Words by Nikki Anderson-Stanier, Visuals by Allison Corr
There are many ways to share user research insights—from video clips to presentations, bingo, gallery nights, and even infographics.
But each of these sharing methodologies feels momentary. They are capturing a round-up of a specific research project. I operated using these approaches for a while, but something always stayed in the back of my mind.
How was I meant to continuously share research and help teams connect the dots without more workshops and meetings? How was I meant to share recent research and what had happened to previous research on a broader level?
How I decided on a newsletter
Initially, I used a Slack channel that people could follow. I would share research nuggets. But then that Slack channel also became administrative in which I would share upcoming research, Zoom links, and research nuggets. And my Slack posts were becoming longer. It was noisy and became unproductive.
I thought through other possibilities of how to make this work. I was at the office early and perused my email before jumping into work. I had subscribed to a few newsletters that did monthly round-up content.
And that's when the idea struck me. Why not do a monthly user research newsletter that people could subscribe to? So I started the user research monthly newsletter at the company, and it took off.
Why do newsletters work?
Newsletters aren't some new and innovative concept, so why does this work? It has worked at most organizations I've been a part of, but not all of them.
Whenever I researched why the monthly newsletter was effective, I found these major trends across colleagues and organizations:
- Easy to save – An email is something people can easily save for later to read at a time that makes sense for them (this was before Slack had the mark as unread feature)!
- Easy to search – At many organizations, we didn't have a fully-fledged repository, so people kept the emails in a folder and could search them if they needed to find the information.
- Builds connections – It helped teams connect the dots between research others had been doing and fostered better collaboration.
- Increases understanding – The entire organization understood the research team's work and felt more connected with our users.
My goals in creating this newsletter were to share research more broadly with the company and to foster more conversations with insights. Of course, it didn't always start that way. But over time, people began to read and have discussions based on insights.
I reviewed the top three insights we hadn't yet worked on every quarter, and ran an internal hack-a-thon. This event helped create even more conversation, and people started to pay more attention to what was in the newsletter.
Over time, the newsletter became a source of information and engagement, and colleagues appreciated that they could select the level of participation they wanted.
What’s in the newsletter?
I started the newsletter as a basic recap of the three most important insights from that month, which people could then ask me questions about or comment on.
Since that first version, it has evolved and grown tremendously. I've added new ideas, deleted a lot of unhelpful components, and landed on a general template (which you can find below!).
Here is the general outline of what I include in my monthly newsletters (and why!):
✔ A joke
Not kidding! I started every newsletter with a joke because, well, why not? This could be anything from a meme to a knock-knock joke. It always felt authentic to me and how I operated. I wanted to make people smile before diving into the deep stuff.
✔ The month's theme
Immediately I started the newsletter with a monthly theme. I chose the theme based on a combination of what the product teams were working on, business goals, and the most critical insights from the month's research.
✔ The top three insights
I would choose and write the top three insights based on the theme. They didn't all have to be from one project, and I preferred if they were from different ones. This is why I went with a theme instead of the most impactful project of the month.
Within each insight, I would include:
- The teams that the insight would be most relevant for
- Quotes or infographics
- Links to audio/video clips and the overall report for people to dive deeper
- Keywords in the form of hashtags to make the email more easily searchable
✔ A surprising fact
Aside from the top three insights, I would include a surprising fact about the newsletter theme. This fact would then link to the relevant presentation.
✔ Last month's insight update
This section includes any updates to previous insights. Bonus if they are insights from last month! This section helps people see the impact of user research and gives teams a nice shoutout.
✔ Upcoming research-related events and information
As I mentioned, writing a newsletter might not spark all the action at first. In this newsletter, I let people know about upcoming ideation workshops they might want to attend or about the date of the quarterly hack-a-thon so they can sign up. I also include a link to our research roadmap so people can see upcoming projects.
✔ Feedback survey
Of course, the feedback survey! This is an anonymous survey I link to (usually Google Forms) which asks several questions to keep tabs on how the newsletter is performing, and how to improve continuously.
✔ A place to direct questions and requests
I end every email telling people they can reach out to me directly with questions about the newsletter or research in general. I also provide a link for people to fill in a research intake form directly from the email.
How to set up a monthly UXR newsletter (+ template)
There are a few steps to take to set the newsletter up for success. Creating a monthly newsletter was an iterative process for me, and I highly recommend that mindset when going into a project like this!
Here are the steps I recommend when getting started:
✔ Determine the need/pain points
Before I started the newsletter, I identified several needs and pain points of colleagues (and myself). For example, the Slack channel was noisy. There wasn't an update on impactful research, people weren't engaging as much with research insights, and colleagues weren't sure about upcoming studies or what work the team had done.
I highly recommend asking stakeholders what they are currently missing (if anything) and what they need from the research team. If you have an excellent sharing mechanism, you might not need an additional method!
✔ Decide on the type of information
In addition to identifying the needs and pain points, it’s vital to do stakeholder interviews to decide on the type of information to include. Between discussions and the anonymous survey, I crafted a newsletter filled with helpful information.
However, it didn't naturally start that way. As I mentioned, the only thing I used to include was the top three insights from the month. There weren't links to the request form, no updates on previous insights, and no visibility on what was next.
Check with your colleagues to see the information they need and what might be helpful for them.
✔ Choose a cadence
I dabbled with a bi-weekly newsletter, as well as a quarterly one. My quarterly newsletter became exceedingly long, so I scrapped that. My bi-weekly email felt like I was spamming people (which others agreed with), which is why I settled on monthly.
However, you might do too much research for a monthly round-up, or maybe quarterly is plenty. The cadence is also something to test and ask about.
✔ Do a beta test
Before I blasted the newsletter to the whole company (which included the CEO), I did a beta test with my product teams. After two months and lots of conversations and survey data, I felt like it was in a place where I could share with the rest of the organization.
This beta test gave me more confidence when sending out the newsletter and ensured I included essential information.
✔ Ask for (and make sure you get) feedback
I've said it once, and I'll say it a thousand times: make sure you get feedback. If colleagues aren't filling out the survey, have conversations with them. Offer them a coffee or lunch for their time—pizza and beer after work was my tactic!
Without the feedback, this newsletter would have flopped and gone into the dusty Gmail trash. Fight for the feedback!
✔ Continue to iterate
Getting constructive feedback on something you've worked on can sometimes be challenging. For example, I know I struggled when some people criticized the format.
But over time, I kept an open mind and remembered this newsletter was not for me. It was for my colleagues and to help spread research across the organization. I would only benefit from it if my colleagues did. So I continued to iterate on the newsletter until I found this general outline, which tends to work in most organizations.
I have had to tweak it a few times, such as making it shorter (one or two major insights rather than three). Other times the organization was too big, so I kept the newsletter to my teams. And at one company, no one wanted the newsletter, so I took it out of my sharing approaches.
Overall, I highly recommend giving the monthly newsletter a try. It can be a fantastic way of sharing research cross-functionally and demonstrating the impact research can have on an organization. It's also a nice way to get to know your colleagues and help them with their research requests.
Ready to create your own newsletter? Download our free template for inspiration!
Nikki Anderson-Stanier is the founder of User Research Academy and a qualitative researcher with 9 years in the field. She loves solving human problems and petting all the dogs.
To get even more UXR nuggets, check out her user research membership, follow her on LinkedIn, or subscribe to her Substack.