Sharing Entries For Awards-Part Two, E-Newsletter

For those of you just tuning in, I started a series of posts on Tuesday with the entries from the Greater St. Louis Area Council, Boy Scouts of America, in the National President’s Marketing Awards, a marketing and communications contest held by the National Council of the BSA.

The Scout Oath states, “…to help other people at all times…” and I’ll be sharing my entries here during the next few days. (Plus, I’ll remember where to look for the 2011 information when filling out the forms for 2012).

I publish these with the hope that the steps of stating objectives, reviewing planning, assessing impact and reflecting on lessons learned are a valuable process when looking back on initiatives and planning future projects.

Here’s our submission for the council’s electronic newsletter, the Digital Duffle Bag. (Click here to view the archive.)

Objectives

The council’s electronic newsletter, the Digital Duffle Bag, is designed to be a “push” communications tool that “pulls” readers to the website and other digital channels. The e-newsletter is sent twice monthly on the second and fourth Thursdays. The distribution timing and strategy is intended to keep Scouting “top of mind” with parents and leaders.

The e-newsletter supplements the council’s printed newsletter, the Duffle Bag. Editorial calendars for all communications channels are reviewed each week. This review helps identify marketing and communications opportunities that will enhance delivery of programs or highlight important initiatives. Content also focuses on accomplishing the goals of the council’s strategic plan and achieving benchmarks in the Journey to Excellence program.

Stories also are included to motivate volunteers. The “Leader Tip” is designed to give leaders a program that can be immediately implemented and that can help them deliver a quality Scouting experience. The “Parent Tip” provides information to help parents with challenging issues and to support their children’s Scouting experience.

Subscriptions are free and can be completed through the council’s website and Facebook page. Links to each e-newsletter are posted on the council’s Facebook page and Twitter accounts. This encourages people who aren’t subscribers to view the information and consider subscribing. An archive of the e-newsletters can be found on the council’s website.

Planning
The council uses the Constant Contact electronic mail system. It provides a wide range of tools for layout and design. It also provides a double opt-in mechanism to prevent spam.

The council’s editorial calendar is reviewed each week and a story budget for the e-newsletter is developed. A review of current marketing objectives is reviewed to determine if any programs or activities need promotion. Content from previous issues and the previous year also are reviewed for possible content. The open rate and click rate from previous issues are reviewed and trends are evaluated. Resources from the National Council and Scouting Magazine are reviewed for possible inclusion.

Impact
The average open rate for the e-newsletter was 28 percent and the click rate was 27 percent during 2011. These percentages show our subscribers trust and rely on the information. The Digital Duffle Bag’s open-rate and click-through rates are higher than any similar industry average compiled by major e-mail providers:

MailChimp—20.4 percent for nonprofit; 3.54 percent click rate
Mailermailer.com—15.2 percent for nonprofit
Constant Contact—21.7 percent for nonprofit; 10.2 percent click rate
Furthermore, across the nation, e-mail open rates fell to 17 percent on average in 2010, down 9 percentage points from 26 percent in 2009, according to a report by Harte-Hanks.

Lessons Learned
After reviewing open rates, clicks and traffic directed to the council’s website, we will be changing our distribution day from Thursday evening to Monday morning. Website analytics showed that Monday was the busiest day of the week. With the addition of the electronic newsletter delivering prompts on Monday, we believe traffic to the website will increase earlier in the week. We hope this will help improve the speed and efficiency for leaders who are gathering information or learning about programs and activities. We believe most leaders on Monday begin planning for meetings and activities during the week ahead.

We also are developing direct URLs so readers can go directly to website content. For instance, http://cubcamping.stlbsa.org will bring the visitor to a landing page on the website that has information on all council camping programs for Cub Scouts.

The e-newsletter with the highest open and click-through rate was the issue announcing the 2011 Silver Beaver recipients. It also was the busiest day of the year for page views and visits on the website. We need to capitalize on those hits in the future by attempting to make conversions on honoring the recipients by making a gift to the council’s endowment fund or another similar transaction.

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