actor on stage teaching us how to write better enewsletters

Want to Create Better eNewsletters? Think Like An Actor

If you’re using e-newsletters in your email marketing and you’re looking for ways to be more engaging, try taking these cues … from acting class.

“All the world’s a stage,” wrote Shakespeare, in his famous play about email newsletters.

Fringe interpretation of As You Like It? Maybe.

But listen, I’ve been taking an acting class just for fun, and I gotta say …

What I’m learning about preparing for a scene sounds strangely familiar.

Here are five questions actors ask themselves that I think all us marketers should, too.

1. Who am I?

An actor has to understand their own character intimately, their background, the circumstances leading up to the scene, their strengths and weaknesses. Their personality.

When writing a newsletter or any marketing piece, check in with your “character.” That’s your brand.

  • Corporate or casual?
  • Serious or silly?
  • Respectful or irreverent?

An inconsistent presentation of character won’t resonate with an audience.

The same goes for your brand. Who are you? The more deeply you consider this question, the more engaging your emails are going to be.

2. Who am I talking to?

To deliver their lines effectively, actors need to adjust the approach based on their understanding of who their scene partner is. 

Even with no partner, they’re always talking to someone. It’s one of those tricks of the trade. A monologue is just dialogue with an imaginary person.

See where I’m going with this, marketing friends?

You always have a “scene partner” that you should know as intimately as possible so you can adjust your tone of voice accordingly.

You’re writing not to a darkened theater but to just one person who you can see in your mind’s eye, someone you know intimately.

Who is that person? Time to reexamine (or create!) your marketing personas to make sure you have a good answer to that question.

3. What’s my objective?

In The Greatest Showman, there’s a delightful number called “The Other Side” in which Hugh Jackman’s P.T. Barnum is trying to convince Zac Efron’s Phillip to work for him.

What makes it so delightful, apart from the catchy tune and impressive choreography, is how convincing the performances are. You can feel exactly what each man wants out of the deal.

You can only be engaging when you can clearly articulate what you want.

For most of us in marketing, what we want is a win-win scenario, to create a partnership between audience and brand, client and provider, buyer and seller.

But what does that partnership look like?

Do you know what you want clearly enough that you can paint a compelling picture?

Just like Phillip, your audience will only start singing your tune if you know how to sing it better than anyone else.

4. How am I going to get what I want?

In that same scene from The Greatest Showman, there’s a moment where Phillip is on his way out the door, and Barnum sings the magic words that stop him in his tracks.

But you would finally live a little, finally laugh a little

Just let me give you the freedom to dream

And it’ll wake you up and cure your aching

Take your walls and start ’em breaking

Now that’s a deal that seems worth taking

This is a great example of a character’s “actions,” or what the character does in the scene to meet their objective. Barnum is speaking to what Phillip really wants. He’s calling him out.

To paraphrase: “I offer you fun, freedom, and joy. How could you possibly say no?”

That, my friends, is a pretty bold call to action!

And if you make calls to action in your newsletter that use the perfect words for your target audience, you’ll win them over, too.

5. What are my broader goals?

Also referred to as the “throughline,” actors need to understand their character’s overarching goals over the course of the entire story, why they do what they do.

A well-written character is not a one-dimensional portrait of momentary desire. There’s more going on under the surface, deeper wants and needs that may never be spoken aloud.

This is important for us as marketers to think about, too.

Your newsletter is more than a piece of content with KPIs (key performance indicators like open rate, clickthrough rate, etc.) to measure. 

It’s part of a conversation, a broader story you’re telling about your brand. And conversations have goals that can’t be easily measured, like to connect, inform, inspire, or entertain.

So don’t let a set of KPIs be the whole story.

Just know your throughline. And keep at it. 

A Great eNewsletter Fosters Connection

One thing I’ve learned is that the goal of acting isn’t to do a really good job of being fake.

It’s the opposite.

It’s to find the truth and authenticity in the character you’re playing and embody it.

That’s how actors connect with audiences. And as an email marketer, you have the exact same job.

To recap, here’s what you need to know to create compelling newsletters and emails:

  • Who you are
  • Who you’re talking to
  • What your objective is
  • How you’re going to get it
  • Ultimately, why you’re doing it

Let me know if you’d like to work together to explore the answers. 

I can’t guarantee you fun, freedom, and joy … but a stronger sense of connection with your audience? Yeah, we can do that!