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Conducting a readership survey, Part 3

Top 3 "don't do" points for a survey:

1. Don't ask your readers what they "like" about your stories, design, or art.

2. Don't ask your readers what they want to see in your newsletter. Really.

3. Don't ask people to think about something they know nothing about.

Always ask your readers questions about YOUR goals for your newsletter and never ask them to tell you what stories you should run or what features you should have in the newsletter. Your readers know nothing about the company's goals for the newsletter. With rare exceptions, they can't possibly make any suggestions of value.

If you do ask what they want, you will get answers that won't be especially helpful such as: recipes, births, want ads. But none of these work! Recipes are not company news; management might not like to run births; want ads are outdated too quickly. In addition, these answers do not reflect what readers want. Instead they are just reflections of what readers see in newspapers.

You can also get answers from people who don't understand the local nature of a company newsletter. Some people might suggest you write about the newest products from Microsoft or the latest printers from HP. Those are two good suggestions IF you are Microsoft and HP. Otherwise, those stories should be left to media magazines like PCWorld.

In short, your readers have no earthly idea what you should write about. They have never given it any thought. Don't ask them.

Instead, ask your readers questions that relate to your goals for the newsletter. If one of your goals is to get people to know each other better (maybe to facilitate inter department cooperation), then ask questions about how effectively the newsletter covers that department. Try to find out whether you have told their story in that department and whether there is anything new that you should be writing about.

People have no earthly idea about what you should run in your newsletter. They've never given it any thought.

If you want new ideas for your newsletter, make a list of communication problems in your company, then think of how your newsletter can help. Or go back to your statement of purpose and ask yourself what you can write about to accomplish these goals.

Remember to include telling the history of your company.


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