University communications offices are often referred to as the “P.R. office” of the institution, and that’s often how I’ve described the OSU Extension Communications office.

It’s correct that the news and public issues team in our office does perform some functions of a traditional public relations firm. We write news releases and distribute them to the media. We respond to requests for sources to interview for news stories, and pitch stories to the media. We monitor coverage of Extension in newspapers and broadcast media.

But the news and public issues team – myself and Kym Pokorny – spend a significant amount of time using other formats to tell the public about the great work you’re doing.

Amplifying impact

Some of you may remember the Bridges to Prosperity website that launched in 2013 to highlight the impact of OSU’s three statewide public service programs – Extension, Ag Experiment Station, and Forest Research Lab. It fell to the news and public issues team to choose impact statements submitted by faculty to be rewritten and included on the site, which we overhauled and re-launched in 2019 as Our Impact.

As I write this, there are 168 impact stories on the site. Although many of you know about the site, you may wonder how to find stories so that you can better let your fellow Oregonians know about them.

First, you should know that the site is searchable. You can find the “Search” field in the upper right corner.

 

If you’re looking for impacts in your county, you can click on the orange button called “View our impacts in Oregon counties.”

Once you’ve found a story you’re interested in, you’ll notice on the right-hand side you can find stories by category, region, Statewide program, county (again), and theme.

Once you’re familiar with how to find impact stories, you can share them with the public in a variety of ways, most notably: on your social media accounts, in presentations and newsletters, and in written and verbal communications with elected officials.

Spreading the news

I’ve worked in university communications offices since 2012. In that time, I’ve seen the precipitous and ongoing contraction of newsrooms, especially at newspapers. According to Pew, employment at U.S. newspapers declined by 51% between 2008 and 2019. All newsroom employment dropped by 23% over that same time period.

Long gone are the days of putting out a news release or sending a news tip to the media and having it covered by the local newspaper, TV station and radio station. Local outlets are still eager to publicize our events — so please, keep sending them your local events announcements – but it’s more unlikely than ever that they have the time or people to cover Extension like they have in the past.

So last fall, Extension Communications introduced the news story. It’s not a press release, and it’s not an impact story. Both Kym and I are former newspaper reporters, so we used that experience to our advantage. We are writing news stories as if they would appear in a local newspaper, and they are being published to the news section of the Extension website.

By telling our own story, we’re not sending a news tip and hoping that the story gets covered, or covered in a positive light. Now, we’re in control. We have been sending some news stories to local newspapers and they’ve either published them directly to their websites or they’ve done their own story. Producing news stories is the No. 1 priority for the news team during the COVID-19 crisis, as we help you share how Extension is still actively serving communities.

You can share news stories just like you share impact: in presentations and newsletters, on social media, in conversations with stakeholders and elected officials. And please feel free to send news stories to your local newspaper, radio station and TV station. They just might decide to do a story of their own.

Always keep in mind that you can contact the news team if you have an idea for a news story, or you have an impact statement that should be added to the impact site. We’re also happy to meet with individuals or small groups who are interested in learning more about how our team works.

Topic pages provide a way to share related resources in one easy-to-find place.

Topic pages provide a great opportunity for you to:

  • Put your content where people are browsing on the OSU Extension website. In our website’s main menu, the topic-related links receive the most clicks.
  • Organize the content for your topic(s). And direct people here — the place with the most up-to-date information. Whoo-hoo!
  • Learn about other fabulous resources. By working on this, you’ll learn about resources others have created across the state related to your topic. And discover other brilliant things happening across OSU Extension in other topics or programs.

Topic pages help Oregonians:

  • Find our resources and events on topics they are interested in
  • Discover who is doing this work — you, our experts! Experts are listed at the bottom of the topic pages.
  • See where things are happening across the state. See the ‘in your community’ tab. This information is added by adding a county focus area.
  • Discover the breadth and depth of what OSU Extension does
  • Stumble into answers to questions they hadn’t yet asked

Topic pages are the foundation to make our resources easy to find. They support our organizational goal to share the breadth and depth of content from across OSU Extension in one framework (not a network of separate sites), organized around topics. To learn more, read about the Navigator: OSU Extension digital strategy initiative.

Level up your topic page

Each topic page has different needs and audiences. Below are some ideas for ways to organize your topic page.

Case study: Bees and pollinators

Kudos to the bees and pollinators content team for a well organized and engaging topic page!

