Newsletters are like teasers – they Mailing_Listhighlight issues and activities, celebrate success stories, point to useful resources and give you a hint of upcoming events. A great way to build a relationship with your target audience, an email (e-) newsletter is cost-effective and a valuable tool for communicating via the Internet.

As Nancy White, online communications expert and lead facilitator at our Social Media Workshop, believes,

“E-newsletters serve as a great summary for ongoing information that may be available in other forms such as blogs, twitter, discussion forums. The target audience that seems to appreciate them the most are people who don’t use many online tools and/or who are not online a lot and like to print and read offline.”

E-newsletters not only overcome a lack of technological know-how, they also transcend geographical boundaries and low bandwidth issues.

Used widely within CGIAR Centers, e-newsletters communicate department/project updates and Center-wide research activities. They are informative, contain useful resources and are often archived as institutional memory.

However, the BIG question is: Is your e-newsletter being read?   

To ensure that your e-newsletter is being read, there are two things to consider: target audience and content.

We know the reach of the e-newsletter is wide, and if you have an extensive distribution list, even better. But then, so does everyone else with a reasonably attractive newsletter. In effect, your newsletter will be competing not only with other research-oriented newsletters, but also with high priority emails, project meetings and an assortment of work-related activities.

Ruthless people are made, not born

People have become adept at managing their email inboxes. Many juggle several email accounts at one time, with each established for a different purpose: work, study, family and yes, even newsletter subscriptions. They can also be ruthless in deleting emails that are of little value to them, a decision that often takes place in the first few seconds of seeing an email in the preview pane of their inbox.

Unless your e-newsletter appeals to the reader in that small space, chances are it may not be opened right away, and may even get deleted.

How to garner the attention your e-newsletter deserves:

  • E-newsletter title – the subject part of the email can be used to your advantage. Use keywords from topics instead of volume number and issue.
  • Headline title – keep it short, attention-grabbing, possibly controversial
  • Subheading – use keywords, state the purpose of the news item
  • Order – place your two best stories at the top to maximize the view in the preview pane
  • Graphics – minimal is best; consider a simpler newsletter header so it does not take up too much space in the preview pane

(A little trivia: Based on eyetracking studies conducted on reading behavior, it was found that e-mail users are extremely fast at both processing their inboxes and reading e-newsletters. The average time allocated to an e-newsletter after opening it was only 51 seconds, with most participants reading only 19% of a newsletter)

So based on the data above, once your e-newsletter is opened, you have approximately 51 seconds to impress your readers.  The more discerning readers will quickly size it up by scanning the headlines and subheadings. If they do not find anything of relevance or interest, you’ve lost them for that particular issue. They may try the next issue you send out, but if the trend continues, they may un-subscribe from your e-newsletter.  So keep track of subscribers and un-subscribers.

For e-newsletter content to be appreciated, it has to be presented in an appealing manner. The look and the feel should be inviting – easy-to-read fonts, minimal images and reasonable length. Description under the headline titles should be short and succinct. Include a link to the source, for people who want more information.

Long e-newsletters risk losing valuable readership. If your e-newsletter is lengthy, it may be prudent to review the rationale behind it. Whether you split your e-newsletter content into shorter e-newsletters that are sent more frequently, or whether you decide to edit content to only showcase the top 5 -6 news items, depends on the purpose of the e-newsletter and the target audience.

There are some quarters who believe newsfeeds are slowly replacing the e-newsletter. Newsfeeds are subscriptions people can make to websites, blogs and other online sources to inform them when new content is introduced to these sites. The ‘news’ comes in the form of headlines. While this is very useful, newsfeeds are impersonal.

The e-newsletter, on the other hand, has the power to be the voice of your cause.

Till next time…

Some examples:

Resources:

Advertisements