Does your electronic newsletter read like the bulletin board at the laundromat? Do titles and dates of events fill up the space, but a passerby would have summon the courage to make a cold call to you to get more information?

Posting event announcements with the basic “who, what, where, when, and why”– for either for-profit or not-for-profit businesses — is not enough!  Customers (or “participants” or “members”) don’t automatically make the connection between a fact that something is happening and that you would like them to attend.  The implied invitation to “join in” is simply not heard or seen by a lot of people.

When I grew up in Los Angeles, one incessant TV advertiser was Cal Worthington Ford.  Their commercials featured a sung earworm chant, “Go see Cal! Go see Cal! Go see Cal!”  The repetition might have been been tiresome to hear, but it was great marketing.  Not only were you told about the week’s special deals in the commercial, there was a clear, unambiguous call to action: Go see Cal!

Your newsletters should be as clear as Cal’s advertisements.   When you write about your organization’s activities, tell the reader exactly what you want them to do and how to do it. Buy, participate, donate by clicking, register, or just show up.  Bring a form, fulfill a prerequisite, or be a newbie off the street.  Say who’s welcome and where they should go.

When I edit my church’s weekly newsletter, I spend a fair amount of time translating laundromat bulletins into invitations to join in.  Notices about  classes, ceremonies, and concerts contain information about exciting happenings, but unless you’re one of the organizers or have attended similar events in the past, it’s not always obvious that visitors or new people are welcome.

“Why would we tell people about the [name the event], if we didn’t want people to show up?” I get asked.  It’s a good question, but a simple statement of what you want people to reduces the emotional risk for newcomers.

You know that the artist reception is a way to get publicity for the unknown photographer exhibiting. But, I may think I need to be a critic or an established art buyer to be welcome to the gallery show.

You know that the monthly hikes around San Francisco are purely social affairs where no business is conducted.  But, I may think that I have to already be a member of the sponsoring committee to be accepted on the trails.

You know that the choir is always searching for talented singers.  But, I may think that I have to already know a specific repertoire before showing up for the auditions.

The solution is simple.  Write your newsletters like you are talking to a friend.  When you tell a friend, “I am going to see the 11 am Saturday matinee at the iMax” you add, “Would you like to come with me? I’ll pick you up at your house at 10:15.”

Add the same invitation to your newsletter.