Do you spend days stressing over putting together your monthly e-newsletter? Do you wonder what’s most important to your congregation and what they really need to hear from you? Then do you stop and ask yourself, who’s really reading this information anyway? E-newsletters provide a narrow window of opportunity for you to communicate important information, attract your readers’ attention and generate action. You need to make email communications matter. After all, we only get one chance to grab the readers’ attention and get our message out front.
e-newsletters should convey timely, relevant and useful information. This information should be focused, easy to read and mindful of your readers’ time. Create a great e-newsletter that your congregation wants to read by using these 10 tips for creating your best e-newsletter.
10 tips for creating your best e-newsletter
Evaluate, does your congregation really need an e-newsletter?
While we may think an e-newsletter is a panacea for all of our communications issues, it may not be the best vehicle for your congregation. Why not ask the congregation how they prefer to receive information. Is it through bulletin inserts? Or perhaps they prefer a printed newsletter that’s mailed to their home. If you have limited resources, make sure the time and energy you’re investing in creating that monthly e-newsletter provide a positive return on your investment. As communicators, we have to ask what is it we want to accomplish with the e-newsletter and what do our readers want to hear from us?
Determine the goals of your e-newsletter
Begin the planning process for your e-newsletter by determining your goals and your readers’ needs. What do you want your newsletter to accomplish? Is it to:
- Increase attendance at events?
- Inspire donations or other kinds of participation?
- Increase awareness of the ministries in your church or certain deadlines and requirements?
- Push readership to news stories or announcements?
No matter what, all content within your newsletter should drive back to one or more of your goals.
Keep design and copy simple
Avoid making your newsletter feel cluttered and unfocused. Two key factors to accomplishing this goal are succinct copy and enough white space in the design. Yes, white space is our friend and too much copy may be a turnoff for your readers. Succinct copy that drives readers to other locations on your church’s website is a way to get readers to read the entire story and visit additional pages on your site. White space is key in e-newsletters because it helps visually alleviate the cluttered feel, and on mobile devises, it makes it much easier for people to click the right link.
Balance your newsletter content
Your newsletter should include educational, relevant and timely information. Maintain a balance of 90 percent educational copy and 10 percent promotional copy.
5. Use best practices for images
Compelling photos and graphics can quickly grab a reader’s attention. We’ve all heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” However, sending an e-newsletter with images only is a bad idea. Photos and graphics should be used to complement your written copy. Likewise, an e-newsletter with copy only will not draw the reader’s attention, and important information may be overlooked.
Include a call to action
While developing your content, you should also pinpoint your key calls to action (typically three to five). Make sure your calls to action are clear and concise so that your readers easily understand them. Are you asking readers to join a Bible study? To volunteer? To attend a presbytery or church meeting? Rather than including the full text about each call to action, use links with plain, actionable language to get the readers to respond.
- Learn more about our vacation bible school
- Register for the presbytery meeting
- Volunteer for the children’s ministry
7. Develop and maintain a content calendar
Developing and maintaining a content calendar is essential for a successful newsletter. A content calendar can be a tremendous time saver and stress reliever. It helps keep you on track for upcoming editions and it helps you know what’s planned in advance. Additionally, you won’t need to stress each month for themes or content. Be consistent from newsletter to newsletter in terms of how much content you include and how you format and present your e-newsletter. A content calendar will help hold you accountable to your plan for your newsletter.
8. Develop creative subject lines
Your subject line is what your reader will see when they open your email notification in their inbox. The subject line informs your reader about what to expect from the content of your e-newsletter. It is important that the subject line grab the reader’s attention and encourage them to open your message and actually read the newsletter. Remember to keep the subject line short. Subject lines should be kept to around 50 characters and should include keywords.
9. Determine a consistent schedule
Build a sense of anticipation among your readers by being consistent with the frequency and the send date/time for your newsletter. To ensure you meet your scheduled delivery date develop deadlines for:
- Content development
- Content review and approval by all members of the team
- Send date
Now that you have determined your goals, how will you measure your e-newsletter’s effectiveness in helping you achieve them? And how will we use that information to make necessary adjustments for future e-newsletters? Distributing your e-newsletter through a service that provides analytics is the best way to track its effectiveness. Analytics are an important tool for evaluating your e-newsletter on a regular basis.
Important statistics to pay attention to:
- Open rate (How many open the email. Twenty percent is a good benchmark)
- Click rates (How many clicked on a link in your newsletter; two to fifteen percent is the standard for this statistic)
- Forwards (How many forwarded or shared your newsletter with friends; an increase in this number indicates a heightened value to your content)
- New subscribers since your last email was sent (a good indicator that readers are sharing your content and individuals are interested in the information.)
- Bouncebacks (returns from wrong email addresses. Keep your lists updated regularly)
- Unsubscribes (the fewer the better—you want to add readers)
Tags: 10 tips, 10 tips for creating, call to action, calls to action, content, content calendar, creating your best e-newsletter, e-newsletter, information, monthly e-newsletter, newsletter, photos and graphics, reader's attention, readers, readers attention, subject line, subject lines, succinct copy, tips for creating, white space
Thank you for posting this article! It has a lot of really good info in it that helps bring the whole question of focus into focus. I particularly appreciated that you gave examples of goals in Point 2. Sometimes people simply start making newsletters assuming that the goals are implied or self-evident, even to themselves. By providing examples as you did, one may see there certain goals that they may not have ever even had in the back of their mind.
If you all ever do further articles on this subject, I think it would be interesting to see a whole article on your Point 4, about balancing content. I am curious as to what are common categories of content that various churches use in their newsletters.
Good morning David. I was wondering if you received my reply to your message yesterday. I was replying to some other comments and it doesn’t look as though my reply to you was received.
Thank you for your comments. It’s always good to get this kind of feedback. I will take your comment into consideration.
You suggest using a newsletter service. Could you recommend one that is easy to use, provides analytics in an easy-to-understand layout, and is priced so a small church can afford it?
Good morning Rachel. I would suggest you look into Mail Chimp or Constant Contact.Both services provide analytics to help you track the performance of your newsletter.