Why staff newsletters are never the dog’s best bollock
Some years ago, toward the beginning of my career as a bureauLOLcrat, I was put in charge of a newsletter that went out to the entire staff of a large council department in North London – a readership of well over two thousand people. How this happened, I never fully understood. My job description was something about Planning and Performance, but nobody had the slightest idea what that meant, least of all me, so it became a random mess of ill-defined bollocks that nobody but me had the time or the inclination to do anything about.
The first thing I did, obviously, was to change my email signature to read ‘editor in chief’ and create a little sign that I attached to my computer screen. I made a similar sign for the dead bonsai tree (Mr. Tree-yagi) that I kept on a three foot pedestal next to my desk and who I appointed deputy editor. Having made the difficult transition to my new role, I set about sourcing content that would make this the awesomest staff newsletter in the world.
The existing format of the newsletter was widely accepted to be utter shit, so I was given a mandate (a mandate no less) to change it as I saw fit. That’s when I gots to emailin’:
Me: “Hi Colleague. I’ve just taken over the newsletter and need to make it less crap. To this end, I need you to tell me about some of the not crap things you’re doing so that I can enthral the masses with tales of your brilliant work, recycling potholes or whatever.”
Entire council directory: […]
I waited about a week. Then I started making shit up.
One of the long-standing pieces in the newsletter was a column entitled ‘From the Top’. This would have been great if it had been the lyrics to all time favourite show tunes, but tragically it was a place for the Director to go into tedious detail about stuff everyone already knew about, or didn’t need to know about, or needed to know about and didn’t give a shit about. This was not the place to make people give a shit about things to which their shit giving abilities didn’t already extend.
I balanced it out with ‘From the Bottom’. This was initially intended to be a series of interviews with staff in entry-level positions around the organization, who really didn’t give a fuck because they were only there to make some money before they went off travelling around Borneo or some shit.
Me: “How do you think we can deliver more effective services while making much needed efficiencies?”
Everyone: “Stop asking stupid questions and let me get back to my cutting and pasting.”
Ultimately, all the best content was filtered out of the newsletter, which was nevertheless more successful than before by virtue of having at least half of the words spelled correctly. I was allowed to keep the title of Editor in Chief on my computer as long as I promised not to write anything. I spent much of the ensuing years proofreading.
Occasionally, I phoned people just to shout ‘SPELLCHECK’ at them before hanging up.