Your association newsletter: 15 ways to give your news a boost
Your organization’s email newsletter is an incredibly valuable way to consistently engage your members and show them how you are staying ahead of the important topics and news in your industry. It also provides you the opportunity to associate your organization’s brand with the cutting-edge information in your space.
Most organizations, however, are not taking full advantage of this useful communication tool. In this piece, we will explore 15 ways that you can take your email newsletter to the next level. First, we will identify ways in which you can leverage new technologies to make your email newsletter more sophisticated and, at the same time, less of a drain on your internal resources – or, in other words, save time.
The second section of ideas around taking your association newsletter to the next level will outline ways in which you can maximize your newsletter real estate.
Finally, our list will conclude with ensuring you are leveraging the fundamentals of email engagement for your association newsletter.
Pro tech tips for taking your association’s newsletter to the next level: personalization, automation, and artificial intelligence
1. Personalizing your news content
We all are beginning to understand the power of personalization. In this day in age, one-size-fits-all communication essentially equates to one-size-fits-none engagement practices. According to market intelligence company Aberdeen: “Personalized email messages improve click-through rates by an average of 14% and conversions by 10%.” And it’s no different for association newsletters.
Hand-segmenting your list based on member interests, occupations, and interaction activities is one way to begin personalizing to increase engagement. You can send several different versions of your association’s email newsletter based upon the historical data you have collected on your members. There are various email tools that have been designed for this kind of hand-segmentation.
The practice of hand-segmenting email newsletters has its downsides, however. For one, hand-parsing excel docs and hand curating several different versions of an email is extremely challenging and time consuming. Second, the member data that you have might be stale. Finally, even if the member data you have is current, people don’t always accurately self-report their interests. For example, I might say that I am a marketer interested in reading about branding, but in reality, I might actually be clicking on articles that focus on digital and SEO. How would you ever be able to keep timely tabs on my interests if I self-reported my top interest as ‘branding’?
That’s where automation comes in.
2. Automating the association newsletter process
We all share one commonly scarce resource: time. Automating your email newsletter process can be one way that you save your staff’s time. Automation generates results because you can engage with a new level of frequency without having to spend more time or more money.
With regard to newsletters: Instead of scouring the internet for the latest, important industry news and hand-curating your association’s email newsletter, you can have stories from relevant and authoritative news outlets automatically pull into your emails in order to support an auto-send process.
While many of us have considered automating the email newsletter process, one of the reasons many associations hold back is because they do not want to sacrifice the margin of personalization and relevance they gain from hand-segmentation.
3 Optimizing with artificial intelligence
So how do you get personalization and automation in one, plus the added benefit of continually evolving intelligence for your association newsletter? Why, AI, of course.
Email services now exist that allow you to compile a list of credible news sources – on top of those that include your organization’s own events, blogs, news, journals, and articles – and have that content auto-populate into individualized emails.
AI can be leveraged to then scan the content of the hundreds upon hundreds of articles that come in from those sources and choose the specific stories that get pushed to each user’s email, as determined by their behavior, preferences, and AI insights gathered from other similar users. Imagine sending a unique email to every single one of your members, based upon just-in-time insights on their reading behaviors.
Maximizing your association newsletter real estate
Now that we have covered ideas around leveraging innovative technology and automation for your newsletter, we are going to share best practices for optimizing your email real estate.
4. Including links to your subscribe and / or membership renewal pages
At rasa.io, many times we get the questions from our clients and prospects along the lines of: “Why do we need to include a ‘subscribe’ link if people are already receiving our email? Doesn’t that mean they are already subscribed?” Well, the short answer is, yes, they are already subscribed, but it is best practice to include a subscribe link, and here’s why:
If you are sending out engaging content, chances are, your members and subscribers will be forwarding around your emails. When those outside users consume the forwarded content from your email, providing them easy access to a subscribe link will allow them to join your list with just one or two clicks.
Depending on your email newsletter structure or strategy, however, you might not want to allow non-member users to automatically opt into your newsletter send list. This is of course understandable depending upon your organization’s processes. In this case, you can direct them to a membership page or to another landing page that will allow you to collect their information for whatever purposes you choose going forward.
5. Making social profile info easily available
Whether it be in your footer, or in your header, or via some other strategic placement in your email newsletter, you should always include links to your association’s social profile pages. This will allow users to easily click out and view the most up-to-date components of your online presence via your social pages. And if they have not already, it provides the an easy avenue from which to follow or like your various pages.
6. Using calls-to-action for important events
Every good marketer knows you always need a good CTA. That’s how you know you’ve done your job and made progress to your ultimate goal, whatever that goal may be. In most cases, when it comes to digital marketing and communications, you want one, clearly defined CTA in order to progress your audience member down a clearly defined path.
For email newsletters though, CTA strategy is a bit different. You want to inform your members, readers, or subscribers about the latest news and updates in your industry, in a (largely) unbiased way.
It is still beneficial, however, to leverage your newsletter communications in order to separately promote your association’s current goals. You can use some of your real estate in order to encourage members to sign up for your upcoming webinar, register for your conference, or renew their membership, for some examples.
7. Infusing other interesting and important messaging
Along the lines of calls to action, you can also leverage your association newsletter real estate in order to infuse other newsworthy and important messages. Many of our clients infuse daily lead text, as we at rasa.io like to call it, at the top of their newsletters in order to share their own editorial alongside the latest industry news.
You can use this editorial space to feature progress toward major goals, new hire information, board meeting updates, a highlight on a superstar member or volunteer, and the list goes on.
