Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

eNews: Effective Electronic News

Email Newsletters | Attachments | Legal Issues |

Email Newsletters

Email mewsletters.

There is a lot at stake when you start developing an electronic newsletter. This page provides hints and recommendations to get you started on the right path.

You might want to out-source the project or use a service dedicated to e-newsletters like:

Inviting Subscribers

Once you've created your newsletter and have planned for future issues, you'll want to invite people to subscribe.

Include an invitation to sign-up on your website as well as on any printed newsletters or other documents handed out or mailed directly to potential subscribers.

Why Email Newsletters

People used to print and mail out copies of their newsletters, but that can be both time consuming and expensive.

Email Convenient and Effective

Email provides a convenient and effective way to connect with your customers and members.

  • Most people now have at least one email account.
  • Electronic documents are as easily prepared as printed documents yet don't incur the delivery overhead.
  • Email is quick, providing a quick turnaround when urgency requires it.
  • Regular reminders help retain customer loyalty.

Email offers focused communication that blogs, websites, social media and other alternatives don't directly provide. These others require the visitor to come to them, often requiring them to log into their social media accounts or via those accounts.

Email Communications

Email communication can include e-newsletters, invoices, receipts, renewal notices and sale information.

Competition Increasing

While most people have an email account, the amount of mail has increased significantly, enough that most people now are overwhelmed by the sheer volume.

Unless your messages stand out, you're likely to find that people ignore them.

You can retain the number of messages that are opened by following these suggestions:

  • Use clear subject lines that are interesting and compelling.
  • Use the email address rather than the subject line to identify the e-newsletter.
  • Use opt-in techniques to ensure that your recipients actually want to receive your newsletter.
  • Always provide an option to unsubscribe from your list.
  • If your messages are frequent, a weekly or monthly “digest” version can retain busy recipients.

An Example Newsletter

Taylor Pearson, a business consultant, writes The Interesting Times. His newsletters are thoughtful and original, providing a fresh perspective on business and finances.

His newsletters display many of the best aspects of a blog. Strongly recommended. View the archives or subscribe).

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Technical Considerations

While compelling content is important, you don't want technical issues to cost you subscribers.

Don't Use Pop-ups

While pop-ups invitations to subscribe can be effective attention-getters on your website, they are also annoying.

There is nothing worse that trying to read website content only to have a pop-up notice distract you. Sure it's easy to click the X or “not interested” button, but the next click may be to your competition's website.

Legal Obligations

Be sure that you follow all legal obligations when generating your lists and during the sending of your emails.

Failure to do so can result in both financial penalties and the loss of customers.

If you are labelled as a spammer, the penalties could include the loss of your domain and other accounts.

Email Display Issues

Different email programs display content differently. This is especially important when you send business emails and subscriber content.

Test your messages on a variety of email clients and platforms (operating systems) so you can to catch these bugs before they come back to bite you.

Your e-documents will be read using many different email programs on different operating systems (Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, etc.) as well as on both wide screen and mobile displays.

If your subscribers are having difficulty reading your emails, unhappy recipients may unsubscribe or move their business to a competitor.

Make it Accessible

Not everybody can view enhanced (HTML) email messages or properly view encoded images (although these have become pretty much the norm these days). While you should offer the option to view the message in a browser, changing programs is a distraction.

Many e-newsletters no longer offer a plain-text version that can be read without the extra coding and images. If someone chooses not to view your message in an HTML-capable email program, you may lose a subscriber or a customer.

Avoid Bandwidth Hogs & Incompatibilities

Many bulk mailers use techniques such as remote images and social media links to control the content in their messages.

Sure, using remote images saves bandwidth when sending the message, but can create a strain on your ISP's server (and your account bandwidth) if you aren't careful.

Remote Images

Don't depend upon remote images (those that need to be downloaded from remote servers rather than embedded in the email) for the majority of your email's content. At the very least, your email should contain enough descriptive text for people to know

An Example

Many email programs don't automatically download remote images. The following message shows a portion of an email from a national vendor that has no useful information without the remote images:

This email without the remote images loaded is useless.

Several messages a day arrive from this clothing vendor where I seldom shop more than once every few months. There is seldom enough text information make me want to download the remote images.

Remember, every time someone opens the message, they'll be downloading these images (not just the first time) as will everyone they forward it to.

People may also archive emails for later reference. If the remote images are no longer available, the email can become useless as a reminder of why the person found that issue valuable.

Email Tracking

The download of remote images within emails is used to verify email addresses and logging when the message is opened. This tracking invades the user's privacy and can reduce trust.

