This week I’m working with several clients to improve their internal publications. And it’s no surprise that most communicators want to begin an improvement effort by benchmarking other companies’ newsletters.

That’s certainly not a bad idea, but looking at “best practices” only takes you so far. To expand your thinking—and break out of the box—seek inspiration from more unconventional sources. Here are 7 places to start:

1. ESPN.com
There sure are a lot of sports on ESPN, but finding the game you want is easy. The site is organized by topic. Browse the main story or jump to the score you seek. Great inspiration for: organizing content. 

2. How-to videos
Employee newsletters should provide employees with information they can’t find anywhere else and help them get things done. How-to videos (how to cut a mango, fix your bike tire or learn how to knit) teach even complex tasks. Great inspiration for: making complicated topics simple.

3. Cosmopolitan magazine's cover
Get past the sex (yes, it’s possible) and what you’ll find are the best cover lines in the magazine business. Like these: "50 things you should never stop doing in a relationship" and "What men want most at 9 pm."  Great inspiration for: writing compelling headlines

4. Movie trailers
Who cares about the feature? I go to the cineplex for the trailers! In just a few minutes, trailers draw you in, give you a sense of what the movie is about and leave you wanting more. For example, here are effective trailers for movies I have no interest in seeing: White House Down, The Heat and and World War Z.
Great inspiration for: telling a story.

5. Supermarkets
The best supermarkets fill your senses with sights and smells that make you hungry. And even before you arrive, the weekly circulars draw you in. Two excellent supermarkets—Kings in the Northeast and Publix in the South—give you a flavor of what I mean. Great inspiration for: Mouthwatering visuals.

6. NPR
National Public Radio’s news programs convey information simply and clearly, using only words and people’s voices. Great inspiration for: writing for the ear.

7. Spot the dog children’s books
Writer Eric Hill has created a series of books that appeal to young children, with a cute main character and a chance to participate: Open the flap to see where Spot is hiding! Great inspiration for: involving your reader.

What inspires you? I'd love to know.
 

 

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