Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Have I got mews for you?!

Volunteer Sarah Evans takes us behind the scenes of our Wolverhampton Branch newsletter... 

I’ve been producing the Wolverhampton Branch regular newsletter, The Scratching Post, for around 18 months now and I love doing it, I get a real sense of achievement when each issue goes out. As a branch, we feel it’s essential that we communicate well to our members and volunteers, as it keeps them motivated and it’s also important to us that they know how much they are appreciated. We find the newsletter is great for this as it’s a perfect way to formally acknowledge their help and support while keeping them up to date with what we’re doing. And as not all of our members have internet or email access, the newsletter is something we can format to suit them. We like to encourage people to take a digital copy as it’s cheaper and more environmentally friendly, but we have a core of members who receive the printed version instead. And we sell them in our shop to raise some extra funds.

My day job is running an artwork studio for an ad agency, so as well as having access to professional software, I have experience with design, layout and artwork, which I put to good use for WCP. Obviously not all branches are going to have access to someone in the trade, but I’d encourage them to contact their local colleges and universities and work with graphic design students. It’s a win-win situation: the student gains experience of working for a real client on a real project – invaluable when looking for a job – and the CP branch gets a great looking, inspiring newsletter produced by upcoming talented designers.

For our quarterly newsletter, I work to a three-month cycle. The first month is my ‘month off’ when I concentrate on generating other publicity material, the second is when I collate and source articles and photography and the third is when I design and produce the edition. I’ve set out a structured format for our magazine as it helps me with content and layout if I know what’s going on each page and how much space it needs. We always have our cover – a gorgeous, eye-catching cat photo – and a page each for homing, success stories and events. The other pages have our Co-ordinator’s introduction, our features and then there’s some space left over for extras and unplanned items.

Our branch calendar has all our deadlines listed and on a regular basis I ask if contributors have anything they want to include in the next issue. I also take notes during committee meetings and branch events – eg reports of volunteers get a mention in our ‘WCP superstars’ section, or if we have a discussion about something like microchipping or homing visits, I’ll make a note to use it for an article. The Committee all contribute regularly, sending me ideas, pictures and facts for future editions, so there’s always plenty to go in. I try to make the content relevant, varied and interesting for our readers and this seems to work as I get lots of comments about how they look forward to reading the next issue!

Then I research the detail for the articles. I’m a bit of a computer addict, so I get most of my content online, but I’ll look everywhere for inspiration: websites, magazines, talking to members, books, etc. I’ll also admit to borrowing a fair amount of information from CatNav – CP’s extranet for volunteers and staff – the CP website and CP leaflets… but as far as I’m concerned that’s what it’s there for! Our imagery comes from a few places – some from the CP website and CatNav, some from volunteers who send me pictures of events, cats for homing and success stories. For everything else, I use a website called Dreamstime – it offers a huge range of royalty-free and cost-free imagery which is perfect for our use. Image copyright can be a very sticky area, so I never randomly download shots from the internet unless I know where the picture has come from, who owns the copyright, and whether or not I can use it.

Finally, once I’ve got everything together, I set a whole weekend aside to blitz through the layout and design. I prefer to get it all done it all in one go, so I set myself up at the kitchen table with my laptop, endless bits of paper, one of my two cats – Custard or Connor – on the windowsill – and sometimes on the bits of paper – and endless cups of tea – and biscuits. My husband knows he then has to leave me alone until I surface a couple of days later, triumphant, beaming and with the latest edition ready for press.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks Sarah. This is a really great piece with loads of brilliant ideas that everyone will find helpful. You've certainly fired up my enthusiasm!
    Peter Hepburn
    Chief Executive

    ReplyDelete
  2. Loved your article Sarah. I know that many people find producing newsletters a very daunting task. I think that your description of a three monthly cycle will really help people as will the section about your research. Thanks for sharing your approach.

    Debs. (Debbie Holt, Design Services Manager, NCC)

    ReplyDelete