Read some tips on organizing your topic pages:

Case study: Youth education resources

Kudos to the ‘youth education resources’ content team on the engaging and well organized youth education resources topic page!

It was important to make the content sortable by grade level (i.e., Elementary School, Middle School, High School). These keywords were added to the related content (articles, publications, etc.).

Now we can sort our resources by grade level. And see the list of resources under ‘Browse resources.’ To explore how this works, visit the browse resources youth education resources page.

Help improve topic pages

We need your help to make topic pages awesome.

Please:

  • Review the topics related to your expertise.
  • See if the pages looks complete or if the content is out of date.

If no one has curated a topic page, then it will automatically show any latest content tagged with that topic.

To help you quickly organize content on topic pages, connect with the Extension web team.

Training

Learn more about how to edit topic pages:

Extension works in so many different fields from public health to forestry to food systems. People either know us or discover us based on our knowledge in these specific areas. So it is not surprising, the topic menu receives the most clicks on the Extension website’s navigation.

Many of these topic pages could use some organizing by subject matter experts. Topic pages can fill the need to show your coordinated efforts. The educational resources you share every day with key audiences can be accessed in one place without needing to create a separate website on the topic. These topic pages will also easily connect visitors with Extension programs, events and experts across the state.

How topic pages are organized

If no one has curated the topic page, then it is automated to show any latest content tagged with the topic. Check out a topic that relates to your work and see if it looks complete or out of date.

If it’s not useful, then it may be time to connect with the point people from the different Extension program areas to help you quickly organize it. The Extension web team can help you get connected.

The point people will give you an excel sheet of the existing content on that topic page, then ask you to identify and mark related categories. This process also helps you catch content that was mistagged or should be archived.

Then using those categories, the point people can add content tags and set the topic page up online for your review. You can also make further changes on your own. Learn more in the web guide on Instructions for Topic Pages, including a how-to video.

Here’s some great examples of curated topic pages:

Next week’s blog post will highlight the best practices that the Youth education resources and Bees and Pollinators topic pages put in place.

New features: Topic categories

Until now, we had to use custom keywords to organize a topic page. Now it is easier with topic categories. The categories help to identify the top tasks that people often come looking for, and show up as main headings down the topic page.

The topic categories also show up as a way to filter “Browse Resources”.

You can add a topic category from your group page if you are a topic page facilitator. Then whenever anyone adds a topic tag to content, the topic category field shows up to fill in. This helps to remember to add these category tags, so any new content shows up in the right place on the topic page.

New features: Opt-in Form for visitors

In the past quarter, visitors to the Extension website has grown 63% in comparison to the same time last year. That’s a lot of people who may be interested to engage with us. A new tool that we are piloting allows people to sign up to get more information.

On the gardening techniques topic page, web visitors can sign up to get a gardening e-newsletter each month. This message “Join our email list for free gardening tips!” pops up from the bottom of the page.

If they decide they want our help for a healthy, beautiful and productive garden and click “Sign me up for the newsletter”, then they can submit their name and email. We assure them we are committed to their privacy and not sharing their information.

If they enter their information, they will get future newsletters.

On the garden vegetable and herb topic page, web visitors see a pop up from the bottom of the screen “Get your free essential guide to gardening!”.

If they click “Download the free guide”, then it gives them an opt-in form to email them the free guide.

If you are interested to learn more, then reach out to us and we can tell you how to try it out on a topic page that you organize.

As we acknowledge all that’s happening in our country and world right now, and react as best we can to our new circumstances across all of Oregon, it is easy to grasp how being able to provide helpful, insightful news to our constituents means more now than ever. Communication is key!

In my role at Extension, I am constantly striving to incorporate the guiding criteria of our Navigator digital engagement effort. In the case of newsletters, it’s easy to focus on these:

As progress is made on the Navigator initiative, it’s nice to get a little refresher on collections of resources that are available for us to access any time. Many times right here in the Navigator blog.

Email newsletters — aka enewsletters

The resources I bring to you today are those that help us with those wide-distribution digital communications we rely on from time to time. These “bulk” email sends can drive traffic to website pages, spur enrollments in workshops and courses, and transform our understanding of our target audiences.

I am talking about enewsletters.

