Creating Effective E-Newsletters (Part I)

By James V. D’Ambrosio

(This is the first in a series focusing on different aspects of e-newsletters and maximizing their effectiveness.)

The proliferation of e-mail newsletters, made possible by new technologies allowing organizations to easily produce and distribute them while saving money on printing and postage, is an important marketing tool, especially in this challenging economy. While moving to e-newsletters is a solid business decision, there are some unique characteristics of electronic publications — and how people read them — that you should consider before hitting the ‘send’ button.     

First, consider the nature of electronic communications itself. Unlike printed publications arriving in the mail where someone might sit down and read without distraction, an e-newsletter is a very different dynamic. Often it arrives in a crowded inbox, vying for attention with other personal and professional messages. Increasingly, it is likely to be opened at work during a break or lunch hour, providing precious little time to be read in a meaningful way. Despite these constraints, there are several things you can do to increase the chances that your newsletter will be opened, read — and valued — by your readership.    

Create an engaging message in the subject line of the e-mail. Instead of a generic  “XYZ Newsletter,” highlight an interesting fact to pique readers’ attention. You might say something like “Learn about X’s new book on…” or “XYZ charity recognized for…” This can help your publication stand out, climb reader’s list of priorities, and, in some cases, prevent it from being deleted altogether. The goal is to give people a compelling reason to open the document, learn something of value, and look forward to the next issue.

Careful consideration should also be given to content — online reading has limitations. Research indicates the average person reads 200-250 words per minute and spends roughly 90 seconds reading a story online. Some quick math indicates that keeping stories short — about 300 words — will help maintain reader’ interest. Design and layout is also key. Use photos, graphics and callouts strategically to break up large blocks of text, making it easier on readers’ eyes. Large, bold headlines can get the attention of those just skimming.

Taking the time to consider the unique dynamics of electronic publications — and how people consume them — can pay huge dividends in maintaining and growing your online readership.

COMING IN PART II: Building an e-mail distribution list.

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