Speaking at last week’s Community Service Public Relations Council’s annual Spectrum Conference was enjoyable. It brought to mind the quote from the Roman philosopher Seneca: “He who teaches, learns twice.”
There’s often a tendency is to over-research topics when presenting to an educated, diverse, experienced and engaged audience. (Extensive time on research might also be a form of procrastination, but no one wants to be caught teaching an outdated strategy or talking about a problem that’s been solved by technology.)
The more the research, the more the affirmation of a timeless truth: Practicing communication fundamentals and good storytelling continue to drive results. (Click here for the workbook (pdf) of my presentation, “Get Your E-Newsletter Fit, Fascinating and Fashionable.”)
Successful e-mail programs require time, strategic thinking and creativity. While it might provide a high return on investment because of the low cost of distribution, hidden costs can be found in time spent coordinating content, scheduling, writing, designing and troubleshooting. There are many parallels in the execution of print and electronic newsletters:
- Checking the proper resolution of photographs so they print clearly;
- Making sure the correct page numbers were listed when stories jumped from one page to another;
- Determining if the pages were divisible by four so one wasn’t scrambling to fill one or more pages or, worse, struggling to determine what stories or photographs must be cut from the publication.
- Following up to see if there is enough postage in the account or will it gather dust on the post office’s loading dock and possibly get lost while a check is being delivered.
Electronic newsletters require attention to just as many—if not more—details:
- Checking to make sure the photographs are properly cropped and tell the story;
- Making sure the links bring the reader to the correct website pages or other online locations;
- Determining if the e-mail is too long and might not contain enough links for additional information;
- Following up to see if the database of e-mail addresses was updated and the e-mail service provider was paid.
The most compelling advantage for using e-mail is the ability to segment your lists. Reaching target audiences with customized messages is easier and faster with e-mail and A-B testing is more efficient. However, personalized postcards and customized content for printed newsletters offer the same flexibility.
The rest of the fundamentals remain constant;
1. Content must be relevant, updated and accurate
2. Offer something special for readers
3. Encourage interaction through a call to action
4. Be visually appealing
5. Write well
Key questions for all organizations:
Do you need a fresh set of eyes to review your communications plan and e-mail strategy?
Are you operating with a schedule or editorial calendar to guide communications?
Are you creating enough content to assist your organization in meeting its goals through these communication channels?