How to write async weekly updates

Replacing a weekly meeting with a doc is just the first step. A great weekly update motivates, engages, and sets the tone for the week.

Weekly updates are a key part of communication, especially as a remote team, but your weekly updates are pointless if they don't get read. When things are going well, updates can keep momentum rolling and spirits high. When your company is going through growing pains, a slow time of year or a difficult transition, weekly updates offer a sense of solidarity.

Here's how to jazz up your memos to make them more interactive and engaging.

Get into a rhythm

Having a routine for your weekly updates is a cornerstone of making them work. Far from making updates boring, consistency will actually raise your engagement. Aim for making them live on the same day at the same time this week –– we suggest Monday midday –– that way, your team will incorporate reading them into their own work routines.

We also recommend using templates to help make things easier for you as a writer and your team as a reader. It lowers cognitive load and helps people get through your memos quickly, while still being able to find and retain the most important information.

a weekly update template in Slite

Focus on one topic

A weekly update should be short and sweet, with takeaways that are easy to grasp. Too much information in an update doc will stress people out, and will drive away teammates who want to skim on their Monday coffee break. Remember that your goal is a memo that everyone will read, not a comprehensive report on everything happening at the company.

Tell a story

Humans are wired for stories, and using one in your weekly update can be a way to grab people’s attention.

You don’t have to make the story up yourself –– take one from history, movies, books, video games and the world around you. At Slite, we were recently delighted when our CTO Pierre Renaudin used the Battle of Agincourt to illustrate a way of thinking about how to align our efforts to better serve potential customers.

A snapshot of Pierre's extended metaphor about Agincourt in his weekly update.

Don’t worry about tying the entire update together with a story. You can use it to open, to end, to motivate your team through one particular problem, or as a metaphor for illustrating your point, as Pierre did.

Use visual cues

A huge block of text is a great way to kill people's attention and engagement. Instead:

  • Use H1s, H2s, H3s to break down your update into skimmable main points.
  • Use Hint blocks to offset key ideas.
  • Add in sketches, screenshots, charts, and other images in between paragraphs, or in place of text where an image displays your point more easily.
  • Utilize screen recording, especially if you have graphs or other visual assets to break down. We like using Loom for embedded videos.

To check if you are too text-heavy, try going over your update looking at only H1s, H2s, H3s and any images or video. If you can still get the main points, you’re looking good!

Put up a poll

Asking for engagement doesn’t have to be complicated – polls are a great way to cue people to pay more attention. Even requesting a simple emoji response is a low-lift way to make sure that team members are involved and have read to the end.

Asking about topics covered in the update can get communication flowing, but throwing in a "just-for-fun" or icebreaker poll every once in a while is good, too.

Some fun poll Ideas: How many languages do you speak? What's your least favorite day of the week? At what age did you get your first job?

Shout out specific teammates

While you probably have good feedback flowing through other channels, adding a shout-out into weekly updates once in a while can be a nice surprise.

In remote, we're reading all day, and working independently. Efforts and achievements can easily be overlooked and fall through the cracks. It can be nice to highlight things that might not normally get picked up elsewhere, especially things that fall outside of normal scope of work projects. Plus, team members are likely to pile on the kudos, which can brighten the start of any week.

Get a little personal

Sharing something that you learned from in your personal life or something that is happening outside of work can immediately set a team update apart. Some possible prompts:

  • What did you think about on a run or walk this week?
  • Did a conversation with a friend, partner, kid or community member surprise you?
  • Have you made any small changes to your routine and why?
  • What’s a reflection you have now on where you were a year ago?
  • Have you tried anything new lately, and what was that experience like?

Use these as a springboard to thinking productively about your work culture, goals, and approaches to the topic you are discussing in that week’s update.

Share the mic

While getting the weekly update together will ultimately fall to leadership, that doesn’t mean the perspective has to be the same every single time.

Occasionally ask department heads from the marketing team, sales or customer success, product team, or engineers to give an update on their side of the business, in their words. At Slite, we often have our Head of Product or CTO write an update, not just the CEO. They can –– and should –– use and incorporate learnings from their team. This makes people from across the company see that they have more specific stakes in updates.

Plus, when people realize how much work it takes and how nerve-wracking it can feel to have everyone read their words, they will have a new appreciation for engaging with team updates and encouraging the team to do the same.

Make key numbers the star of the show

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, numbers are, too. They pack a punch and often illustrate your points much better than a block of text will. To emphasize your data, make a big visual change to signal what’s important. Try:

  • Using graphics, if you’re comfortable with making them.
  • Pulling in data from another tool with integrations.
  • Highlight your stats.
  • Offset important text with the quote function.
  • Have a summary of key stats as your conclusion.

Quote text has that special something …

A little more effort is worth it

If you’ve felt stumped by how to write the best weekly updates, you’re not alone. After all, “writing a good company memo” is not at the top list of skills people are thinking about when starting a company –– and that’s before you’ve done 48 of them in a year and run out of ways to make them feel fresh.

But putting in a little effort and creativity can make all the difference. We hope these suggestions give you a spark that will help you get the most out of your regular updates.  

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