Email and E-Newsletters

Sierra Club Earth Day Email Success -- Upped My Awareness & Engagement in a Snap I received an email from the Sierra Club last week offering me seven easy ways to rock my earth day. Loved it. 

The email was short, to the point and helped me out hugely. You see our daughter Charlotte is the biggest reduce-reuse-recycler there is, and she's been asking me about what we're doing on Earth Day (4/22).

This succinct email made it easy for me to get a plan together, and feel very appreciative of the Sierra Club. Even more importantly, it's a great example of an org hooking its work into a news event (can be a holiday, an anniversary related to your issue focus, or an actual event like legislation passing or in the news.

Connecting your org's work with whatever's in the news or otherwise top of mind is one of the most effective (and easiest) communications strategies out there. So map out your editorial calendar for the next few months and piggyback away.

One suggestion though; make sure the timing is a bit more aligned than was the Sierra Club's. I received its email on earth day more than two weeks before the day itself. Earth day had just floated across my lens at that point and I'm sure was not on those minds without a mini eco-powerhouse in the house. An April 15th release would have been better timing.

P.S. The right messaging is critical to the success of every nonprofit campaign! Download the free Nonprofit Tagline Report for must-dos, don't dos, case studies and 1,000+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Nancy Schwartz in Email and E-Newsletters, Media Relations and Press, Nonprofit Communications | 2 comments
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Unleash the Power of Your Email Signature -- The Most-Missed Marketing Opportunity

Email signatures (a.k.a. sig lines) are a powerful, low-cost, high-return marketing tool for your organization.

But what’s surprising is how seldom sig lines are put to work. In fact, I frequently receive emails from nonprofit staff members with no sig line at all. Now that’s a wasted opportunity.

Consider this: If your organization has 30 employees, each of whom sends 30 emails daily to folks outside the org, then (assuming 250 business days) that’s 225,000 ad views annually, at no cost or much extra effort. If you have 100 employees, that’s 750,000 ad views annually.

Dive into this brief guide to crafting an effective sig line, and how it will benefit your organization.

When you do, your nonprofit could be getting a strong, memorable message out with every email by the end of this week!  It’s an easy way to jump-start your 2009 marketing agenda.

P.S. Yes We Can! When a powerful tagline is joined to a compelling mission…nothing is impossible! Download the free Nonprofit Tagline Report for must-dos, don’t dos, case studies and 1,000+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Nancy Schwartz in Branding and Messages, Email and E-Newsletters, Nonprofit Communications | 2 comments
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Take Candidates' Lead for Email Wins for Your NonprofitI’ve been noticing distinct trends in the presidential campaign email I’ve received. Short subject lines top the list, but the flood of campaign email showcases several other powerful email tactics as well, many of which are great inspirations for powerful nonprofit marketing.

So I was pleased to see Karen Gedney’s summary of the best in presidential campaign email techniques on ClickZ.  Here they are:

1) Short Subject Lines
The shortest range from one to four words. Less is more, I always say. Here are a few recent examples: Appalling; Imagine; Last-Minute Attacks; Running Track.

Gedney cites recent metrics from MailerMailer that subject lines under 35 characters motivate 5% more opens. I suggest that you need to get under 20 characters (no more than four short words) for any real boost. The best way to understand how/if shorter subject lines make a difference in your campaigns is to do an A/B test of two subject lines of varying lengths (try one running 40-50 characters, and the second 20 or less characters).

2) Letter-Format Email Messages, Longer and More Personal than the Norm
Candidates are fleshing out short subject lines with messages that follow the traditional fundraising letter format and run 250-350 words. The narrative is usually supplemented by a graphic banner featuring a tagline and a visual sidebar, with a action button (Donate! being the most popular) and a video link.

According to Gedney, longer, more personal messages outperform short “ad” copy every time.

3) Stay on Message with Consistent Branding
Typically, the banner on these emails features a tagline summarizing the candidates position, which is repeated in the letter itself. That position is each candidate’s brand, the sound bite takeaway that needs to be highlighted, and conveyed consistently, in every email.

4) Video, Video, Video
Almost every email I’ve received from the candidates includes a video link. That makes it easy for me to “go live” and really get a sense of the candidates.

Gedney cautions that metrics don’t show that online video increases opens. Find out how video works for your audiences with another A/B test. Take a brief online video (3 minutes or less) to feature in the first version, delete it in the second and see which generates more opens and clickthroughs. And, if you don’t have a well-edited, brief video on hand, link to a brief slideshow of high-impact stills, like this timeline from EDC.

