Let’s Bust 5 Myths About Association Newsletters

Associations, Communications Strategy // Do you believe these 5 myths about association newsletters? See what they are and learn how to rework your newsletter to make it more engaging.

Beth Arritt
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Newsletters are a staple of association life now more than ever, since most member interaction is online. Members depend on them for news and information, corporate vendors bank on them for advertising and exposure, and your association relies on them for member touchpoints, engagement, and ad revenue.

But just because these stalwarts are an institution doesn’t mean they have to read like a history book. Too often, we treat newsletters like we’re ushering members into a library – all the information is right there in front of them in a long block of text that’s overwhelming for members to read.

Modern newsletters should be slick and short. Think of them as showing your members a hallway, filled with doors that lead into vast treasure troves of information.

If you can turn your newsletter into a hallway instead of a library, you can achieve even better results. To help you make this shift, we’re going to look at five newsletter myths and how to reframe them.

Myth #1. Readers want all the information in the email, they don’t want to have to click.

It’s 2021. No one wants to read a dense screen full of text and try to pick out the important details. That’s why they have you and your newsletter – to tell them the important details and then link to the full story if they’re interested.

Modern newsletters should be a two-way conversation that informs both you and your members. Clicks on these links provide you with valuable information about what your members are interested in. This helps you pick future content because the clicks show you who might be interested in other information you have, like webinars, trainings, and events, based on the subjects they click on.

Resource: 13 Tips to Send Emails Your Association Members Will Open

Myth #2. Newsletters should mimic newspapers.

This one depends on the newspaper, but in general, newspapers put all the text right there in front of you – except those last two paragraphs they always bury on page C18 just to make you search.

Don’t be a newspaper. Your newsletter should be the vehicle that distills the information in the newspaper down to salient points and gives those to your members. Remember, the newsletter itself is not the member benefit. Your expertise in curating the content is.

Myth #3. Each subject line should be exactly the same except for the date.

This one is tricky, because depending on your audience, that might still hold some sway. You should look at your own data to evaluate whether this is true. If you’re seeing lower results than you would like, however, it may be time to try A/B testing new subject lines.

Tips:

  • Try using the most enticing article headline in the newsletter, but don’t put that article first. Put it third or fourth to get readers to scroll and see other things.
  • Try just keeping one small element consistent. For example, account-based marketing company Terminus calls their newsletter “The Blue Note.” They include that in each subject line, but the second half of the subject line changes.

See what I mean:

  • The Blue Note #11: The Blue Note Has Gone Interactive.
  • The Blue Note #12: An Extremely Mysterious Newsletter

One other thing to note about subject lines: The rule of thumb is that your subject should be no longer than 60 characters, but the world is increasingly using their mobile phones and those only show about the first 35 characters.

Need more than 35 characters? Use preheaders to help expand your real estate in your member’s inbox.

Myth #4. One newsletter covers everything for everyone.

Maybe your newsletter can accomplish this. But if you have a diverse audience, it might be worth curating multiple newsletters around specific subject areas. Not only will you give your members more specific information, but it increases your capacity to sell advertising. If you’re worried about the time, there are new tools available that make newsletters easier and faster to create. Let’s look at a few of those ideas in the next myth.

Myth #5. Newsletters take hours to curate and create.

Newsletters can be produced in a fraction of the time they used to take. With news feed services that output RSS for you to drop into your email, you can easily curate all day long and compile in minutes.

Another approach is to use automated curation to run and send emails at certain times without any direct work. Just add stories to an RSS feed, add that RSS feed link to your email, then let your marketing automation software format everything for you. You can send it out manually, or just update the feed throughout the day and have it set to go at the same time every day with whatever you’ve added in.

So what do you think? Is your association falling victim to any of these myths? Maybe it’s time to review and renew your newsletters. And if you feel like you’re following all of these best practices, maybe it’s just time for a format facelift! Check out these email design examples from other associations for inspiration.

Beth Arritt

Association Strategist

Beth’s marketing experience encompasses more than twenty-five years of marketing strategy and member/customer engagement in various industries, including puzzles and games, training, education and aviation.

In addition to marketing, Beth has worked in event management and web development, wearing a variety of hats in different positions. She has also been an adjunct professor of marketing at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia.

Beth received a Bachelor of Science degree in Merchandising from James Madison University, a Certificate in Event Management from The George Washington University, and a Masters of Business Administration/Marketing from the University of Phoenix. She has earned numerous awards for her marketing, including two Top Digital Marketer of the Year awards.

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