[Note: Just to update anyone who would have noticed, I’m sorry the blog has been less often and less, um, chunky of late. Things at home are understandably chaotic, my mother’s first round of Gemzar was an absolute epic fail, as the kids would say, and the insurance company has rejected her doctor’s prescription for the GTX chemo cocktail that they are basically regarding as a Hail Mary pass. I swear I’ll get back to a bi-weekly Jerk Ethic as soon as I can, as writing is the only thing that has ever kept me feeling even half-way sane and happy. Thanks for sticking by me, and thank you for the emails, support, donations, and silent smiles. I would hug you all if I could. But I can’t see you. Which I suppose is kind of creepy.]
When thinking about a method to reach out to old, but dearly loved clients, it’s hard to achieve the appropriate tone. Dropping a random email can seem a little needy, as though you’re looking for a hand-out. Trying to rely on word-of-mouth is risky. Besides, who’s to say that your most recent project that got the dogs to eat the dog food would impress the catnip salesman that funded last winter’s rent? I thought about kitschy methods of getting attention, either through Tumblr, Twitter, or even postcard mailings. But it was as a mulled this over with an open Inbox and a cup of rooibos tea, it dawned on me what I was looking at. A newsletter. Specifically one for Girlie Girl Army, their weekly update, a vegan-fashionista list of things that are current, cool, and cruelty-free. Of course. Ministry of Imagery needs a newsletter.
A weekly one would probably be too much to ask for. After all, between shuttling my mom to and from chemo treatments, catering to our client roster, maintaining some semblance of daily life and hygeine, and working on our own personal projects, there really isn’t much time to add yet another prioritized piece of penmanship. But newsletters are an effective means of knocking dust off old clients, and reaching out to potentially interested parties. But how would a company as destitute, deranged, and darn near desperate as ourselves craft an update that’s creative, catchy, and still business savvy?
Girlie Girl Army has a wonderful format of brief, punchy, hyperlink-filled headlines, all written in the same sexy, witty, animal-friendly vegan voice. The Rumpus has started providing punchy news pieces, delivered fresh to my Inbox every morning, with all the quirky culture my cereberal self can stomach. Vegan Outreach has a fast-fact-dishing newsletter that resembles an actual news page, with headlines, articles, and uniformly tasteful photos. These emails can either serve to inform followers, or to keep a site relevant. In our case, we’d be using the newsletter not only to remind past clients of our expertise, but to showcase our creative skills, hopefully in a way that’s funny enough and stylish enough to be forwarded to other companies and potential clients looking for wordsmiths to up their text ante.
The precursor to newspapers were pamphlets, printed in Germany during the 1400’s, they were basically the very first version of Perez Hilton, only in pulp form. The content was scandalous, the format brief, and several of the articles revolved around Dracula. No joke. The English equivalent of these little smutty buggers were corantos, equally slight pamphlets that were only produced when something noteworthy happened. Like…gas lighting…or…perfume. The first successful publicized version of a coranto was The Weekly Newes, put out in 1622.
In 1704, the first U.S. newsletter was started by a postman named John Campbell, who was a big fan of the Brits. He began heating the presses in order to rehash what was being blathered about in London journals regarding English politics and Europeans. Among the other things that The Boston News-Letter chronicled were ship arrivals, fires, deaths, sermons, political appointments, and accidents, not all of them happy. This was basically the way things went on for years, with the addition of the Sports section, Classifieds, comics (“AACK!”), and those kind of hilarious personal ads shoved in. That’s newspaper, in a nutshell. In the 80s, the increase in technology that the personal computer afforded allowed basic, boring citizens to publish pretty much whatever the hell they wanted, all from the privacy of their own dot matrix printer. Zines, fliers, postcards, and other methods of getting personal word out have been effective, but nothing has remained as up-and-up professionally for the self-employed maven quite like the e-newsletter.
The definition of a newsletter is “a small publication, such as a leaflet or newspaper, containing news of interest chiefly to a special group.” With the upsurge of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, blogs, forums, and the clusterfuck of other Internet outlets, it’s easy for this to be redefined as “email, not expected, from a business, about stuff.” They can be formatted in a eye-tasing manner, can lay into the HTML, be littered with links, and can even charge a fee.
Some rules that I’ve found while trying to be inspired include these common-sense tips for not completely alienating your base:
1. Don’t be that douchey guy wearing Ray-Bans in the bar. Don’t brag. Your old clients don’t want to hear that you’re the hottest thing since Zima. They want your voice, they want to hear if anything new has happened with the company, and certainly they’d love to hear about your success, but don’t act like Mr. Big Shot. Just tell ’em the facts, and give ’em flair. Hopefully they’ll realize they have a project coming up, and they could certainly use your services to give the work some words.
2. The “what have you done for me lately?” rule applies here. Special offers, promos, and anything that’s good for a limited time have a nice little place to nestle in newsletters. Unfortunately for us, we don’t have much to give away. Perhaps a blog post on Jerk Ethic all about your company and the amazing person you are would be tantalizing enough, but I doubt it. We all know that free burritos work better.
3. Don’t fuck with formatting. But I don’t know if we’d put out so many newsletters that any of our clients would notice. There are enough flaming hoops to jump through in order to bypass spam filters alone. Ministry of Imagery has a simple look and a complex voice. Chances are, that wouldn’t change, even if we asked it to nicely.
As we stumble on our path towards reminding our clients that we exist — WE EXIST! — there’s got to be some creative stroke of genius that we’ll be hit with. There’s gotta be some way that we can get our voice out there, and remind people that we need jobs in order to feed ourselves something more than dust and dog-eared copies of Hit Parader magazine. Fake news? Free watches? Discount pills? A method of using a larger penis? I’m sure we’ll come up with something that will make this e-newsletter shine.
Drop me a line, may it be to subscribe to the as-of-yet nonexistent newsletter, or just to say hi: AinsleyDrew at the gmail one. And thank you to everyone who donates. It means a lot.
Become one of those clients that I was talking about! Hire us to write for you.