5) Multiple Senders, Celebrity Endorsers
Vary things for your audiences, so they stay interested. Otherwise, repeated messages from the same sender can get boring (my 5-year-old’s new favorite word, since when are kindergarteners bored?). Obama’s campaign emails come from him, from Michelle Obama, campaign manager David Plouffe and other staff members, celebrity endorsers and, most recently, VP candidate Joe Biden.  The variety keeps it fresh!

Sign Up Today for Free Email Campaign Training: Simply subscribe Obama’s and McCain’s email lists
I recommend you subscribe to a few campaign email lists (presidential  plus)  to get a constant flow of new ideas for your nonprofit email campaigns. I promise that the ideas just won’t stop (until November 5th). Don’t forget to let me know what you harvest and put into play for your nonprofit.

Strengthen your nonprofit brand with the Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Report. Subscribe to the Getting Attention e-newsletter (in-depth articles and case studies on nonprofit marketing) to get the free report on publication in mid-Sept..

Nancy Schwartz in Branding and Messages, Campaign Marketing Models & Tips, Email and E-Newsletters, Nonprofit Communications | 2 comments
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Timing is Everything -- Reach Your Audiences When They're Likely to Read and Act on ItMea culpa! I made one of the most common (and most avoidable) nonprofit marketing mistakes yesterday — sending out my bi-monthly e-news during vacation week for at least 50% of school districts nationwide.

It wasn’t a crisis. After all, people are always out of the office, and I get about auto-responders to that effect every time I publish the e-news. Usually those represent about 1/2% of my mailing list. But yesterday, I got auto-responders (which I have my assistant read to ensure we capture key info from the recipient, such as a new email address, she’s moved on, she’s out that day or two) in the 1% range, most telling me that the recipient is out of the office this week.

1/2% is no crisis. I’m not gnashing my teeth. But if you can reach that extra 1/2%, why not?

Obviously, you can’t avoid vacation weeks like that if you have a daily or weekly e-news, advocacy alert or other very frequent campaign. But whenever possible, make sure you reach your audiences when they are working and ready to read or act.

Here are some basic guidelines on what to avoid when scheduling an e-mail or mail alert:

  • School breaks of a week or more; check your district’s calendar and those of a few other districts
  • Federal holidays
  • Extended holiday periods (Xmas week, 4th of July week, etc.)
  • Core conferences in the fields your audiences represent (for professional audiences, and only if you segment out audiences by trade); for example, don’t try to reach foundation CEOs or program officers during the annual Council on Foundation conferences, or fundraisers during the AFP annual meeting.

Anything else to avoid? Please add in the Comments link below.

Timing is everything. Here’s how to do it better time-of-day wise: Best Time to Send Out Your E-News–An Aha Moment.

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Nancy Schwartz in Email and E-Newsletters, Nonprofit Communications, Strategy | 2 comments
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Easy, Free, Useful Tool for Effective Online WritingLast week I trained 25 nonprofit marketers on Writing for the Web, one of my favorite training topics. Nothing is more important in writing for the Web (or email or blogs) than writing succinct, focused, easy-to-digest copy, so I drilled down on how to do so. Try it. It’s harder than you think.

How serendipitous to discover this free (for Word users) tool this morning, which assesses how pithy and powerful your online writing really is. Word’s Readability Analysis Tool tracks:

  • How succinct and simple your writing really is (these qualities are crucial for online readability) — counting sentences per paragraph; words per sentence; and characters per word.
  • Other key “readability” markers:
    • Passive sentences (active tense a must)
    • Flesch Reading Ease Score which rates copy on a 100-point scale; higher scores indicate easy of understanding.  Aim for 60-70 at a minimum.
    • Flesch – Kincaid Grade Level scores copy according to school grade levels. A score of 7 means that a seventh grader will understand your writing. Aim for 7 or 8 to ensure a broad range of readers.

Here’s how to get the Tool on your Word 2003 toolbar:

  • On the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Spelling & Grammar tab.
  • Select the Check grammar with spelling check box.
  • Select the Show readability statistics check box, and then click OK.
  • On the Standard toolbar (the bars with buttons and options that you use to carry out commands, at top of screen. To display a toolbar, press ALT and then SHIFT+F10), click Spelling and Grammar to pop up your readability report.