We recognize the importance newsletters have played in our Extension work for decades. In our journey toward a digital future—which our response to the COVID-19 pandemic may have greatly accelerated—we begin to assess the benefits of newsletters delivered to our constituents in email form.

As the future emerges (swiftly, as it now seems), a new normal will begin to establish itself for enewsletters based around these principles:

  • Always consider your audience
  • What information does our audience truly need? Are we talking about one, large audience… or a collection of distinct audience segments?
  • Keep all writing inside the enewsletters short and to the point
  • Focus on providing a link—we refer to it as the “call to action” (CTA)—which leads to a web page or similar online destination
  • The CTAs are important—because people clicking on each one reveals what is of greatest value to them
  • Measure measure measure—rate at which people open the emails, click-through rate, conversions, etc.
  • After measuring, react and improve
  • Discontinued use of PDF format newsletters—in this format, we simply lose out on all the opportunities to measure the results!

Head off to learn even more

The goal of this post is to provide links to information you can use to transform your team’s use of enewsletters.

We start it off with Ann Marie Murphy’s contribution on email newsletter practices that can help educate, convey information to, and build trust and community with industry-specific, program-specific and general audiences.

Back in March, Michele Scheib shared with us about the “plain language” approach to anything you write. Plain language conveys meaning in short, spare sentences and simple words.

Then over to a recorded webinar presented by our own Rich Collins, from PACE, who led us on a journey through the steps of creating high quality enewsletters. I was able to join in as a co-presenter to share a vision of the possible future state of enewsletters as we look ahead to 2021 and beyond.

 


CTAs, CTRs, CMS, oh my! Let’s talk newsletters!
Thursday, May 21
Presenters: Rich Collins (PACE), Mark Kindred (ECTU)Do you write or send a newsletter? Would you like to take it to the next level or even just tweak what you’re already doing? Tune in for some compelling newsletter examples and best practices to help elevate your content and increase your audience engagement!

View the video recording of the presentation

 

There was the post about how having email delivery occur inside a sophisticated tool like the Salesforce CRM can provide substantial benefits for those needing to keep tabs on progress.

And I will wrap up with a couple posts that are related to each other, exploring ideas how to add new subscribers to enewsletter email lists over time.

 


About the Navigator digital engagement team. In the coming months, many of you will hear from me as I produce a long-term CRM strategy for OSU Extension. I look forward to talking with you and ensuring the CRM plans are in alignment with the business needs of your unit and the long-term vision of the university. The Navigator team is looking forward to talking with you about how digital engagement is aligned with your work and can provide new benefits.

During these times, we make the most with what we have. And sometimes we can do more with what is at our fingertips. In one-on-one web meetings or when auditing webpages now two years after launch, it’s clear that many of the helpful features of the website’s content management system are still new to you.

When things are new, they may be avoided or underused. So, explaining how these work more than once and in different ways helps. We have done a written web guide, blog posts and trainings. Some quick tips below will hopefully show you things you may have missed.

How do I make a page more designed or organized?

It can be hard to connect what you see on the back-end (where you edit pages) with what you see after you save it. Page sections are the way to layout your content and make information standout for a visitor on the webpage – whether it is a topic, county or program page.

Below is an excerpted video from a recent webinar. It switches back and forth to help you see: what each page section looks likes in edit mode and what it looks like once saved.

Click to play the video on page sections

As the video shows, page sections allow you to add pieces of content to a page in chunks, one section at a time.

There are different types of sections you can use to customize your page:

  • Standard: For typing in static text and for adding images or videos. These don’t fully use the content management system, since they aren’t shareable across the site.
  • Automated: For automatically displaying lists of events, program resources, or latest content. Once set up, you don’t need to do anything more. The content updates based on tagging or dates.
  • Selected: For finding content that others added on the website, and selecting it so it displays in a specific place. You need to remove it later if you no longer want it to show.
  • Designed: For setting up a page so content stands out (e.g. an orange stylized bar with icons to click). Also, it can make content formatted a specific way (e.g. content titles show and when you click the full text expands).

Not all page sections or advanced settings are covered in this video, so also read more in the web guide.

How do I stop an event or announcement from showing up?

You can now modify tags! This makes it easy to fix a piece of content that was mistagged. You can also add your county tag, topic tag or program tag to something to get it to show up. This can be useful for an online event that may be of interest to your audiences.

This short video shows you how to modify tags (click to play).

What’s happened to my content or page?