8. Highlighting your organization’s key content
Creating quality content can be difficult. Creating a lot of quality content is even harder. That is one of the reasons that we at rasa.io recommend aggregating your organization’s own content with other relevant industry news within the space in order to alleviate some of the pressure off of you to curate your newsletter. Adding in outside content makes it so you can send a content-rich newsletter without needing all of the content within the email to be your own.
When your organization does put out a quality blog, podcast, news or journal article, however, you want to ensure that piece is highlighted within your association email newsletter. We recommend allowing some featured real estate in the email – a highlighted or boxed visual treatment, for example – in order to make it very apparent when your organization publishes something new.
We find that when our clients infuse their own content into a visually-highlighted space, it gets greater engagement than it otherwise would with the same visual treatment as the rest of the stories. (Watch our webinar on other tips and tricks for promoting your organization’s content!)
9. Leveraging promotional opportunities
Deciding whether or not to include paid advertisements in your newsbrief is one that is multi-faceted. You have to consider: the size of your audience; your engagement rates; if there are advertisers who would be advertising industry-appropriate goods and services; if you have a vendor or someone internally that can sell the ads; and the list goes on.
If you do decide to include paid ads, the obvious benefit is monetization of your email. Another benefit is exposing your members to vendors and products that they would not otherwise have been aware of.
Even if you make the decision to steer away from paid advertisements, you can still leverage advertising space for internal promotions.
You can use a graphic designer to create engaging promotional images that advertise web pages you want to drive traffic to; upcoming educational events; and even external educational resources that you feel are appropriate for your community.
10. Incorporating “evergreen” content
It makes sense to primarily include the latest, breaking news in your association’s newsletter. However, sometimes there might be a piece that is relevant to your subscribers that might have been published months – or even years – ago.
If you are interested in having historic, relevant content pull in from journals or other reputable online publications, like the Harvard Business Review or the New England Journal of Medicine for some examples, you can include those sources in your list of content feeds as well. You can also leverage artificial intelligence in order to only bring in an evergreen piece when it is particularly relevant to an individual member.
Optimizing the fundamentals of your association email newsletter communication
So we’ve hit on tech tips and email newsletter real estate optimization. Finally, we are going to cover the fundamentals of email communication. We will delve into what our data – and the data of some other big players in the space – points to when it comes to optimal subject lines; send time(s); send day(s); preview text; and send frequency.
11. Optimizing your subject line
Why is subject line so important? Without an effective subject line, the content within your association newsletter has little chance of being consumed. Below are 5 ways to help you craft effective subject lines, along with some examples:
- Numerical lists of tips, tricks, value propositions – like 7 Reasons to Embrace Artificial Intelligence or 8 Great AI Tools.
- Recent news headlines or relevant announcements – oftentimes what we use at rasa.io. When we use AI to choose the most relevant subject line for each individual reader, we bring personalization to the next level and significantly increase the chances that the email will be opened. Plus, we can then depend on the content specialists who have written any of those given news headlines to write something enticing.
- Personalization tags – like Top industry headlines for Erica. People are up to 50% more likely to open an email when the subject line is personalized with one of their individualized attributes.
- Intriguing questions are a great way to pique a reader’s interests. Some examples: Wonder how to stay ahead of association marketing? And: Having trouble retaining your members?
- Action oriented language and commands implying deadlines and scarcity also drive open rates. For example: Register by August 1 in order to take full advantage.
12. Choosing send day
Choosing the day(s) of the week on which to send your association newsletter is a decision that profoundly impacts overall email engagement. (That is, if you don’t send your digest out every day in order to maximize engagement, and we will talk about the more in the Send Frequency section.)
As the Mailchimp graph below demonstrates, Tuesdays and Thursdays tend to be optimal send days, followed by Mondays and Wednesdays, followed by Friday, and, in dead last, are weekend days.
13. Considering your newsletter send time
Email send time is also a critical engagement determiner. It is a common misconception that if you send on a good day, a member will just open the email newsletter at their convenience – but it doesn’t quite work that way. The truth is that an email is 5 times more likely to be opened within an hour of its send time, so you need to consider hour of the day as well as the time zone(s) of residence of the majority of your members, clients, and subscribers.
According to the chart below, put together by CoSchedule.com, the top four send times are 10am, 8pm, 2pm, and 6am. Confirming that – for better or worse – people go to bed as well as wake up with their inboxes!
14. Deciding on send frequency
You can send your newsbrief daily, two or three times per week, once a week, twice a month, or however often you like. We oftentimes recommend sending daily or multiple times per week so that our rasa.io Artificial Intelligence can best learn about each individual reader’s preferences.
Sending multiple days per week also increases maximizes your unique weekly engagement rates. In other words, you maximize the chances that you will reach each of the members of your audience on any given day, because as much data as there is on optimal send days, the fact of the matter is that every individual’s schedule and read-day preferences are different. (However if your industry is extremely niche, it might be best to send less frequently if there is not as much daily news published for your particular industry.)
15. Crafting appropriate preview, or pre-header, text
Many mail clients these days incorporate preview text into their interfaces these days. What is preview text, you ask? It is the snippet of content that appears after the subject of an email, before you even open it to see what is inside. And it’s critical you take advantage of this extra real estate that some email clients allot.
If you do not craft your own custom preview text, then it will normally just default to the first sentence or so of the email. Many email send services allow you to customize your preview text. At rasa.io, we recommend customization, as it allows you another chance to intrigue your reader and encourage them to open your email.
So there you have it! 15 ways to bring your association’s newsletter to the next level, covering everything from innovative, personalizing and time saving technologies to the content within your newsletter to email send best practices.
Ready to put the new in newsletter?
Sign up to be one of the first to send a smarter newsletter.