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Nancy Schwartz in Branding and Messages, Copywriting, Email and E-Newsletters, High-Impact Websites, Nonprofit Communications | 4 comments
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Email Subject Lines Have to Be Tight and Complete -- Get an Outside Reader's Take Before ReleasingYes, you’ve heard it before but I got a ringing reminder of this today via an email from a local performing arts venue, the Community Theatre in Morristown, NJ. Here’s how the subject line read:

Garrison Keillor Added to Schedule; Tickets on Sale Oct. 3

Thanks a lot, Community Theatre. You tell me that a favorite performer is coming your way and when I can buy tickets, but you make it really hard for me to find out when he’s scheduled. Even worse, when I did take the effort to click through to the theatre’s Web site, the same headline (without the critical  performance date info) was featured on the home page. NOTE: The home page has now since been  corrected. Keillor’s performing on May 21, 2008 should you be interested.

Nothing’s more important than making it easy for your audiences to take the actions you’re communicating about. That can be hard to ensure unless you get outside eyes to review all marketing outputs, including emails. Perspective is everything.

Learn more about crafting effective email subject lines here:

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Nancy Schwartz in Email and E-Newsletters, Nonprofit Communications | 0 comments
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Take 12 Minutes to Learn How to Grow Your Nonprofit's Email ListHaving a robust email list of folks willing to receive hear from your organization on a regular basis is a critical component in your marketing success. But it can be very challenging to build your list beyond what you’ve developed via the standard channels (online donations, other donors, volunteers, etc.).

If your email list growth is stalled, try these easy-to-implement strategies recommended by online copywriter Nick Usborne in his free audio tutorial (it’s 12:18 long to be exact):

  • Give something valuable in return for an email address (the something has to be of greater perceived value than what you’re asking for). Options include an e-newsletter (that helps the audiences, rather than being just about you). white paper, free Webinar participation, preview access to an important report on the field.
  • Feature your e-mail sign-up form on every page of your site, so readers can get more once they’ve digested related content (a case study, a report on your field, etc.) that they like. Remember that Web readers may come directly to any page in your site; they don’t necessarily enter through your home page. Make sure they don’t come to your site pages
  • Put co-registration to work. That’s when readers sign up for a related e-newsletter — not head-to-head competitors but related non-competing organizations (let’s say a nonprofit in a related issue area think animal rights/environmental preservation), and are given the option to subscribe to your organization’s e-news as well. Once you’ve made the deal with partner orgs, CoReg Complete is an easy tool for managing the mechanics.
  • When you’re using offline media to build your list — use a very clear URL that can’t be misspelled (within reason). Time and time again I’ve been unable to get to URLs I’ve glanced on signage while I’m driving by, or heard briefly at the tail end of a radio PSA.

Gotta fly to build the Getting Attention e-news list. Join below!

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Nancy Schwartz in Email and E-Newsletters, Nonprofit Communications | 0 comments
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I Love Receiving the Newark Museum's E-NewsI do. I really, really  do. And that’s not my usual response to yet another email.

Let me tell you why this e-news to Museum members stands out:

==> The subject line is short and simple — The Newark Museum August 2007 E-News — so I can absorb it (and note I want to read it, when I can) in a second. The complete line shows up on my Blackberry (a max of 30-40 characters show up on email subject lines on a handheld).

==> I get frequent mail communications from The Newark Museum. The look and feel of those brochures and letter packages is absolutely consistent with that of the e-news, so at a glance I know just who the email is from.

==> The e-news is clean and clear — lots of white space, color and type sizes used effectively to differentiate headlines. I can easily scan it, and see what I want to read more about.

==> It features activities and news relevant to me, to my husband (we have different art interests) and to Charlotte — our four-year-old daughter. Even better, I can click through to read more or register for a special event. But all the info about what’s happening at the Museum this month is there in one place. They’re making it easy for me, and I love that.

Take a cue from The Newark Museum in crafting your nonprofit’s e-news. Make sure you feature content relevant to the full range of your target audiences, and make it easy for them to find out more.

Learn how to:

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Nancy Schwartz in Email and E-Newsletters, Nonprofit Communications | 2 comments
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How to Nurture Strong Relationships with E-news and Blog Readers -- More Depth, Less Often, Advises Jakob NielsenMore depth, less often (if necessary due to time constrictions), is the way to go with blogging (or your e-newsletter), asserts online communications expert Jakob Nielsen.