Sometimes you notice something has changed or isn’t how you remembered it. First, take a deep breath and realize two things: there’s an easy way to find out and it’s usually a simple explanation.

We are in this together. You each have a lot of access to do things you need to on the website, and that means many other people do too. It’s what makes this website platform function with the resources we have. Communication and a sense of calm can help most situations.

The easy way to find out what’s happened is to look at the “Revisions” tab at the top of any page.

The revisions page records who made the last changes, and you can compare to see what changes were made. It’s even better when everyone remembers to leave comments in the “revision log” field when editing a page. Those comments appear in the Revisions tab too.

If nothing looks out of the ordinary there, then send a quick email to https://beav.es/extension-support to ask us to look into it.

If it’s a technical issue, then we will get on it. If it’s a training issue, we can offer context to help understand the way the content management system or different team processes work.

What’s the benefits of the website’s content management system?

This efficient system has prepared us for the long term goals of integrating Extension content with other sites, social media, and client relationship management platforms. It will also be able to personalize content for visitors on the website. This is why the content is structured and tagged in the way it is.

Being in the same content management system helps to:

  • Show a more unified presence of Extension and the coordinated efforts within each of our programs, fields of expertise and regions
  • Track analytics and feedback for a more strategic approach
  • Avoid duplication of resources and use the tagging and page sections to share and show one piece of content in many places.

We are continually improving this behind-the-scenes editing experience.  We are working to simplify the way content authors add, find, select, translate and manage content. Stay tuned for more news and trainings later in the year. In the meantime, reach out to us now for a 1-on-1 working session to get up to speed on all that you can do.

Extension is all about the practical applications of science, and scientists love acronyms. But in practice, acronyms and abbreviations can cloud meaning and turn off the people we’re trying to reach.

An acronym is formed from the first letter of each word in a series. Writers often use acronyms to save space and avoid repeating a technical term or a long agency name. But consider that readers have to stop and decode each acronym, each time it is used. Acronyms impede comprehension and alienate readers.

Many of us were taught to follow a term such as Extension and Experiment Station Communications with its acronym, set off by parentheses: Extension and Experiment State Communications (EESC).

Oregon State University follows Associated Press Style, which frowns on this convention. The AP Stylebook explicitly states:

AVOID AWKWARD CONSTRUCTIONS: Do not follow an organization’s full name with an abbreviation or acronym in parentheses or set off by dashes. If an abbreviation or acronym would not be clear on second reference without this arrangement, do not use it.”

Questions to ask yourself

This guidance poses a dilemma for those of us who write scientific and technical communications. Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering whether to use an acronym.

Can you say it out loud?

Acronyms ease communication when they are a shorter, easier way of referring to your subject. But acronyms no one can pronounce have the opposite effect. If you have to resort to a difficult letter combination, consider subbing in some shorthand language instead.

Acceptable:  WHB pest status is derived from the transmission of WHBTA.

Better: White horned beetles are deemed pests because they carry White Horned Beetle Transmitted Virescence Agent, which causes whopping disease in raspberries. The damage is caused by the agent, not the action of the pest on the plant.

In this example, the term “agent” serves as a substitution for the hard-to-read acronym.

Who is your audience?

If you are writing for a technical audience already familiar with your field’s terminology, acronyms may be acceptable. In these cases, stop and consider how you would explain such terms to new members of your audience who are just entering the field. You may want to add context to help clarify your meaning.

Acceptable: FSMA

Better: Food Safety Modernization Act or food safety act (on the second reference)

While many publications in the Extension Catalog qualify as technical documents, most are intended to appeal to a general audience. When writing for the Extension website or a newsletter, avoid excessive use of acronyms and overly technical language. Use plain language.

Is the acronym a familiar one?

Acronyms in common use such as AAA, CT scan, UFO, PTA and OSU are all OK. Avoid using unfamiliar acronyms.

How many times will the acronym be repeated?

If your entire story is based on subject XCT, it’s OK to use the acronym (after you have made clear its meaning). But be selective, and avoid sprinkling in additional acronyms. That can make the piece harder to read and understand.

If you use the term only once or twice, there is no need for an acronym.

What are the alternatives?

Changing old habits can be hard. Here are some techniques that can help readers grasp the meaning behind an acronym.

