Tips for writing good weeknotes
Published (updated: ) in weeknotes, work, working in the open.
Weeknotes are a format for regular communication. They’re well suited to teams who want to communicate about their work to colleagues or management. They work in other circumstances, too, such as individuals communicating to the teams they’re part of, or leaders communicating to the people they lead.
Weeknotes work well as blog posts, but they can be emails instead. They can be like an email newsletter, delivered to a list of subscribers; or a simple blind-carbon-copy list in someone’s email software; or just sent from one person to another.
Weeknotes are flexible. They can be:
- from one person to their team
- from a leader to the people they lead
- from teams to leaders, sponsors or stakeholders
- from one team to other teams
- from supplier to client
- from an organisation to the world
- published in the open, or kept private
There’s a difference, I think, between weeknotes and newsletters. It’s about the audience, and the intended purpose of the communication:
- If you want to tell specific people or stakeholders what a team or a person has been up to recently, start writing weeknotes.
- If you want to build a reputation or a brand in a specific subject area, and you don’t care much who reads your words, start a newsletter.
If you decide to write weeknotes, here are some tips for making them work.
Don’t worry too much about structure
I’ve worked with teams who fretted a lot about weeknote structure. They asked for templates, then rigidly stuck to the template every single week. Don’t do that – a rigid format gets boring very quickly, for both readers and writers.
Instead, have a bucket of content ideas and repeat them often, but don’t feel like you must use every idea, every week. One idea might be “This week’s weeknote is just five photos.” That’s fine.
Dip into the bucket and use what feels good. Don’t limit yourself to what’s in the bucket either – if some new creative idea hits you one week, go for it.
Sometimes there’s not much to say, and that’s fine
Not every week is news-packed. Sometimes there are slow weeks, or weeks where the only stuff that happens is stuff you’d rather not talk about. If there’s not much to say, you don’t have to say much. Maybe five photos will do the trick.
It doesn’t matter if you say explicitly that “it’s been one of those weeks”. And it doesn’t matter if you skip a week every now and then.
You can include jokes
People often send or publish weeknotes on Friday afternoons, when the working week (for most people) is finished. It’s safe to assume your readers are tired, looking forward to their weekends, keen to stop thinking about work. Make them smile and they’ll appreciate it (and remember you).
If you’re a leader, write your own weeknotes
Writing weeknotes shouldn’t feel like a chore that you delegate downwards. It should feel like a precious opportunity to speak to your team, or your stakeholders, or your users, whoever it is.
Write your reflections on the past week, the way you see it. The more you can write like this, the more likely it is that people will bother to actually read your weeknote.
Not all weeknotes should come from leaders, mind you:
Let team members take turns to write weeknotes
BERG were really good at this, a thousand years ago. Different members of their team wrote the weeknote each week, and each individual developed their own style. It was wonderful to see, and made me look forward to seeing each new weeknote, each week.
I think BERG pioneered the weeknote as I’m trying to describe it. Just do what BERG did, and you can’t go wrong.
If you treat weeknotes like a burden, they’ll feel like a burden
Very rarely, I’ve seen weeknotes become a cause of stress. I’ve seen team leaders worrying about their Friday weeknote from Tuesday onwards. I’ve had them contact me saying: “What am I going to say in the weeknote? Can you draft something for me?”
When this happens, it’s usually because the weeknotes have been elevated to become a governance tool, a means of ticking items off some comms-related todo list.
Weeknotes are good as part of your team’s governance, because they’re a great way of showing the thing. But if there’s so much pressure on them as a reporting tool that they become a burden on the team, something’s gone wrong.
The best way to write weeknotes is as a genuine personal reflection of the week. Allow them to be personal. Allow thoughts and feelings to creep in, alongside news. Be open, be candid, be the sort of refreshing honesty that most colleagues are yearning for. That will result in excellent weeknotes.
Giles Turnbull helps organisations communicate more like humans do: briefly, clearly, creatively. Find out more at www.usethehumanvoice.com
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