How I Write This Newsletter

(Listen to this post, here.)

My wife and I were in Atlanta last week visiting our son Evan who moved there from Memphis a few months ago.

Wow. What a great city. And it didn’t hurt that the weather was beautiful, bringing people outside for all kinds of eating, drinking, walking, pedaling, and scootering activities.

I knew when we headed down there that I’d uncover some story fodder worthy of inclusion in this newsletter.

But, rather than just writing it as I usually do, I’d like to walk you through the process I generally use and that I encourage you to borrow.

Step #1: Find Something Interesting

I came home with three possibilities:

#1. It’s a very dog-friendly city. There were dogs everywhere – restaurants, bars, on the bike paths. I’m pretty sure one of our waiters was even a dog, but it was hard to be certain with his mask on.

#2. The airline was overbooked. So they offered money in exchange for giving up our seats. In what amounted to a public auction, they started at $400 and a hotel room for anyone who would delay until the next morning. The final seat giver-upper walked away with $800 (it wasn’t me).

#3. We saw the Crash Test Dummies perform. The band had a bunch of hits in the 90s. We saw them in a little dinner club and they were great.

Note that while it’s easy to find interesting things when travelling since everything is new, that’s not at all necessary.

You can write about overdue library books, visiting an ailing parent, or getting stuck shoveling your driveway when the plow guy fails to show up.

All you need is something of interest that gives you an opening for a conversation. It doesn’t need to be Bigfoot-sighting-level noteworthiness.

Think about the things that you mention in passing to friends when you’re having a beer or eating lunch together. Over the past week, I’ve shared all three of my Atlanta observations with friends and clients.

Step #2. Make a Connection

Of course, your newsletter readers don’t really care about your dog, airplane, or aging rocker experiences.

So, your job is to find the connection between the random story and a useful business lesson or insight within your area of expertise.

For example…

I could have written about how the extreme dog-friendliness of Atlanta reflects the city’s personality AND … that your newsletter also needs a personality.

I could have written about the airline’s very public, step-by-step increase in the price offered for a seat AND … how this is not at all how pricing works when selling a professional service.

I could have written about how the Crash Test Dummies, while unknown to the next generation, are stars among a certain demographic AND… how this demonstrates the importance of speaking to a particular audience when writing a newsletter.

You get the picture. You tell the story and connect some element of that to …

Step #3. Share the Insight

Once you’ve connected the story, you’re off and running. The rest of the newsletter is elaborating on the “business lesson”:

How to add personality to your newsletter.
Things to consider when pricing a professional service.
Why audience matters and how to pinpoint yours.

Two Things Worth Noting

Thing #1. Most B2B newsletters skip the first two steps. They just start right in on explaining some business concept.

That’s fine. But it’s a lot less interesting and, even more important, a lot less unusual.

Any marketing consultant can write about personality, pricing, and audience. Not nearly as well as I can, of course, but more or less.

However, I’m the only person on Earth who can tell firsthand stories of what I did in Atlanta last weekend.

Your expertise is not unique. Your life is.

Thing #2.  When you make stories part of your content, you’ll never run out of things to say.

I’ve written more than 500 of these newsletters. I’ve only got about 30 ideas.

But, because I keep using different experiences and observations as the opening to the concepts, it’s always fresh.

You’ll eventually run out of business insights. You’ll never run out of stories.

Here’s the bottom line.

Humans are hardwired to pay attention to stories.

When you use them in your newsletter – and presentations, and marketing, and podcasts, and, and…  – you’ll find it easier to write, easier to be remembered, and easier to keep people interested in whatever it is you have to say.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever seen the Crash Test Dummies?
  2. How about Bigfoot (extra credit if it was at the same time)?
  3. Did you know that Atlanta spelled backwards is almost the same? Discuss.

Share your answers below…

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30 thoughts on “How I Write This Newsletter

  1. Jessica

    1. Never heard of them
    2. Nope never met Bigfoot; would love to though. We’d be front page news.
    3. Bit farfetched Michael? Atlanta…Not even remotely close….LOL

    Love your questions even though I don’t always answer them. Great engagement tool. Copying you, you know…. Now that’s flattery, huh?!

  2. jessica

    autocorrect changed Atnalta to Atlanta… annoying. When I have to write in another language there is always autocorrect to deal with…

  3. Nick Fielden

    I liked your article, Michael. You have a talant for this sort of thing. (Did you spot the Atlanta anagram?).
    I have a talent or two, but sadly spelling isn’t among them.

  4. Michelle Morris

    Great newsletter as always Michael!

    1. No, but I loved the band back in the day. Thanks for that trip down memory lane. “God shuffled his Feet” is my fave song of theirs.

    2. I thought I did once in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan but it was actually a bear.

    3. Hmmm, I don’t think ‘almost a palindrome’ is a thing….

    My planner network conference was in Atlanta last fall – my first time there. Really enjoyed it. The Aquarium was the best one I’ve ever been to. Check it out some time if you haven’t already!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Yes, another great song of theirs. They played all the hits which was nice. And a terrific warmup act – Mo Kenney from (I think) Halifax.

