We called for entries, and we got a great field of contenders. We called for votes, and we got lots of those, too. But in the end, it all came down to numbers, and the figures were on the S.U.N.’s side.
The “Skills U Need (S.U.N.)” newsletter won out over the “Roadway Express Training News” and the “Tricks for the Trade” online newsletter. TechRepublic members liked S.U.N. best because the design was eye-catching, and the content was concise and well-organized.
I talked to the editors of each publication to get an idea of how the newsletters were produced and what effects they had on training programs.
First place: S.U.N.: Skills U Need
Linda Stephens started the “S.U.N.” newsletter about a year ago in conjunction with a “lunch and learn” program that offers advanced training sessions over the lunch hour. She said that the lead article for the newsletter comes from the lunch session.
“This is usually a 45-minute demo and seminar, “ she said. “There’s no way we could go over all the details of a program during the normal training sessions, so we started this program to get some of the more detailed information out.”
Stephens said that employees look forward to getting the four-page newsletter.
“We’re a small company, about 400 people, and there’s about 200 people who get it,” she said. “There is a core of power users who really like the newsletter and who come to the lunches.”
Stephens said she can produce the newsletter in a day because she’s already done a lot of the planning and writing for the lunch meeting.
S.U.N. is not yet available in electronic format, Stephens said, although she is working on that.
TechRepublic members liked both the content and the design of the S.U.N. newsletter:
- “This newsletter is very attractive and has a clever name. The layout is very easy to follow. They were all good, but this one gets my vote.” —Debra B.
- “Easy to read, both in content and graphics. No ‘eye charts.’” —Pat R.
- “This one gets my vote—short, sweet, and to the point with a focus!” —EKing
- “Gets my vote for appearance, content, and voice of the reader. Great job.” —Mitch K.
- “I liked this one since it caught my eye immediately. I like the left-hand column blocks of information also.” —Kevin W.
Second place: Roadway Express Training News
The “Roadway Express Training News” newsletter is brand new, with the first issue appearing in April 2000. It is a one-page newsletter, front and back. Shannon Stein, the woman who produces the newsletter, said the goal of the newsletter is to give Roadway employees important information about training and keep their attention at the same time.
Stein said that the newsletter has increased awareness of the training opportunities that Roadway provides its employees, such as free classroom training, a laptop loan program, and computer-based training. The newsletter also has created a significant increase in the amount of hits to the company’s intranet Web page where there is an online class enrollment system.
“We post it on the training Web page for online viewing and printing,” Stein said. “It is also e-mailed out to PC Liaisons (a PC go-to person, for a select group, who points employees in the correct direction when they have PC questions) who then either posts or prints out the newsletter for their group to see. We want to make sure that as many employees as possible see the newsletter.”
Voters liked the design of the Roadway newsletter.
- “This is a nice, clean, understandable newsletter that focuses on meaningful information; very professional looking.” —John H.
- “I preferred the Roadway doc over the others because of its simplicity and its straightforward approach to informing the reader.” —Lori D.
Third place: Tricks for the Trade
“Tricks for the Trade” was one of several online entries, but the only one to make the final cut. This "newsletter" was started about two years ago. Editor Marge Petkovsek does all the production and tries to update the page once a month.
“When I'm in the office, I try to get several months worth of information done in one marathon session,” she said. “Then, I have them finished and ready to publish when the fifteenth of the month rolls around.”
She keeps a notebook of questions that users ask, as well as topics that could be addressed in the next newsletter.
“I also have access to our tech support call reports and get a pretty good idea of what users are asking questions about,” she said. “This way, when it's time to get the job done, it's easy to whip up some documentation.”
Petkovsek said the newsletter helped her company’s support staff because they can direct users to this Internet page.
“The users then have the information directly in front of them, and it helps to eliminate those long, tedious phone calls where they have to go through the steps along with the customer,” she said. “The other positive aspect is when changes or upgrades occur in the software (we release a new version quarterly), documentation has a tendency to get buried somewhere in the manual. This brings that information right out in front of the users so they know what's happening as it occurs and can be prepared for it.
“We consistently get positive feedback from users regarding the amount and content of our training support material—all located on the Web. On occasion, if I don't have the “Tricks” updated in a timely manner, customers will call and let me know they're looking for it!”
- I like the simple cover stories and the links for more info if I need it.” —Howard I.
- “I vote for ‘Tricks for the Trade’ for design and content. However, just because a Web site can offer hyperlinks, it is virtually unlimited as to the amount of information it offers, a big content plus. A printed, hardcopy newsletter can't compete, no matter how well-designed.” —Dianecl1
The last word
Thanks to everyone who took time to enter and to everyone who took time to vote. This contest was a great example of the strength of the TechRepublic IT community.
How have you used a newsletter to widen the reach of your training department? Do your colleagues keep old issues on their bulletin boards, or is your newsletter Web page stored in their list of favorites? Send us an e-mail with your newsletter success stories.