written by: Brian Nelson•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 2/24/2009
"A fancy name and a new acronym don't feed the bulldog," my father used to say. Well, not exactly, but the point is the same. What is a Dynamic Reusable Newsletter Template (DRNT) and why do we even need one?
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What Is It?
The easiest way to understand a Dynamic Reusable Newsletter Template (DRNT) is to look at an example. This is a newsletter template that comes installed by default in Microsoft Publisher 2003.
It is undoubtedly a template. Is it a newsletter template? It is a for making a newsletter, so it is a newsletter template. Is it reusable? Sure, you could just change whatever text you type into the various boxes to reuse it. Is it dynamic? Ah, there is where we go to understand DRNTs.
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A dynamic template needs to handle your changing needs on the fly. Keep in mind, this isn't magic and it does require some user effort and interaction. But, properly designed, a DRNT can allow for the shuffling of elements or the the substitution of elements for other elements without requiring a full redesign of the template by the user producing the newsletter.
What is dynamic? Again, an example is probably most instructive. Look again at the template from Microsoft Publisher. There is nothing wrong with the template. In fact, it is quite good and could be used to easily publish a newsletter for a small business or other organization.
Looks great right? Now, let's take a look at next month's newsletter.
Not bad. We have a new title, new text, new pictures, but, does it look like a fresh newsletter? If you publish a newsletter every month, how long before it starts to get a little stale? Heaven forbid if this is a weekly newsletter.
Now, a solid desktop publishing pro could tweak this layout in a few minutes and have a fresh new look ready to go in no time. But, as a small business owner, you are an expert at running your business. Do you have the time to become an expert at desktop publishing as well? Or, can you afford to keep paying the pro to do it for you?
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How Not To Be Dynamic
The problem here isn't that the newsletter cannot be changed. It can be changed, and frankly, it isn't that hard, but when you are squeezing every minute as it is so that you can at least see your spouse often enough to remember what he or she looks like, a redesign isn't what you are really looking for.
Now, you could just use a new newsletter template. After all, Microsoft Publisher alone comes with dozens. But, when the third month's edition of your newsletter lands on your client's desk looking like this, are they going to know that this is your newsletter? The one they love to read because it is packed with useful information from a source they trust, or are they going to put this in the "get to it later" pile because at first glance, they don't know what it is.
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So, now we understand what it is we are looking for. We need a template that can be changed with each publication to look new and fresh, without resorting to losing all consistency that we need to build up mindshare and recognition. Sound tricky? Actually, it isn't that hard. But, to do it, we have to throw some time honored design traditions out the window. Don't worry, it will still look great. It will just be more flexible.
Using pre-built newsletter templates help relieve some of the burden of generating a regularly published newsletter. But, unless you want to change templates every time, your newsletter will always look the same. The solution? Dynamic Reusable Newsletter Templates.