    2. Patrick

      Hi Michelle. I grew up in Atlanta and although I live near Huntsville, Alabama, I still have great fondness and loyalty for all things Hot ‘Lanta. Having said that, while the Atlanta Aquarium is indeed outstanding, in my opinion the Chattanooga Aquarium is much better. If you haven’t visited Chattanooga you’re missing out on a great trip and, while there, be sure to visit its aquarium. All the best!

  5. Daryl Gerke

    1. No, but I’m a bit older. Peter Paul & Mary were more my vintage.

    2. No, but I thought I heard Bigfoot crashing in the woods once when camping. Or maybe it was a bear or mountain lion — but who knows for sure?

    3. No, but I do know that “A Man A Plan A Canal Panama” is the same in both directions. Thank you Teddy Roosevelt.

    As always, enjoyed your insights. Also for anyone reading, I enjoyed your class on newsletters and found it highly useful. Appreciate your sharing your wisdom!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Thanks Daryl! And a thousand points to you for the terrific palindrome. (Although it’s always bothered me that palindrome isn’t itself a palindrome.)

  6. Heather

    1. I’ve not seen Crash Test Dummies in person, but I vaguely remember them. We must be in the same age bracket. Don’t you love when people ask what year you graduated high school rather than how old you are? Seems to be less ill-mannered, but we can all do the math.

    2. I’ve never seen Bigfoot in person, but my husband loves to watch youtube videos of Bigfoot sightings. So I have kinda sorta seen him (or her).

    3. Close, but no cigar, as my seventh-grade science teacher always said when he called on me to answer a question. I would love to visit Atlanta though!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      For some reason, when our kids were little (the 90s) we had one of their CDs and played it all the time, so we jumped at the chance to see them live.

  7. Meg

    1. I’ve never seen Crash Test Dummies, but I have their CD and I LOOOOVED it. It’s been a while since I’ve listened, though, and this just may be the inspiration I need!
    2. Also never seen Bigfoot, but I don’t spend much time outside.
    3. As my dad always said, “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” 🙂

  8. Izzy Gesell

    I actually saw the original Crash Test Dummies ( the ones who give up their parts in crashes).
    No to Bigfoot. Yes to Loch Ness monster.

    I love your systemic approach to creativity. Always Practical and Do-able.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I need to hear the Loch Ness monster story next time we cross paths! Maybe this year, finally?!

  9. Rand

    1. I met the Crash Dummies in Detroit back in 82. I didn’t like them after the middle one said something about us having the same Aunt or something.

    2. Bigfoot? Nope! We had the Rifle River Strangler in our area.

    3. Every time I go through Atlanta… I always end up going around Atlanta, sometimes around again.

    Thank you Michael I like the way you present things.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      #2. A scary bad guy name for sure. I assume that sometimes serial killers are unhappy with the nickname they’ve been assigned? I suppose there’s no asking for a change without revealing one’s identity.

  10. Hayley

    Actually one thing you do differently that is most impressive is respond to all the comments, even from people in far away places who are unlikely to become clients. It’s that personal touch.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I have to confess, Hayley, that I considered ignoring yours just for the joke, but that seemed ike a bad idea. But thanks for commenting and noticing!

  11. Nikki Myers

    Crazy busy at work so I had to flag this one for reading later. I’m going to bookmark it. Wonderful!!

    Thank you. A step by step like this helps when blocked, when pressured, or when distracted by dog videos.

    Did you know that MIke spelled backwards is Ekim? And Ekim Storyslinger would make a great D&D name.

  12. Diane Spadola

    513 newsletters, congratulations! But only 30 ideas? Don’t sell yourself short, I have counted your ideas, and there are at least 37 (by the way, that is the same as my age…that I IDENTIFY as)!

    One of the masters in the face painting industry used to say that all thousands of designs were “nothing but a variation of the 7 original faces. ” I always thought he was smoking something.

    Atlanta is a great city, used to go there frequently with Merck and to visit a friend who lives in Stone Mountain. I have never seen BigFoot, or the Crash Test Dummies, but I have seen confederate generals riding horses, lit up in laser lights on the side of a mountain. That was in the 80’s and I hadn’t been smoking.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I appreciate your confidence in my idea generation, Diane! Happy 37th birthday to you too (again?)!

  13. Uros

    Tallest glass elevator was the thing when I visited Atlanta in ’95. CTD were huuge back then with mmmmhmmhmm back then.
    I was a 17 year old kid and ever since I havent had a chance to travel to US again – which I don’t regret that much, sightseeing has never been my thing, plus I’m a car person (from Serbia, in Europe).
    But if I come to US one day it would be an honor to stop and give you a high 5 as you are one of the true US landmarks (bigger than Bigfoot and CTD together!) – thanks for sharing all the good things, man, your newletter is the best.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I look forward to the high five next time you visit, Uros!! (We had plans to visit Croatia until the pandemic hit, so if that happens in the future maybe I’ll jump over the border to see you at home!)

  14. Bill Honnold

    Never heard of The Crash Test Dummies. But I think that I was used as one.

    Thanks for the great tips, Michael.

  15. Julia Mulcahy

    1) No.
    2) No.
    3) And, oh no!

    Still, even though the questions didn’t work for me, this time, I loved how you’ve written more than 500 of these newsletters with only 30 ideas. Great lesson on storytelling. Can’t wait to read the next one.


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