, when Caroline Broach joined Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, N.C., as Communications Manager, she inherited a serviceable newsletter. While she’s continued utilizing the same template for Prestonwood’s “Club House Links” throughout that time, she’s now in the process of “completely changing” the newsletter’s look.
“Currently, the newsletter is very content-based—[it has] a lot of words but is not very colorful or with many images,” Broach says, noting that while she does not have a formal background in graphic design, she has taught herself to use the necessary programs.
“I would like it to be more eye-catching, highlighting different events with more creative pieces,” she adds. “There are a couple of sections that are half- or quarter-pages, so I want to do more of that, rather than a list of what’s going on.”
Prestonwood distributes its newsletter digitally, with an average open rate of 50-60% for the monthly edition (the club’s website provider offers analytics for newsletters, which also reveal that about half of the readers see the newsletter on their phones, while the other half uses computers). Members are automatically added to the newsletter directory when they join, and have the option of unsubscribing if they prefer. The club also prints out about 250 copies to place around the clubhouse in high-traffic areas, but does not mail them.
Each Saturday, Broach sends out an events e-blast for the coming week, offering “a tighter scope” than the monthly newsletter, while also linking to the full newsletter and incorporating similar design elements (see image, above).
To put the newsletter together, Broach asks staff to submit information, writeups and documentation by the middle of the month, allowing a cushion of time if submissions are late. “I try get [staff contributors] to think outside of the box to submit a tip, and fill the space with something that’s relevant and that people want to read,” Broach adds.