Electronic communications with stakeholders have been enthusiastically embraced by organisations. Not only are online communications such as e-newsletters easier to produce, but the financial savings – with no printing, handling or postage costs – can be dramatic.
In addition, organisations can add to their environmental credentials by pointing out that they are reducing paper use (although I suspect it is the financial aspects that are the overwhelming motivation in most cases).
But do e-newsletters have the same impact, acceptance and readability as their printed counterparts?
A recent reader survey by one of our clients about a printed newsletter we produce for them suggests not.
57% of respondents said they preferred a print version, more than twice those (27%) who said they would like an electronic alternative instead. (8% said they would like both and another 8% said they didn’t have a preference one way or the other.)
Other statistics from the survey showed that hard copy newsletters can add real value to client relationships, with over 90% of respondents seeing the newsletter as an important service and 72% rating it as an excellent information source.
Respondents to this survey indicated many other benefits to a regular printed newsletter, such as passing it on to others, leaving it as reading material in meeting rooms, using it in internal discussions, and keeping it handy to prompt action.
These results may not hold true for every organisation – for example those reaching out to a younger demographic.
Likewise, some communications – for example, “heads up” advisories, urgent updates where an executive wants to be sure everyone gets a message simultaneously, and in many other instances – are better using e-communications.
Organisations replacing printed communications with electronic versions also need to take care they maintain standards – simply sending PDF pages as an email may not cut through.
And for professional groups like our client, reaching out to small business owners and senior management where the information being provided may require further thought or action, the evidence is that hard copy still appears to have a place and is more likely to be read.
Of course the additional production and distribution costs with printed communications can be significant, but the benefits can include getting the corporate story across more effectively as well as being a tangible added value to a relationship.