Launching an email newsletter? 14 tips.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Poynter’s Kristen Hare has honored my Chicago Public Square project with a look at what makes it work.

I hope you’ll give it a read.

At her request, I shared 14 tips for launching an email newsletter. And here they are.

  1. Have a clear idea of your mission.
    One of the joys of email is that it can be as long as you’d like. Knowing early on what fits and what doesn’t helps establish your brand—and provides useful boundaries to keep you from going nuts.
  2. Make sure your From field is clear and compelling.
    It determines whether anyone opens your email.
  3. Put your most interesting words at the start of your Subject (headline) field.
    If your subject line’s boring, all the work that follows may go for naught.
  4. Include multiple links in each dispatch.
    Even—maybe especially—if you’re sending readers to off-site content, the relative popularity of those links gives you valuable intel.
  5. Track your metrics religiously—at least daily.
    Don’t let fresh and unique intel go to waste.
  6. Watch for engagement patterns within individual issues.
    For instance:
    • If one link is highly clicked within a cluster of poorly-clicked links, your audience is telling you that either the subject’s of greater interest than you expected, or you did a less-than-optimal job of presenting the surrounding material.
    • Or if one link is poorly clicked within a cluster of highly-clicked links, your audience is telling you either the subject’s of lesser interest than you expected, or you did a less-than-optimal job of presenting that material.
  7. Use social media shamelessly to drive signups.
    Your roster of Facebook friends is especially valuable in building a core audience.
  8. Stick to one responsive-design column.
    Smartphones render multicolumn email illegible.

  9. Don’t waste Subject field space with the date.
    Email software tells your subscribers when you pressed Send.
  10. Don’t capitalize every word in your subject line.
    Engaging, concrete words—proper nouns—get lost that way.
  11. Don’t give away the whole story within your email.
    Approach each item like a long headline. Aim to give readers enough to make the email itself a satisfying experience while also giving them reason (a “curiosity gap”) to click to learn more.
  12. Don’t worry about dispatch frequency.
    One of the joys of email is that it arrives when it arrives. Because everyone checks an email inbox all the way back to the last time, your email will be seen. More important: Make sure every issue is rewarding.
  13. Don’t use images for images’ sake.
    If they’re not vivid and compelling at smartphone screen resolution, they just waste space and push down more actionable content. So lose that hulking masthead or logo at the top of your email; people don’t open email if they don’t know who sent it, and your From field will have made that clear. Don’t make readers scroll any more than necessary to get to the good stuff.

If you’d like help improving your email presence, drop me a line.

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