• Chinese
  • Arabic
  • Somali
  • Russian
  • Iran
  • Vietnam
  • Italian
  • Spanish

Publish a community newsletter

Community newsletters can be an entertaining way to share important information about your neighbourhood. A good newsletter contains information that is useful and interesting to the reader, such as neighbourhood news, upcoming events, tips for improving their property, local promotions and much more.

Paper or web?

Community newsletters have traditionally been printed on paper. The popularity of the Internet has brought many changes. With low-cost e-newsletter design and distribution services, along with email distribution, many community newsletters are now produced and distributed electronically. Both options have positives and negatives.

A paper newsletter can be more expensive and time-consuming to produce and distribute because it requires paper supplies, printing and hand or postal delivery. The benefit of a paper newsletter, however, is that it allows you to reach all households and businesses in your community, including those with no Internet access or whose residents are not comfortable with technology.

An electronic newsletter is cheaper to produce and distribute. On the flip-side, it can only reach members of your community who have Internet access. Posting the newsletter to a website requires people to actively search for the newsletter, which may or may not happen. In order to email it, neighbours must provide you with their email addresses, which some may not want to do.

Getting started

To start your newsletter, consider the following approach:

Step 1: Choose an editor

The community newsletter editor coordinates all content and often writes many of the articles. He or she should have:

  • strong writing skills
  • an eye for detail
  • good interview skills
  • good recruiting skills to encourage community members to contribute to the newsletter

Step 2: Recruit contributors

It is a good idea to have more than one person working on the newsletter together to share the work and provide ideas. You may want other writers to join you, and neighbour who has experience with design to create and lay out your newsletter. Identify people in your community who have an interest in writing and/or photography and invite them to be regular contributors. This editorial team can provide story ideas, interview community members and develop articles or take photos.

Step 3: Determine the frequency

Once you have an editor or editorial team, you need to decide how often to publish the newsletter. It is a good idea to start with fewer issues, such as four times a year. Once you have enough content and a good publishing process, you can consider increasing the number of newsletters you publish.

Step 4: Identify content

Community newsletters can include a variety of sections, including:

  • upcoming events
  • helpful tips
  • neighbourhood association updates (from meeting minutes)
  • messages from your community police officer or City Councillor
  • Neighbourhood Watch news
  • local services (e.g. flu clinics, community programs)
  • local schools
  • classified listings

Step 5: Design your newsletter

Most people who own a home computer will have access to software, websites or programs for designing documents like newsletters. They often contain templates that you can use and personalize. All you need to do is add content.

Many e-newsletter templates are available online, for free or for a small fee. These are often simple to use. You may be limited in design template choices. There are also e-newsletter services, which allow you to create your newsletter online. You can also store and update your email lists on their system. Options include:

Step 6: Create an editorial calendar

An editorial calendar is a document that helps guide the editorial team. It provides writing and production deadlines to keep you on track with each issue.

Decide when you want to release your newsletter and, based on that, how early you need to begin working on it. Consider planning, research and writing, design time, printing, holidays, distribution, etc. Make sure everyone involved has the schedule.

Your editorial calendar should include:

  • each article or report in the upcoming issue
  • deadlines for each item
  • other requirements, such as photos and design
  • who is responsible for what
  • contact information for all contributors

Step 7: Develop content

For each issue, assign stories or photo shoots to members of your editorial team. Ask other community members to contribute articles as well. If community submissions make up a big part of your newsletter, you may want to establish guidelines on editorial content, such length of articles, acceptable subject matter (e.g. must related to the community in question), and the editorial team’s right to edit material.

You can ask community members for input in many ways:

  • ask them contribute ideas or stories
  • approach them at neighbourhood meetings for story ideas
  • solicit input on your community website
  • gather material in conversations with neighbours and local businesses

Make sure that community members’ names are printed with their articles in the newsletter.

Consider ways to get young people involved. Include a column written by a young person that offers a youth perspective on local issues. If you accept advertising, ask young neighbours to distribute flyers with advertising rates to businesses serving your community.