This technique is also used by spammers and other unethical folks that you don't want to be associated with.

Email clients like The Bat! can prevent images from opening and provide a bit of privacy for the recipient by managing which remote images to display by email address or domain. By default I disable the downloading of remote images.

Respect Privacy

Services like ConstantContact and MailChimp provide their clients with information on who opens messages, who they forward them to and more.

This is great from a sales point of view, but is also creepy and users are using ad-blockers and other software to avoid being tracked.

Colour and Backgrounds

Be careful when using backgrounds and colour schemes while developing your e-news postings. Some colours may have unexpected emotional or cultural impacts as well as creating issues for those that have any of the various forms of colour-blindness.

The following pages cover this in greater detail:

Backgrounds can also be rendered as page-after-page of nonsense characters if the email program doesn't interpret it correctly or if the message or background information becomes corrupt during transmission or download. It is safest to use no background or to specify a neutral colour.

Microsoft Outlook Has Issues

If you are sending out an email-based newsletter, it is very important that you either do not use a Microsoft email program, or that you ensure that you've taken care of the winmail.dat problem. Sending your clients large unusable attachments will simply annoy them.

This issue is largely a factor in older versions of Outlook, but ensure that your emails aren't affected.

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Using Email Attachments

An alternative to self-contained messages is to attach a PDF newsletter to the message.

Since this forces people to open another document, an inconvenience to busy people, many may not bother.

Some business servers automatically remove attachments from incoming emails coming from unauthorized addresses.

Web-based Newsletters

A better solution might be to make the email available on your site or blog then provide a link in the email you send out.

Attachment Formats

Be careful about your choice in the attachment format as you will want your viewers to be able to view the message.

MS Word

While Microsoft Office is used by most businesses, not everyone has Word (although LibreOffice or OpenOffice provide free alternatives).

Your document may not display as expected on the viewing computer if the printer settings are different.

PDF

PDF locks the format into the document and the various PDF readers are free (and already installed on most computers), making it an excellent choice.

While many programs can create PDFs, be sure to ensure that the compression is good enough to provide the smallest document size.

Know Your Audience

You should make your decisions based upon your intended audience. In some cases MS Word may be more attractive to your viewers, and unless the layout is extremely tight, the printer configuration issue may not matter.

Be sure to test your message on other computers with different printers before settling on this solution.

Document Size Issues

If you are composing a newsletter in MS Word, be sure to resize images to fit before inserting them into the document.

Resizing them in the document doesn't reduce the actual file size. This is also true for documents that will later be converted into PDF.

 

There are legal and ethical issues when you are maintaining an email list.

Canada now has antispam legislation with significant penalties.

There is both federal and provincial privacy legislation:

Using unethical methods is like a glass company hiring kids to throw rocks.

Opt-in Only

Your contact list is a valuable asset that you want to protect and grow.

You'll need to obtain and retain the trust of those on your list and don't want to generate resentment.

Use an opt-in mechanism where

  • there are no pre-checked boxes giving authorization;
  • everyone has to specifically ask to be on your list; and
  • provide a convenient and easy method to get off the list when it no longer interests them.

“Presumed close” practices are sleazy (not the reputation you want for your company) and will not generate customer loyalty.

Anti-spam Legislation

The Canadian anti-spam legislation (CASL) came into effect on July 1, 2014 and CASL has administrative monetary penalties (AMPs) up to $1 million for an individual and $10 million for other entities per violation.

The manner in which you request express consent cannot presume consent on the part of the end-user. Silence or inaction on the part of the end-user also cannot be construed as providing express consent. For example, a pre-checked box cannot be used, as it assumes consent.
CRTC FAQ about CASL

Easy Exit Policy

Provide an easy and workable method for folks on your list to stop receiving your emails or to change their preferences.

Opt-out Sucks

Providing the options to unsubscribe from your list does not in itself make your list opt-in — that's an opt-out list. You have to allow them to voluntarily subscribe in the first place.

There is an exemption for persons sending commercial electronic messages (CEMs) to others within their organization, where the CEMs concern the activities of the organization.

Club Newsletters

One example might be a club newsletter.

You should still make it clear to your members when they sign up that they will be receiving an email-based members newsletter and provide the option for them to not have their email address added to the subscription list.

Keep it Private

BCC: Your Address List

Don't upset your readers by disclosing their email address to everyone else. Use BCC: for ALL the addresses.

If your email program insists on an address in the TO: slot, use your own address.

Other References

Start here when looking for more information:

Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.

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Updated: July 30, 2021