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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Our newsletters are changing

For many, you might have noticed that postings have been sparse as of lately and while I am one who usually preaches the importance of regular blogging, there has been method to my madness!

By viewing my blog entry from back in March, you'll notice that I've been taking the last number of weeks and months to conduct my own social media experiment with clear tactics that deliver results for non-profits. Through my research, I've clearly found that the process starts with good content on a website that reflects the message you are wishing to convey. Admittedly, while preaching this message, I recognize that I have not been following my own advice! As such, I've been spending the last couple of weeks investigating ways to completely revamp and optomize both this blog and my website: www.actionstrategies.ca.

But this only explains one aspect of being effective on the internet. Social media for non-profits is undoubtedly a powerful tool. Reviewing what works most for non-profits, my experience tells me that when starting out, they rarely have a large following on the internet. In my mind, when starting our in Web 2.0 world, associations & charities need to consider as part of their strategy how they will build the "build up". This means also reviewing how they deliver e-newsletters because for non-profits there needs to be a strategy of "push & pull"

Once enough of a following can be build online, social media and internet optimization builds the pull-in of fans for a cause. The "push" however remains the e-newsletter. Gathering email lists and maintaining contact with supporters as I do with my own business' lists is what drives initial traffic to online presences. For a number of years, my current service of Constant Contact has been what I have relied on to get out the word (via "push") on what I've been up to and to drive traffic to even this blog.

However, in a time when I am reviewing both the look and design of this blog and my website, it's fitting that I would also at least look at the means I have of delivering the e-newsletters of the Magnifier & Corridors. I've come to an important conclusion that I'd like to impart upon non-profits looking to improve their online public relations and drive social media presence. Namely, I believe that e-newsletters, RSS feeds and blogging/ social media strategy need to come together.

In my humble view, Constant Contact does do enough to bring these services together. I'm making an important change. I'm moving the Magnifier & Corridors over to a new service will feed the RSS feed from this blog over to email. The service that allows this is MailChimp. Through the templates for the newer versions of my newsletters to you, every entry to this blog can incite an update being sent to your inbox of you are a subscriber. For NPOs who have time and cash strapped staff, I feel this feature will not only provide an importance efficiency, it will also magnify how you can pull it all together.

Going through this process of learning, I've also learned that with the appropriate e-newsletter system in place, you can even integrate social media tagging abilities within the emails you send. This means that you can have a much higher potential possibility of someone posting your articles within their social media profiles. Traditionally, most e-zines make you go to a website and from there, the visitor would need to tag the article in Facebook, YouTube, Delicious, etc. With the attentoin spans being as short as they are on the internet, the attrition rates of losing the valuable asset of visitors doing this are very high when they have to click through more than 2 pages.

But in my learning it's been more than just features that have attracted me to making a change. As I have often preached, content is king! In delivering a more effective e-zine, I have also been experimenting with richer & more effective means of content. Instead of going for initial lengthiness of newsletters, I'm going for emails that are SCANNED not read! I recommend the same crucial lesson for NPOs. This means that e-newsletters need to have article blocks that are shorter and PUNCHIER. In my discussions I have monitored amongst non-profit execs the common theme talked about was member info fatigue. Keeping emails short, I believe, improves open rates and improves the chances that links you place in the ezine will be opened as well.

While I still have some work to do, I hope to provide everyone here insight into how I progress in this great experiment for you. :) Let me know your thoughts!
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Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy for non-profits and associations. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

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