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Conducting a readership survey, Part 2

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.

Ask yourself what YOU want your readers to come away with from your newsletter. Don't ask what your readers want, as a general rule.

Does that sound wrong? It IS wrong for advertising-supported publications such as magazines. These magazines must try to create stories that readers want to read and cause them to buy the magazine. But, by the way, asking readers what they want to see is usually useless.

But this advice is NOT wrong for company newsletters with an employee audience. These readers don't purchase the newsletter. Since the company newsletter is free, does not accept advertising, and is published by management, the content of your newsletter is what MANAGEMENT wants, not what the readers want. Your readers might want belly dancers but will you run the pictures? Er, no. And you won't do that because management doesn't want it.

If you really want to know what someone wants, ask management and yourself what the newsletter's mission is and then look for ways to support that mission. Try to help management find out what communication problems exist and maybe you can help solve them. Your readers do not know any of that.

But okay, you say, but I want to know what they enjoy! Okay, if you want to know what entertains your readers, don't ask "Do you think the newsletter is entertaining" (As opposed to, what? A weekend in Tahiti?). Instead, ask about how they USE the newsletter:

Do you work the puzzles? (If they do, then they must be entertained)

Do you usually take the newsletter home?

Does your spouse read the newsletter?
(A question that tells you about circulation as well as interest. You might find out you have an audience you didn't know about.)

Have you ever seen the picture of someone you know in the newsletter? (If they have, they were entertained.)

Has your picture been in the newsletter? (Nothing more entertaining than that.)

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