  • Repeat the term in full on each reference. (Admittedly, awkward.) United Aircraft Mechanics approved the deal early Thursday. Later in the day, a representative of United Aircraft Mechanics said the agreement had already been broken.
  • Use an element of the full term as shorthand on future references. “The mechanics” instead of “United Aircraft Mechanics.”
  • Use a synonym. “The group” or “the union” can sub in for UAM on subsequent references.

When is an acronym OK?

Yes, it’s still OK to use many common acronyms and abbreviations. Here are some frequent uses of acronyms in Extension publications:

  • Fertilizer: N, P, K.
  • Measurements: F, mpg, mph, GPA, etc.
  • Integrated Pest Management: IPM.
  • Names of pests, such as spotted-wing drosophila, or SWD.
  • COAREC and other experiment stations. (Spell out the full name on first reference.)
  • EPA, IRS, ODA.

What’s the right way to use an acronym?

Spell out the full term on first reference, and introduce the acronym within the same paragraph.

  • These producers employ a practice known as Integrated Pest Management. IPM uses a combination of strategies to control pests.
  • These producers employ a practice known as Integrated Pest Management, or IPM. Producers who use IPM report better outcomes.

Punctuation: Avoid periods between individual letters unless the acronym would spell an unrelated word. Academic degrees (M.S., Ph.D., etc.) and some two-letter acronyms are an exception.

Plurals: Add s, no apostrophe. REIs, PHIs. Exception: Letters, such as A’s and B’s.

Can I use an acronym in my title?

Avoid the use of acronyms in headlines, titles and subheads, especially if the acronym is not in familiar use.

The upshot: Be conscious of any reading impediments embedded in all caps in your text. Make reading easier by keeping acronyms to a minimum.

What other questions do you have about acronyms? Leave them in the comments and we’ll get back to you!

Author: Janet Donnelly

UPDATED 7/17/2020.

We have added a new focus area template to each county. Here you can share information on accessing food, health care, and financial assistance in your county.

Please change the information in the template to the relevant resources for your county. Then publish it. See details on how to make the updates below.

Screenshot of the focus area template:


To find your local focus area:

  • Login to the OSU Extension website
  • Visit your county landing page
  • In the sidebar towards the bottom, click the orange button “Return to group content list.”
  • Under the heading “manage content” — find “type” and select “local focus area.”
  • Click “apply.”
  • Look for “[count name] COVID-19 resources.”
  • Click edit

To customize your local focus area:

  • Review the information
  • Delete any information that isn’t relevant for your county
  • Add local contacts for the remaining relevant information (name and contact info for your local health department, etc.). Update the text within the brackets: “[[ ]]”
  • Publish the focus area

Display it on your county landing page:

  • Visit the “What we do” page on your county’s landing page
  • Under “Highlights” click “[Reorder Focus Areas]”
  • To change the order, click and drag the arrow icons in front of the focus area names to the desired location. The first five focus areas will show up on the county landing page.

Lately, people have been wondering how to share their recent Zoom recordings and handouts, and how to let communities know we’re still providing useful activities and resources. The website can play a part in this communication, alongside your emails, social media, newsletters and outreach to local media. We have some guidelines and examples and considerations to get you started and coordinated related to: Prepping recordings, Program pages, County pages.

County pages

The county landing page already is a spot to feature your current events, your newsletter and feature a few new pieces of content either from your county or statewide news and resources. You can also use announcements to share resources like Lincoln county.

This action of keeping your landing page fresh shows you are active. Featuring a couple pieces of new content could be done at the same time you are pulling together your newsletter.

If you have a lot of new resources, then keep your focus areas under “What we do” updated too. In addition to announcements, Lincoln county added a new focus area to encourage supporting local food, for example.

We’ve also had requests from other regions that they want one place to showcase all that’s happening across their program areas. In this case, an “Online resources and activities” focus area can be featured at the top of your What We Do section on your homepage.

Here’s an example that we will push out to counties later this week, which you can customize.

We want to elevate visibility and awareness of OSU Extension’s work with Oregon communities with particular focus on local and county-level impact and resilience in the face of COVID-19. Next week we’ll share another focus area template to help you in directing people on where to find local food, health and financial assistance too.

Program pages

Other than the event lists, program subpages are a good place to communicate with participants and volunteers in your program what new resources you have that they can do at home. The key is coordinating how these resources are added, although the design on the page can vary.

Here’s a short decision tree.