Nielsen, who’s been researching and advising on the way we tend to use the Web and other online communications channels since 1995, advises bloggers to “avoid commodity status.” Translation — prove your value to readers with insightful, pithy commentary rather than superficial patter limited to links to others’ insights or comments on other posts. In doing so, says Nielsen, your nonprofit will succeed in building strong relationships with loyal readers, rather fleeting flirtations with “blog dilettantes” who skim 200+ blogs daily.

I think he’s got something. How can anyone relate to so much information, especially when a lot of it can be found elsewhere online?  And if your nonprofit just reiterates what your readers can get elsewhere, where’s the value?

Where I disagree is Nielsen’s insistence that blogs don’t have value as a channel. He’s a contrarian, so I take his claim with many grains of salt. I hold that blogs and e-newsletters have value: What’s critical is that each one is used strategically in the way that fits best.

Let me share my experience… You may have noticed that my posts tend to be longer than those of many other bloggers. That’s because rather than having something to say about everything that crosses my lens, I find it more useful (as do my readers, they tell me) to dig into what’s really significant, frequently relating communications campaigns I come across in my “regular life” to nonprofit communications, analyzing a nonprofit marketing launch, or a news item that suggests some useful approach marketing wise.

On the other hand, I sometimes write two-sentence posts pointing you to a valuable article or some eye-opening stats. That’s it, and that’s enough, and results in a good mix of blog posts.

Again,I do believe in the value of parallel communications channels. A blog and e-newsletter are  complementary. Nielsen is right, however, in insisting that the only way to differentiate yourself in this world of TMI (too much information) is to craft content that’s valued by your target audiences.

Your nonprofit’s in-depth content just can’t be recreated by 99.5% of the other nonprofits out there. As he puts it, “A thousand monkeys writing for 1,000 hours doesn’t add up to Shakespeare. They’ll actually create a thousand low-to-medium-quality postings that aren’t integrated and that don’t give readers a comprehensive understanding of the topic — even if those readers suffer through all 1,000 blogs.

Or, as my husband says, “blog posts are like popcorn, dissolving the moment they’re in your mouth, but in-depth news articles are like an ear of corn…something to really hold on to.”

So when time and budget are short, as they always are, I’d go with a modified Nielsen approach. In-depth articles, published less frequently if necessary, conveyed via blog or e-news (why not both, readers have their own preferences in terms of getting info), are more memorable and more engaging. Use your blog as a complementary tool for short updates and calls to action, or to highlight nuances or insights that you get during your workday, and of course a link. That’s the best of both worlds.

Most important to remember — content (perspectives, news, guidance) is the most powerful means you have of showcasing your nonprofit’s expertise and value.

P.S. One issue Nielsen fails to address is how to get your longer articles — delivered most typically via email — through email spam filters. My recommendation is to publish articles via e-newsletter, add those articles to your Web site (here’s the Getting Attention e-news article archive), and post a brief article summary on your blog linking to the full article. It works. Promise.

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Nancy Schwartz in Blogging for Nonprofits, Email and E-Newsletters, Nonprofit Communications, Strategy | 0 comments
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More Bang for Your Nonprofit's Marketing Buck -- Bring Your Print Ads to E-News ReadersI was thrilled to receive an email
yesterday from Environmental Defense (ED), urging me to take a look at the print ad they’re running in Roll Call (the D.C.-based daily paper on congressional news) today.  When I clicked on the link provided, I got to a page that engaged me (I’m a donor) and made me feel that the organization is doing great work.  Now I’m ready to give more.

Here’s how ED succeeds in engaging two critical audiences (legislators and citizen supporters/advocates), for the price of a single ad. They:

  1. Place the ad for a specific audience (congressional representatives, senators and their staff members) — telling them that 50,000 ED supporters (most of whom receive their email) have signed the New Patriotism Declaration urging Congress to cap and cut global warming pollution.
  2. Piggyback on the ad campaign via outreach to Declaration signers and other supporters (demonstrating follow through, and competency) — showcasing the ad and explaining ED’s strategy.
  3. Continue the conversation with these supporters, who may not have been involved with ED since signing the Declaration, thanking them for their support and nurturing them as a loyal community rather than a group of individuals.
  4. Update this community on encouraging committee work and pending legislation on Capitol Hill,  paving the way for future requests for support — donation- and advocacy-wise.

Strong double play, Environmental Defense.

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Nancy Schwartz in Advertising, Email and E-Newsletters, Nonprofit Communications, Unique Approaches | 0 comments
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