Craft Engaging Email Newsletters with Content Snacks

I stood there, nodding, looking engaged in the conversation, but my mind was elsewhere.

The taste had faded from my mouth, my left palm still colored red and blue, and yet all I could think about was when I would get my next fix of GORP—trail mix, as it’s called in the front country.

Trail mix is a personal vice of mine. It began one summer when I was a backpacking instructor and had constant access to the enticing snack. If I didn’t have any in my hand, I was thinking about my next handful.

It’s the classic mix: peanuts, raisins, oats, and M&Ms. The M&Ms, in particular, hold a firm grip on my psyche (but I am not a picker).

Naturally, my snacking sensibilities carry over into the content strategies I recommend most frequently. What if email newsletters were like a handful of GORP—easy, nourishing, and endlessly enticing?

Your newsletter: entree or snack?

Many newsletters are more like entrees, and some are quite good. But you have to be something of a cook to make a meal. And many newsletters send big walls of text without the skill needed to make it any good.

If my metaphors are too convoluted, consider these visuals.

Immediately upon seeing these two emails, you’ll have a sense of the effort required to read them. You may or may not invest the time depending on your interest (or the skill of the sender).

I subscribe to many newsletters with big walls of text, like in the mockup on the left. But they are written by writers, philosophers, and journalists. Each sentence is crafted, and paragraphs transition with care. They are chefs serving meals. As such, I set aside time to read them with intention.

But most newsletters shouldn’t be meals. They should be short, easily consumed content snacks.

Come to grips with reader attention spans

Writers, philosophers, and journalists have earned the interest of their readership by providing writing for them to read.

Unless your brand publishes a lot, your relationship with subscribers is likely more asymmetric. Their attention to your newsletter is brief and fleeting. Heck, they may only be there to get 10% off their first order. Do they really want a newsletter meal from you?

This is where snacky newsletters can surprise and delight—and make casual subscribers into happy, repeat customers.

Snacky newsletters are more than teasers for recent blog posts, though. They should be mostly self-contained, standalone tasty morsels. Put a few of them together in a newsletter—and you have magic.

Here are some ideas for great snacky content bites to consider:

  • Curated links (not just your own)
  • People/place/product highlights
  • Data morsels (“By the numbers”, etc)
  • Iconic closing (like Huckberry’s “See you out there” image)
  • Repurposed quotes and artwork
  • Persistent features/column (like Marketing Examples 3 copywriting tips)
  • Joke or a conversation prompt
  • The list goes on!

I’ve put together some of my favorite snacky content morsels from the likes of Dense Discovery, Huckberry, Hipcamp, and others into a slide deck for your inspiration.

Check it out

Create your own content bite

The point of a snacky newsletter is to create more enticement toward your brand or service, right? So you don’t want your content bites to be seemingly random or altogether off-topic.

For instance, I’m not keen on generic holiday greetings from the manufacturer of my internet router. But what if they had a 5-minute tip for faster downloads and a funny wifi network pun in every newsletter (eg, No more Mr. WiFi)? Hire me, Netgear!

The point is that content bites should be focused on pleasing the recipient and fitting to your brand.


Repurposing existing content in your newsletter is a great way to make it more accessible to your audience.

Here’s a list of possible content assets that could be repurposed for your newsletter components:

  • Photography
  • Blog posts
  • FAQs
  • White papers/original research
  • Interviews with leaders
  • Company history
  • Trending products
  • Unique collections
  • High-engagement social media posts
  • Infographics
  • Podcast episodes
  • Event recordings
  • Brand guidelines
  • Videos
  • Reviews or testimonials
  • Case studies

If you have popular blog posts, repurpose and reformat them to highlight the best takeaways.

If you have awesome photography or artwork, include it with a sentence about how it was created.

If you have well-articulated FAQs, include one of the most popular questions.

Create a Curation Feed

When I start curating for a new client, I like to jump into the content ecosystem that they exist within. That means finding the accounts, channels, and creators that overlap with your audience.

Make a list of them and keep expanding it. This list will be intuitive for some but challenging for others.

One way to find these overlaps is through Facebook’s Audience Insights tool. Another way is to look at events your company sponsors or has a booth at. Who else is trying to reach the same attendees?

To create a curation hub, I create a spreadsheet with a running list of the accounts, podcasts, publications, channels, and otherwise, to check regularly for interesting and appropriate content.

Organize for rapid assembly

James Clear, for his 3-2-1 newsletter, keeps a simple spreadsheet with three tabs:

  1. Ideas from me
  2. Quotes from others
  3. Questions for you

As he comes across worthy inclusions, he puts them into the appropriate tab, and all is ready for assembly when the time comes.

I use a similar process for my client newsletters. I have a tab for each content bite and add things in there as I come across them. As I use them in newsletters, I add a date to the row to avoid re-using the same bites.

High standards, sustainable workload

The key to a great newsletter is to have high standards for what goes into it while also being able to supply quality content on a regular basis.

To my mind, the best approach is to make snacks, not meals, out of your newsletter. Figure out the handful of tasty bits you can produce (or repurpose) week in and week out for your newsletter subscribers. They’ll be left wanting more!

Want some guidance?

Reach out to [email protected] if you’d like to explore what snacky bits may work well for your newsletter!

P.S. Would you benefit from a little more clarity around your newsletter strategy? Grab 20 minutes to chat with me for free (I love to help).