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Newsletter Reflections

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

By Donna Smith

Think about the last time you received a newsletter from ACHA. You know it came to your email address. You know you enjoyed reading it. You know you appreciated the information. But were you amazed to find that little gem of a newsletter inside your e-mail box? Probably not.

But I was.

In fact, the newsletter’s appearance always seems a bit magical to me. No, not because I’m on some great medications! Not because I’m a technological dinosaur. But because I was on ACHA’s newsletter committee from 2005 through 2008 when ACHA’s quarterly newsletter was printed in hard copy and mailed to members’ homes.

That’s right, the U.S. Post Office delivered the 8-12 page Heart Matters, as the newsletter was called then, to members’ mailboxes four times a year. With today’s instant messaging and online modes of communication, can you even imagine being able to communicate with ACHA’s members just four times a year? We had plenty to say, but the time, labor, and cost limited what the newsletter committee of six volunteers could do. Of all of those factors, time was the most unyielding.

Each edition took three months to prepare, with articles due no later than two months before publication. We had to allow time for editing, layout, re-editing, revised layout, and printing—not to mention delivery time.

Think about this the next time your newsletter is one click or tap away: In 2006, because newsletters were mailed in bulk, delivery could take up to six weeks! Our 2007 schedule looked like this:

 Publication Date    Issue  Article Due Date 
 January 2007  Winter  11/1/2006
 April 2007  Spring  2/1/2007
 July 2007  Summer  5/1/2007
 October 2007  Fall  8/1/2007

We were always working through production challenges and costs. In September 2007, ACHA staff member Sarah Sharpless discovered that if we folded the newsletters in half rather than keeping them flat, mailing costs would be 30 cents per newsletter rather than $1. We were thrilled!

In between answering phones, handling correspondence, planning events, and doing anything else that came across her desk, Sarah was the newsletter’s project manager and copywriter. Meanwhile, I tapped into my years in manufacturing organizations to implement process improvements. The “launch” of each edition concluded with a review of what worked well, what we could do better, and how we could make the process more efficient.

But it wasn’t all about schedules and production. In October 2007 our committee turned their talents to the strategic mission of the newsletter. We asked ourselves:

  • What is our editorial vision?
  • Who will read the publication?
  • What does the newsletter need to say to the readers? Who will read it and why?
  • What information would be most valued by the readers?
  • What behavior do we want the publication to inspire?

Amy Verstappen had a pretty succinct way of reminding us of our mission: “Every member must see him or herself in every article.” We had an audience that counted on us to deliver timely, meaningful, accurate information.

What a thrill when we knew we’d hit that target. In 2007 we received an email from a pediatric cardiac nurse practitioner working for a university medical center in Holland, which read, “Thank you for the Newsletter. It is always very exciting reading from your group and the enthusiastic people.”

Being able to touch the lives of other CHD survivors, their families, and loved ones through the educational articles and personal stories of Heart Matters was truly an honor and a privilege. And yes, it was a bit magical, too.


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The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.

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