A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down…

…in your employee newsletter

Mister Editorial
4 min readNov 11, 2020
A still from “Mary Poppins”

File this under tactics.

“A Spoonful of Sugar” is a song from the 1964 film Mary Poppins. The catchy tune opens with these lyrics:

In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap, the job’s a game
And every task you undertake becomes a piece of cake
A lark, a spree, it’s very clear to see

Poppins, the nanny, uses the uptempo song to show two children, Jane and Michael, that even a daunting task like cleaning their bedroom can be made more pleasant with just a little bit of sugar.

Adding a spoonful of sugar — i.e., something fun and non-work related — to your weekly employee newsletter is one easy way to increase interest in company news and information, as well as engagement with the newsletter itself.

  • Moreover, sugar is delightful, and who doesn’t want to make their colleagues smile?

Adding Sugar to Your Newsletter

Put the sugar at the bottom of the newsletter so employees must scroll through the rest of the news to get to it. In doing so they will see what else is happening at the company and get the gist of what’s up.

  • Hopefully something along the way catches their attention and they’ll pause to read/click to learn more.

I’ve used the following forms of sugar in newsletters I’ve managed:

  • Employee-created comic strips about life at work
  • Pictures of views from employee offices around the world
  • Pictures of unique lunches and snack foods from around the world
  • Gifs of commutes to work
  • Photos of pets invading the work-from-home office space
  • Pictures of children doing the same
  • Photos of employees taking advantage of perks, such as free admission to a museum exhibit or attendance at a unique event

One time my team included a hand-drawn black and white outline of a fish tank. We asked employees to print the graphic, color it in, and then send the artwork back to us, which of course we shared in the sugar slot. Many employees asked their children to color the picture, which was super adorable.

  • I once received a monthly department newsletter that was totally uninteresting to me, but I always opened it and I always scrolled to the bottom to see the photos of newborn babies dressed in a onesie emblazoned with the company’s logo.
photo credit

Pro-tip 1

Sugar that employees submit to your newsletter can be re-shared on other channels, like digital signage, a Yammer chat room, Instagram, and other photo/graphic-friendly displays.

Pro-tip 2

If you put something clickable with the sugar, such as a link to an employee profile or to the company’s social media channel, you can use the number of clicks as a proxy measure for how far down employees get in the newsletter. Frequently items I put at the bottom of the newsletter garnered more clicks than items in the middle, showing that employees were scrolling all the way to the bottom.

Sidenote: As you know, I send out a weekly ICYMI newsletter to all free and paid subscribers. ICYMI includes 4 industry-related news items and then one piece of sugar at the bottom of the newsletter. In 2 of the past 5 editions of ICYMI, the most-clicked link was the sugar on the bottom.

Don’t Take It From Me

If you need convincing that this is a way to improve readership and engagement, here are five examples of other outlets putting the fun stuff at the end of their news.

  • The back page of The New Yorker magazine features a cartoon caption contest where readers can test their wit.
  • The last item in Axios’s weekly “Capital” newsletter, which is about capitalism, features an architecturally interesting “Building of the Week.”
  • The last page in Vanity Fair’s print magazine features a celebrity answering the Proust Questionnaire.
  • Robinhood, the trading platform, closes their daily newsletter Robinhood Snacks with an interesting “fact of the day” (e.g., In 2013, 1.2B people were living without access to electricity — that number dropped to 860M in 2018).
  • The Skimm ends their daily note with shoutouts to their fans (Skimm’rs), calling out subscribers’ birthdays and giving virtual hugs to customers who have hit a major milestone.

If you need ideas on how to up your newsletter game, reach out. I’d be happy to provide some advice and consultation. Email me at editorshaun@gmail.com.

Subscribe to my newsletter.



Mister Editorial

Many internal comms teams don’t have an editorial strategy. I’m here to fix that. Newsletter: https://mistereditorial.substack.com/.