Lots of DMOs send newsletters to out-of-towners, but Annie Kelley writes one aimed at locals. Here, she shares why her weekly letter helps locals fall in love with their hometown. 

I was hired as communications manager for the Calhoun County Visitors Bureau in the fall of 2019. That winter, I researched newsletters and designed a monthly missive that was meant to be breezy and full of information about things to do in Battle Creek.

Then it was March 2020. 

Everything shut down. Suddenly, we were treading water, so I started sending out the newsletter once a week instead of once a month. It was cathartic because my focus became positivity, with observations and tips to help people get through a frightening time. It was a way to stay connected when everything felt so disconnected.

I also found out that people wanted it. Even as life has come closer to “normal,” I’ve kept up a weekly newsletter. 

Dear Battle Creek Thanksgiving Edition
Dear Battle Creek - Thanksgiving Feast Edition

I start out with an actual letter. I imagine it like having a pen pal, writing every week to Battle Creek. It’s personal, told in my own voice, not my PR voice.

The next part is tidbits of info about things happening around town that people might want to know. I scour Facebook and keep my ear open for events, openings, fundraisers, deals, etc.

The last part is “good news,” where I look through media sites to find good news stories and make a list of headlines and links.

The header image for Dear Battle Creek featuring children smiling at the camera.
Dear Battle Creek - Photos Only Edition

Writing Dear Battle Creek is one of my favorite parts of the job. Here are five reasons I love it:

Listicle 1 - Update Pushed to be active

Having to find something to write about once a week is a great motivator for this introvert. 

I’ve golfed for the first time in my life, got my co-workers lost on a river, wandered around a cemetery, rode a horse-drawn carriage through downtown, and visited new businesses. 

It corresponds with my other work in communications – I can be a first-person source for things to do in Calhoun County. And because everything online needs a visual, I’m now in the habit of taking photos everywhere.

Listicle 2 - Update  Think good thoughts

I was an editor at the local newspaper for more than a decade – seeing the bright side of things doesn’t come naturally to me. But when I sit down to write the newsletter, I have to intentionally look at the world in an affirmative way. 

I strive to make it meaningful, to lean into hope and appreciation and delight. I’ve found there is always something good to say, every week of the year.

Listicle 3 - Update Connect with people

One of the best compliments I’ve received about the newsletter is from someone who works at a tourist attraction east of Battle Creek. She said I was able to change her impression of downtown just by exploring downtown’s resurgence in the newsletter.

As a writer, it’s super gratifying to hear that. The point of writing is to connect with people, after all. And the former journalist in me loves to hear that people are using my newsletter to learn more about what’s going on in Battle Creek.

Information is so spread out over different sources now that I think people appreciate having someone aggregate the good stuff and deliver it straight to them.

Listicle 4 - Update Help tell Battle Creek’s story

A newsletter aimed at locals might seem counterintuitive for a visitors bureau. But when people come to Battle Creek from other places, they’re not spending the entire trip at the welcome center. 

I’ve found that the newsletter is a great way to keep people more informed about their own hometown. I share information that encourages people to be active and to see the best parts of themselves. We want a culture of vitality, and part of that is a community that feels good about itself.

Listicle 5 - Update A chance to be creative

I love the creative challenge of a weekly newsletter. Staying inventive keeps my brain in good shape. And it makes work fun. 

Writing isn’t easy, but it’s satisfying. Even after more than 100 newsletters, it doesn’t feel like a grind.

To see the newsletter, click here and subscribe. It’s sent out every Thursday.