Across OSU Extension, email newsletters are used to educate, convey information to, and build trust and community with industry-specific, program-specific and general audiences. However, each newsletter within the division looks different, sounds different, provides varying levels of effectiveness and offers varying levels of brand alignment and accessibility.

There are best practices we all can adopt to improve the effectiveness and accessibility of our email newsletters. In the coming weeks, we’ll be rolling out Extension newsletter templates to make it easier to tell our stories better. These templates will be designed to work on MailChimp and Constant Contact platforms. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, adopt the following best practices and we’ll make significant strides in readability, effectiveness and accessibility.

10 Best practices to adopt now

1) Write engaging and informative subject lines.

This is the first opportunity to make your audience curious about the content of your newsletter. Try to limit the subject line to no more than 50 characters (including spaces). Check out these websites for guidance on writing engaging subject lines:

2) Make the preheader work for you.

Preheader text is the short line of text displayed next to or just below the email subject line when an email is viewed in the inbox. Preheaders are often overlooked opportunities to engage the reader and tell them more about what’s in the newsletter.

3) Build a clean list and remove unengaged email addresses.

If someone hasn’t opened any of your emails for a year or more, find out if they still want to receive your email newsletter. Send a “We miss you” email to see if they want to continue being a subscriber. A clean list will give you a more accurate email open and engagement rate.

4) Personalize your greeting.

Using the first name of your subscriber is more likely to capture the attention of the reader. This can be in the subject line or start the newsletter with “Dear {first name}.”

5) Keep content short, simple, personable and focused on the interests of the readers.

Think about what the payoff is for the reader. What’s the essential takeaway? How does the story reinforce the value of Extension to the community? Then write two or three compelling sentences as your lead-in to tease the reader into continuing to read the story by clicking on the call-to-action.

Limit the number of articles to three to five. Enough white space within the overall newsletter will make the newsletter easier to read. The Extension website is a good source for newsletter content: news stories, publications, event information and other content. Use links to encourage visits to the website.

6) Use compelling calls-to-action.

Instead of “click here” or “click this link,” use more actionable language, such as “Learn more,” “Download,” and “Register today.” If calls-to-action are images, use alternative text to make sure readers can click them even if images aren’t enabled.

7) Improve accessibility.

Increase font size to 12 to 14 point for body copy. Use the Georgia font for headlines and Verdana font for body text. Use alternative text to describe story images so that subscribers that disable images or those with disabilities know what you’re showing them. Do not use text over photos or PDFs embedded into the newsletters. Avoid text-heavy content.

8) Include links to social media sites.

This allows readers to share content easily. (And consider including a link to your newsletter in your email signature. Refer to email signature guidelines for the way to do it.)

9) Include an email signature.

People are more inclined to read and open emails if they come from a person rather than info@companyname or noreply@companyname.

10) Send your newsletters consistently.

Choose the frequency of the newsletter and settle on the day and time of delivery (this may take a little time to find the best day and time for open rates and click-throughs). Then stick to the schedule so your readers watch for and anticipate it.

Additional tips

Review metrics to see what content is of greatest interest to your audience.

During the Stay Home, Save Lives mandate and beyond, reinforce in headlines and body copy that OSU and Extension are here for our communities.

Set expectations when someone first signs up for your newsletter so that they know what to expect for frequency and type of content.

A/B test subject lines and calls-to-action between two groups of subscribers to learn what language creates a greater response. Read: Effective email marketing subject lines.

Segment your audience to appeal to their interests. The value of the content will be elevated if it’s of interest to the reader.

Add video and animated content to increase engagement with the reader. Also increase engagement and learn more about your readers by adding a quick poll.

Reinforce the personality of Extension with the tone of story selection and writing style. Personality characteristics for Extension are defined in the Extension Style Guide:

  • Collaborative – We’re better together
  • Conscientious – Aware, with integrity and conviction
  • Visionary – Creatively leading the way, taking on issues
  • Welcoming – Friendly, open to all and enriched by difference
  • Progressive – Pursuing innovative practices that lead to proven methods of thinking and doing
  • Helpful – Focused on service that meets the needs of our communities
  • Adventurous – Having the courage to seek out new solutions

 

Author: Ann Marie Murphy

 

Sources:

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