As Flannery O’Connor once said: “A good newsletter is hard to find.” Or did she say man?
Either way, the truth is, inspiring and awesome emails are pretty rare.
If you have an email account, you get unwanted emails; there’s just no way around it. In 2016, 53% of all email messages accounted for were spam. No wonder your best friend (and probably at least 10 other people you know) have 4,502 unread emails showing up on their Mail App.
It’s estimated that over 200 billion emails are sent daily, with no sign of slowing down. That’s good news!
Here’s what it means for you: If you don’t already send an email newsletter for your organization, you should! If you have already one, it’s never a bad idea to make sure it’s as good as it can be.
We’ve been sending newsletters since our early days so we have a few tried and true methods for getting your newsletter read — and looked forward to! — by your audience.
We’re sharing our best tips to inspire you to create an awesome newsletter for your museum.
Sit back, take notes, and make your newsletter a Star of India among pebbles.
Hacky Fact: The Star of India is a 563.35 carat star sapphire housed at the American Museum of Natural History. It’s apparently the largest gem of its kind and was actually stolen from AMNH in 1964. Don’t worry; they got it back!
Tips For Writing A 563-Carat Newsletter
Know your audience
Step one is pretty straight forward. You need to know your audience. Collect data and engagement tips from your Audience Development Department. Ask them what type of engagement methods normally resonate with your audience inside the museum. What are they interested in? If you think your email audience will be different from your physical visitors, find out why.
Pro Tip: Be inclusive. Email is a great way to bring in people who aren’t already museum goers. Always remember to stay open and inclusive.
Stay on brand
You want your newsletter to be an extension of the practices, values, and mission statement of your museum. If you use certain language on social media or tours, integrate that into your newsletter. Having a unique voice will help your newsletter stand out among generic promo.
Take the inspiration from inside the museum and put it onto the page. Have a COOL piece on exhibit? Give it a shout out and mini-feature. It’s just as important to tell the best stories in the museum as it is the digital world.
Pro Trip: Storytelling is your best friend. Create interesting, engaging, and inspiring content that has value for the reader and you’re sure to stand out.
Keep It Interesting
Whether people want serious content or just want to be inspired, there is always room for fun. Did your bobcat escape its enclosure? Did your museum mascot have a Twitter debate with the Merriam Webster Dictionary (HEY SUE!)? People want to know. Anything you can add to make your newsletter more personal is a win.
Pro Tip: Look at newsletters you LOVE and get inspired. It doesn’t matter if they’re in the same industry or not, you’ll still learn from them and adapt their style to fit your own.
Readability is Key
Ensure your newsletter is easy to read, with streamlined sections for engagement. Someone may open your newsletter, but if they can’t read it or they lose interest too early, they might not open it next time.
Our newsletter design tips:
- Use bold headers and subheadings to create an easy-to-read format
- Photos add personality and help break up text
- Just say no to Comic Sans. Use a generic font like Arial or Helvetica; it will be easier for people to read and they won’t get overwhelmed or distracted
- You don’t need to be too flashy. Stick to one or two accent colors – even better if they’re inspired by your museum logo
- Less can be more. Short, succinct, or interesting descriptions sometimes get more clicks.
Pro Tip: Go for bold. Headlines in bold are an easy way to format a newsletter for easy reading. The bold lettering will break up the text so readers don’t feel like they’ve been sent a novel.
How you format your newsletter often affects click rates and determines whether people will come back for more. If they know what to expect, they may feel more inclined to check out your newsletter each week (especially if there’s a recurring section they like)!
Pro Tip: Bow down to the A/B test. A/Bs are great not only for testing subject lines, but it can also be helpful for testing content. Make two versions of your newsletter – one with more content and one with less. You’ll be able track which format your audience engages with the most.
Find a Second Set of Eyes
Getting someone who isn’t the newsletter creator to review it before sending is a must, especially if you’re just starting out. A fresh set of eyes on the content is good not only for correcting grammatical errors, but they might see of something you missed.
Pro Trip: Don’t use other people just for reviewing the final draft; supercharge your newsletter by collaborating. Ask someone from another department to review the content. Brainstorm new ideas and make your newsletter the best it can be. Collaboration is amazing tool to get everyone involved in helping your digital engagement skyrocket.
Once a week? Twice a month?
How often do you want to send your newsletter?
This isn’t the most critical step but it does help create a trusted connection between you and your audience. They’ll know when to expect it, so they can keep an eye out for it.
Have a lot of stuff going on? Send your newsletter every week, so you don’t have to jam pack each one. Still getting started? Try sending bi-weekly emails to test the waters.
Pro Tip: Be flexible. Don’t worry if you change a weekly newsletter to bi-weekly after a few months. Before you make a change, deep dive in your analytics to make sure your shift in strategies is a good move.
Collect that data, analyze it, and keep it in mind. Having data that you don’t use is better than having no data at all. Platforms like Mailchimp or Revue have built-in analytics which is super helpful when you pick what metrics are important to you. Mailchimp has some great benchmark data you can use. Find your industry on the chart here to see how you compare.
Pro Tip: Metrics we love:
- The unsubscribe rate is a great metric to keep an eye on. You’ll have a healthy amount of people who unsubscribe each time but it’s always good to know what might be making people leave.
- Unengaged subscribers. Don’t forget about the people who are still subscribed but never engage. Think of creative ways to lure them out of hiding. Contests and personal emails asking why they’re uninterested are two strategies we like.
Mobile opens can actually account for 20% to 70% of all email opens. Keep this in mind when you design and format your newsletter.
Test it on mobile and make sure to edit the parts that don’t translate well to handheld devices if needed. You shouldn’t have to create a completely separate newsletter for mobile, but be aware that people are using their handheld devices to check out your emails.
Pro Tip: All the aspects of our design tips from above serve as great guidelines for how to optimize your newsletter for mobile devices.
We know this article wouldn’t make a great newsletter because it’s long, but we hope it gets you thinking about responsive and creative newsletters for your museum.
Our challenge to you? Get started! Don’t be afraid to fail, try again and maybe fail again.
If you want to be a Star of India sapphire, you’ll have to get lost a few times.