tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Monday, November 22, 2010

So You've Decided to Start a Newsletter, eh?

The NGO I volunteer with—PREM—decided it wanted to start a newsletter because, well, NGOs have newsletters, but this one did not.

I was put in charge of the newsletter, or more accurately I was given the task of coordinating and guiding an Editing Team in the planning, design and execution of a monthly—er, better make that bi-monthly—newsletter, called PREM E-News.

An editing team of three, myself included, was formed. It became clear early on that one member, the self-professed IT Advisor to the Editing Team, wanted his role to be limited to technical things, and so put himself in charge of converting the .doc version of the newsletter into a .pdf approximately every 60 days.

Thus the Editing Team became two, me and the person who—rare among the staff here—has little work to do because she has no seniority. In the newsletter, hopefully she'll find her organizational domain.
We started with a planning meeting examining several existing newsletters out there in the NGO, for ideas of style and structure. Then we held an editorial meeting about what content we needed for the inaugural issue; basically, what did PREM do in the last two months?

Then we commenced a sort of journalistic training workshop—yep, still just the two of us on the Editing Team—to obtain the content for the newsletter. A lot of people at PREM don’t really know exactly what a lot of other people at PREM do on a daily basis, for reasons that are not terribly relevant right now.

But suffice to say, the E-News Editing Team made the rounds to each program manager, project coordinator and senior staff in the head office to find out what they’ve been doing lately, what activities have been implemented in their milieu, what reports they’ve written for what funding agencies, who did what, when, where, why and definitely how; not to mention show me the photos.

Slowly the newsletter took shape. On the first issue I did just about everything. But as we’ve now rolled out three issues, my partner on the Editing Team gradually has become the reporter, photographer, layout designer, photo editor, and quote-of-the-month go-getter. Whereas I hold only the roles of copy editor, deadline maker (and re-maker), and ghostwriter of the President’s Message.

The newsletter is actually a pretty big success around the office, even if our mailing list is currently only a handful of names long: staff members, funding partners, former volunteers, and my mom (thanks mom!).

For the first time in its 26-year history, PREM has a systematic, textual form of organizational memory. And all it took was a committed team, a journalistic approach, and a guy who makes a .pdf every two months.

Now you can read what all the fuss is about:

(See me on page four)

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