We won a 2003 Gold Award for our newsletter. That newsletter is no longer in print. I'll be candid and confess that our new electronic newsletter for our college is not as popular as we think it should be. I'm curious as to what others have done to increase their readership. Do you run contests? Have you made it more lighthearted or more news-you-need-to-know?
How are you getting out the news your dean's office or department chair wants distributed? Do you use print along with e-newsletters? Does your leader deliver mosts news via e-mail instead of a newsletter?
The bruning question is no longer how to format your newsletter. It's how to capture your readers' attention to keep them reading. I don't mean remaining subscribers, but reading to the next item in your latest issue.
Some of you will recall Leslie O'Flahavan's session at the Forum conference held at the Depot. She has some good tools and advice.
I think the best advice is to know why you're writing a newsletter. Are you acting as a consultant, a news reporter, a news aggregator, a gossip, an industry insider, a storyteller? And it's critical to write a strong subject line that identifies the newsletter and describes this issue's content. It's even better if it includes a verb or strong adjective.
What newsletters do you read in e-mail, Web, or blog formats? I've stopped reading anything that simply interests me. I now read only that which will help me do my job. So I read UMNnews, The Recorder, the forUM communicator, and all our departments' newsletters. In all honesty, I don't read those either. I skim for color and keywords. I don't often choose to follow a link. I don't want many graphics. I love bullet points. I love consistent style. I don't check any blogs except my husband's and I don't always bother to read it. And I don't read many of the RSS feeds I subscribe to. Even more honestly, I only read our college newsletter because my friends contribute to it and it sometimes contains information I need to be effective in my job.
If we manage to improve our readership, I'll post how we did it. And we'll enter it in the next Maroon and Gold awards competition.
Here's an article I don't want to lose track of: How to Create Great HTML Emails with CSS
To quote only the summary...
General Do's and Don't's for HTML/CSS Emails
To wrap up, here are some do's and don't's:
* Use inline style declarations for the most important styles.
* Declare styles in a style tag when they're not absolutely necessary.
* Use table tags for multi-column layouts and floating elements.
* Test your email in multiple standalone and Web-based email clients.
* Use external stylesheets.
* Use floating div tags for multi-column layouts.
* Expect CSS background images to show up in most email clients.
* Rely on images showing up, especially background images.
From EduWeb in Baltimore:
Almost Live from EduWeb 2006: Research and Tips to Use Mass Emailing Effectively
From An Email Minute
Different email clients allocate varying numbers of spaces to the subject line. For example, Hotmail limits the number of characters it displays to 45; AOL shows up to 51 spaces; and Outlook allows the user to establish how much of a subject line to display.
Research has consistently shown that subject lines less than 50 characters long generate higher open rates. That's at least partly because so many email recipients see truncated subjects when the lines run more than 50 characters.