How to write a newsletter for your roleplaying game/site
Recently on our Facebook page I asked what sort of articles you’d like to see on the blog, & several people asked asked for more helpful advice for roleplayers & game owners. Elena (who runs her own roleplaying site “Before the Mast”) volunteered to write us this article. She talks about a game as a “site”, but this is totally relevant if your game is part of a larger site, like games on OngoingWorlds.
How to write a newsletter for your site
The marketing concepts would tell you that newsletters are one of the least expensive – and most effective – public relations tools that exist for drawing attention to a website. I’d say it is very valid for the RPG world too, as it happens on sites.
By sending out a quality newsletter on a regular basis, you can keep people updated about your site and your story’s development, helping to build a strong relationship with the readers – your present and future writing community. It enhances the roleplayers’ experience, it makes your site unique and you can also bring new members… or at least make your site’s activity better known.
A newsletter is an important marketing tool in attracting new members (or at least devoted fans who can recommend your site to somebody else, if they aren’t inspired to join it or have no time to join it, but they are interested in its stories). At the same time, it is also a management tool for your members, who can learn important things both OOC and IC, useful for the future plotting and writing.
Writing a newsletter can be fun and this is another way of being a journalist, a creative writer. Moreover, the effort of creating a newsletter itself speaks volumes about your commitment to the site’s success. It gives you a competitive advantage over other sites who don’t, while informing them of your opinions, facts, and ideas on a wide variety of matters. You can involve other members in writing parts of the newsletter too!
The style of newsletter format varies. You can have a one-page newsletter that resembles an actual letter or newspaper page (especially for those dohtml savvy). It can introduce the intent of the letter, summarize what has occurred since the last letter, and it can itemize what your audience can expect until the next issue. Or, as I recommend, the newsletter can be longer, with regular features like birthdays, milestones, new members, upcoming and past events, and a summary of how your story has been progressing.
It is important that your make your newsletter interesting and valuable enough that your readers enjoy it. For this purpose, first, gather all your ideas.
Typical content in a newsletter format is written in a professional, yet fun tone. Decide on a size, and how many articles can comfortably fit in it, while allowing room for photographs and other visuals. Graphics always add to the appeal of a newsletter, be them directly relevant or funny. Be professional in prose, grammar and subject, research your subjects, add your personality and assume a lighthearted tone. It will ensure that the information you are trying to convey will be easy to read and remember.
For instance, in the introductory paragraph, you could welcome your readers to the new month and wish them well, or welcome the new members and new characters. This sets a friendly tone that will keep them reading, and also achieves involving your audience in the newsletter, so that it holds their attention and delivers the information they need to know. Another way to incorporate your community into the newsletter is to include also major milestones – IC and/or OOC birthdays, family events, etc. Encourage feedback, not only through votes and polls, but also through open questions.
Newsletters only work when they are distributed to the readers on a regular and consistent basis.
Decide on the relevant name and frequency of your newsletter and stick to them. Make the newsletter’s name memorable and unique, something that will grab the readers attention and make them remember your identity. Mine is titled “Histories and Chronicles of the West Indies” because my site is a historical one located in the Caribbeans, and it is posted by a special account – the Scribbling Scholar. For a Viking site which I ran once, I chose “Chronicles of the Northern Realms” as a title, and the account posting it was Saga, the Norse goddess of history and poetry.
Any frequency more than once at two weeks builds unnecessary pressure on the staff writing it. A longer one issued monthly or at two months is preferable. It also depends on the pace of your story, how much happens in one month.
What should a RPG newsletter comprise? By publishing a newsletter with a balanced mix of articles you’ll better entertain your existing community. They’ll look forward to publication date and be glued to your newsletter for the future, and you’ll encourage new members by making your subject available to a wider audience.
Think about the trends that occur month after month and figure out if there is anyway you could turn one into a regular feature, while leaving others as occasional. Try to assemble a diverse and lively assortment of newsworthy pieces. Some articles can be long, others short, different in tone and content. Start by remembering the elements you see in a newspaper or magazine, and adapt this mix to the specific of your site:
- news articles
- feature articles (for RPGs, this might be special events development)
- personality profiles (spotlights and interviews with characters and players)
- editorials (on any main theme)
- columns (for RPGs, gossips and tips are good ideas)
- new product announcements (for RPGs, it can be translated into statistics regarding the gender ratio, social groups ratio, new members/ characters, new rules, etc.)
- good news/success stories (including thread spotlights where it is the case)
- Puzzles, contests, jokes, cartoons, tops
- coming-attraction ads (announcement of future events, )
My monthly “Histories and chronicles of the West Indies” comprises:
- Welcoming of the new month and thanks to the active members
- Statistics regarding active members and active characters (grouped also on genders and social groups, so that anybody new or willing to make a second character to know what’s needed more)
- Welcoming of the new members and characters
- Character spotlight of the month and quote spotlight of the month (by a different character)
- Other administrative announcements (new rules, awards received, advertising, new contests or contest results, etc.)
- Interview with the spotlighted character (IC interview taken from the creative writing questions for characters. You might get inspired for these questions also from the freeform/ interview applications, the interviews with writers, the types of sentences they use, or even from… those copybooks with questions in them you used to fill in middle school; I guess they are called yearbooks in English, but I am not sure.
- Funny graphics, special announcements, IC advertising (eg, not in each issue, but sometimes, when the monthly plot justifies it, I have featured “Favourite watering hole” – an advertising IC for one of the taverns in the 5 islands we have in the game, focusing either on the tavern keeper, or on a barmaid. A friend of another site gave me two funny announcements which were published in two issues – one for joining the pirates, one for joining the Navy. When I had upcoming special community events or finalized ones, I advertised them here too).
- Interview with the spotlighted character’s player (take your questions from the interviews with writers)
- News and gossips from all the islands (actually the thread summaries twisted into gossips which might be true or the facts have been far-fetched to speculations).
- Sometimes, a sort of IC newspaper article featuring a main plot point (a character’s death, people disappearing, an epidemic, a hurricane’s effects, etc).
This content is adapted to the specifics of my Age of Sail historical site. You might find other specific aspects to adapt to them.
Think about your newsletter distribution wisely.
I have seen some sites not publishing the newsletter on the site, available to all members and guests, but opting to send it by e-mail only to the members. This is a mistake – the newsletter should be first and foremost posted on the site, available to everybody, as it is an important marketing tool in attracting new members and in maintaining your fan base as well. But at the same time, the link to the newsletter posted on the site should be distributed by all communication channels.
Indeed, an e-mail reminder is good, especially for those who have been on hiatus and might be reminded that important things had happened in the meanwhile, and their interest in returning might be peeked. Announce it in the c-box too!
If your site has a twitter, a tumblr, a facebook page, the links to the newsletter should be posted there too. Instead of a boring monthly “bump” to the site advertisement in the directory sites, post a link to the newest edition of the Monthly Chronicle, summarizing the progress of the story. Your newsletter link should be everywhere!
And a last piece of advice, this time targeted to my fellow economists there – lots of things I studied in Uni at Marketing and Management do apply in running and advertising for a RPG, if properly adapted to the RPG specifics. Especially the advice for small businesses – I swear by the Guerrilla Marketing and Guerrilla Advertising concepts!
Good luck with your RPG, and have fun writing your newsletter!
Written by Elena Vasilescu.
Elena Vasilescu is the creator of “Before the Mast”, a play by post forum game opened on August 6th, 2010, writing since then an Age of Sail swashbuckling adventure.
If you’d like to write an article for us with advice on how to keep in touch with your roleplayers, or tips for how to improve your game. Send it to me through our contact form.