The Newsletter is the workhouse of email formats among our clients. Most have at least one, some have a few, and quite a few have an entire portfolio of them. But saying that it’s the most popular format would be like saying meat is the most popular type of food. Chicken nuggets are a world apart from pork tenderloin in a bourbon maple glaze, yet both are technically meats. (Well, the tenderloin is anyway. Jury is still out on the nuggets.) Similarly, “Newsletter” encompasses just as vast a range of communications.

Many act as a sort of communications catchall; whatever the sending company wants its customers or members to know about them goes into the newsletter. These can be effective among highly engaged subscribers, who read the newsletter for a deeper dive into the goings on at the company, or to make sure they don’t miss a deadline or other opportunity. In fact, if your organization uses a newsletter that is principally first-person focused, designed to talk about your company and its news, and your open rates and click-throughs remain strong over the months and years, then congratulations – you have right there some evidence of a highly engaged audience.

There is also an opportunity for newsletters to create, instead of just validate, engagement. The shorthand explanation for how these work is to simply flip the focus of the newsletter from the sender to the recipient. But in order for that tactic to be successful, a few other elements need to be in place, so that’s what I’ll focus on today.

Objective: With a newsletter designed to position yours as a voice of authority, your objective is to educate, inform and generally be of use. To be an authority, you need to demonstrate you know something your audience has not learned yet, and then share it – consistently and reliably.

Content Strategy: The focus of your content s is not what your company or organization is doing, but what news  in the industry your constituency of subscribers should know about. Think industry trends instead of corporate announcements, and best practices and how-to over profiling your own customers or members in case studies. The finished product should almost read as if it could have come from any of your industry’s leading authorities – which is precisely the point. You want your organization to be considered among the media companies or analysts or other publications that sit at the center of your industry, surveying it all. To get there, the content strategy must be similar to what these organizations would adopt for the same authoritative objective.

Uniqueness: Note that I said “similar” above, and not “the same.” It’s not enough to just pull feeds from other news sources that cover the industry, or otherwise repurpose what is already available. Some unique content is also necessary. Remember, you are not just trying to aggregate eyeballs like an industry digest that sells ads. They aim to be a resource through convenience, saving their subscribers the trouble of finding all the news themselves. You wan to go a little further than that, and demonstrate your editorial expertise. To do this, you will either need to create some content of your own, or source content from places that are outside of the mainstream, but still highly relevant and useful to your audience.

Distribution: Here is where the advantage of the authoritative newsletter really shines. Distribution is less about who you should send it to, and more about how the content strategy of the newsletter can pull in new subscribers and drive more engagement. Social Magnet in particular can be a powerful tool. Many business users rely on social media to keep in touch with industry trends, so Facebook status updates and tweets that telegraph some of the specific content within your newsletter, driving people to a sign-up link or web version of the newsletter as a sample, can be a highly effective strategy for growing distribution.

There is room in most organizations’ portfolios for both types of newsletters, the one about the sending company, and the one organized around the needs and interest of subscribers. They serve different purposes and even if they do not reach entirely different audiences, they certainly engage different people. If your organization’s objectives include growing your audience, building industry leadership, and creating deeper engagement with your existing subscribers, an authoritative newsletter should be high on your to-do list.