A bear in the kitchen and your local newsletter

Most summers, the Haliburton Echo carries a story that goes something like this:

A local homeowner wakes to the sound of crashing and rustling. On going to investigate, she discovers a large black bear – its head buried in a box of cornflakes.

So with great derring-do, the homeowner shoos the bear out of her home – usually through a closed screen door.

Next to the report you will find a picture of the shocked-but-brave homeowner, and – if you’re lucky – the rear end of the departing bear.

It’s a fun story, isn’t it? A mix of horror and humor.

And what’s more – it happened to someone who lives right round the corner.

This is why I love the Haliburton Echo – it’s a local paper for local people.

Under the guidance of Martha Perkins, who left for pastures new this week after 24 years as editor, the paper has been routinely packed with local stories featuring local people. There’s reports on high school soccer matches, news of the curling league, profiles of local celebrities, and pictures, pictures, pictures of neighbors you know.

Although I’m not privy to the newspaper’s finances, I can tell you it’s packed with ads for local merchants. And that’s in a country with a year-round population of 16,000 (it swells in the summer with seasonal residents) that also supports two other weekly newspapers and two radio stations.

Nice contrast to the falling fortunes of the Echo’s bigger metropolitan cousins.

So how does this apply to newsletters?

Simple: make your newsletter model the Haliburton Echo. Make it local and make it relevant.

Include local events, tales of neighborhood happenings, letters to the editor.

Hang on a minute, I hear you say. Don’t you make a one-size-fits-all newsletter? Same newsletter goes from Vancouver to St. John’s, or San Diego to Boston?

Yes, but here’s the thing. I encourage my members to customize that newsletter, if only a little.

Taking the time to make the newsletter local and personal will make the difference between an anonymous marketing communication and a real relationship-builder. (And it’s what makes my newsletters different from the others out there.)

It’s that local flavor will make people want to receive – and read – your newsletter. And it’s that local knowledge that will make you the #1 vendor in your town.