  1. Is the new resource only relevant to your local program in your county?
    1. Yes, add as a program resource to your local program group.
    2. No, see below.
  2. Is the new resource of interest to or being duplicated by other local programs in other counties?
    1. Yes, add as a statewide program resources and tag for the local county programs. This way it only needs to be updated in one place.
    2. 4-H Jackson county is an example that could be done this way since they have good resources that could be of interest to other 4-H county programs that are also adding new home activities subpages.
  3. Is the new resource of interest to other statewide programs and the general public?
    1. Work with related faculty to add through a content team as an educational material and tag for the program(s). This way it can show up on topic pages too.
    2. Oregon Master Naturalist is an example that shifted to this way.

Prepping and sharing your recordings

Content teams have shifted to giving virtual programming since the pandemic started. When giving your programming as a scheduled webinar, the recordings are posted in OSU MediaSpace within hours. You can use this recording in several ways, but there’s a few things you need to do first.

Make sure that you have informed attendees it is being recording and received the needed permissions from those attending. Please remember that recording meetings or events with youth is prohibited without express consent from their parent or guardians. See specifics on the Virtual Extension program delivery page.

To ensure we meet our ADA responsibility, please request captions for your Kaltura video, and proof and fix any issues. This will ensure the recorded content is as widely accessible as possible.

  • You may need to edit your Kaltura video to snip the beginning or end of your recording. You can find instructions here.
  • Check in if you have any branding for pre and post-production to be added.
  • Lastly you will need to share your video.

Once you have completed these steps, you can post the video on the website.

  1. Add the recording link to the event page (which can still be found by searching on the website after the event) along with any handouts. However, don’t share publicly “meetings”, especially that contain youth in the recording, on the website. See program delivery info on Zoom safety and security on our Virtual Extension website.
  2. Get the attendee list from your Zoom Oregon State report dashboard afterward and email it to them. Contact us for any questions on getting that list.
  3. Add the video on the related county focus area if the content is a webinar not meant for broader distribution (check with the appropriate content team first). See a Coos county example.
  4. See if faculty want to edit portions of the webinar to add as educational content through their content team. Visitors to the site often want quick answers not whole webinars when they find videos on the site.

You still want people to attend the program, rather than just wait to find the recording. The value of people attending the webinar live is that they can engage with you and other participants – a chance to ask questions and network. However, analytics on numbers of views of the recordings could be included in your Digital Measures reporting.

Web updates

It is important for our learners, stakeholders and funders to know that OSU Extension continues to actively serve, engage, respond and innovate during the COVID-19 pandemic—even while locations are closed and employees are working remotely.

To align with the current way we deliver services, we adjusted small but meaningful wording on the site:

  • We adjusted the emergency announcement from emphasizing we are closed to we are still here for you with related resources.
  • We made it clearer on the homepage how we are offering many online events from across the state.
  • We made sure that postponed events are now separate from active events.
  • We shared information on wearing a face covering on county sites.
  • We feature new resources on the homepage and COVID-19 topic page, like the new “Sewing cloth face coverings for beginners” educational gallery.

We also improved the speed at which you can enter and update content behind-the-scenes.

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:

Oregon Master Naturalist is an excellent example of a statewide program using the website layout. Kudos to Jason O’Brien!

Let’s take a look:

These are some of the things we love

The landing page has:

  • A lush and inviting photo
  • Engaging information about the program.
  • Titles and text are user-friendly and help potential participants identify if they would enjoy and benefit from the program.
  • An enthusiastic testimonial video
  • Stories sharing the heart of Oregon Master Naturalist
  • Straight-forward sidebar navigation

Other pages

Become a Master Naturalist

Volunteer

  • Great impact statistics for Master Naturalist volunteers. These were added using the new “impact stats bar,” available for programs and counties.
  • Easy to find exciting volunteer project ideas

What is the cost?

  • Easy to understand the cost and financial options.

What you can do now

Review your program pages. Is there anything you can do to improve the text or images based on the example above? See instructions for updating program content.

Please contact us with any questions.


Web updates

These are some new features:

  • You can tag an event with a project. Then add a “project events list” to your page to display them.
  • You can add a “project faculty/staff list.” Contact us to add users to display on a project.
  • You can override the title of a piece of content selected for a “highlighted content item” page section.
  • You can now specify what text shows when county event lists have no events to show.

The about us section on the website has new information, including a new career opportunities page.