How to start an IT training newsletter

If you need to get the word out about your training programs, consider a newsletter. IT trainer Shannon Stein explains how she developed her brand-new publication to increase class enrollment and spread the training word.

By Shannon Stein

I have seen the benefits of a monthly training publication firsthand as a member of the new training department at the corporate offices of Roadway Express in Akron, OH. Over the last few months, our department created and produced a training newsletter to promote our classes and other training activities.

The idea for a newsletter came from a brainstorming session designed to produce new marketing ideas for our training events. We decided to use a newsletter to inform Roadway employees about the new and exciting things happening in the training department. In April, we published the first issue of TrainingNews.

I work in the Roadway building but I work for Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. (ACS), a worldwide information technology outsourcing company that offers technology and business solutions. Roadway Express contracted with ACS in April of 1999 to provide technical support as well as training help. The initial training program grew so fast that it quickly became apparent that a second trainer was needed to keep up with the demand. In February of 2000, I joined ACS to enhance and increase the training programs at Roadway.
We asked the three winners of our training newsletter contest to describe how they developed their publications and how the newsletters benefited their training programs. The first place winner, Linda Stephens, editor of the S.U.N. newsletter, explained how lunch can be a good time for training . Here Shannon Stein tells how she developed the new Roadway newsletter and finally, Beth Blakely of TechRepublic will talk to Marge Petkovsek, who created the online training newsletter, Tricks for the Trade. Click here to read the article about the three winning newsletters.
What information to include
For the readers’ sake, we decided that the newsletter would be only one page front and back. At first, the goal was to fit as much information as possible onto two pages. This, of course, was a task in itself.

Due to the need to get the information out quickly without spending too much time in production, we decided to use the existing template in Microsoft Word newsletter template for the inaugural issue. The template was used as a starting point to get more ideas flowing. As the newsletter grows, we will continue to modify the template.

Roadway Express Training News

The newsletter has four basic sections:
  1. Class schedule
  2. Tips and tricks
  3. A list of the top computer-based training learners
  4. A feature article

Throughout each month, the other trainer and I think of all the new events, ideas, classes, brown bag lunch sessions, and other assorted tips and tricks that should appear in the next newsletter.

How to distribute it
Training News is distributed in several formats. We e-mail it to our PC liaisons, a group of individuals that employees can go to when they have IT questions or problems. These PC liaisons can print out the newsletter and post it, or forward it to the individuals in their group. Training News is also posted on our training intranet site, where the employees have learned to go each month to see new class announcements and all other training information. In the classroom, the newsletter sits beside the sign-in sheet and the handouts that employees are to take. One of the newest ways of marketing our newsletter is placing it on all of the tables in the Roadway cafeteria. That way, when employees sit down to enjoy their lunch, they can enjoy the Training News as well.

Feedback and results
One of the great things about Training News is the response of the audience. The fact that we make it so available and easy to access creates not only excitement, but also anticipation of the next issue.

In one class, an employee saw the newsletter sitting next to her handouts and said, “Oh, is this the newest newsletter?” I said, “No, it will be out next week.” The thing that impressed me most is that she was still excited about the older issue because it outlined all of the class listings and helpful tips. Training News was almost a month old and it was still current!

An explicit goal we have each month is for the enrollment in our classes to soar. Within the first few hours or days each time the newsletter is distributed, enrollment increases by at least 25 percent of normal class size. With the inaugural issue there was a 100 percent increase in class enrollment. These numbers far exceeded our expectations.

Needless to say, the results of Training News have been overwhelming. We have gone from our original goal of increasing training class enrollment and employee excitement to winning second prize in the TechRepublic training newsletter contest.

Keep it simple
Starting a newsletter can be as easy or as hard as you make it. The ACS Training Department started out with a small and simple newsletter. We knew that we did not have an abundance of time to contribute to the creation of Training News. However, we knew the time invested would be well spent. Each month we think of new and different ideas to add to our newsletter. I would not be surprised if, within the next year, it became a four-page publication.

If you are starting a newsletter, remember the acronym KISS: Keep it short and simple. Also, remember that your audience does not have a lot of time to read unnecessary information and a newsletter author must grab their attention. Finally, find attractive and original ways to distribute your newsletter. Hopefully, with that said, I have shared some of the secrets to the ACS Training Department’s success.

Shannon Stein joined the ACS Training Department in February of 2000 as a full-time trainer. She teaches Microsoft Office and other desktop classes, schedules classes, and edits the monthly newsletter.

If you want to know how a newsletter can help your training department, click here. If you need a template for a newsletter, click here. To send us your newsletter ideas, drop us a note.

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