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. You might want to out-source the project or use a service like ConstantContact or MailChimp.

Invite People

You can invite sign-ups for your emailed newsletters on your website as well as on any printed newsletters or other documents handed out or sent by snail-mail.

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 Communication

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.

Don't Use Pop-ups

While pop-ups can be effective attention-getters, they also quickly become annoying.

There's nothing worse that trying to read website content only to have a pop-up notice appear. The next click may be to check out your competition's website.

Don't Forget 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.

Technical Issues

You must be aware of the differences between how email programs display content when you send emails.

Your e-documents will be read using many programs on different operating systems. If your recipients are having difficulty reading your emailed newsletters, your message will not get out and it is going to reduce your subscriber base.

An Example

I receive one newsletter from a company trying to sell me email generating software. Because it appears in a very narrow column in my email program, they've succeeded in showing me that their software is defective.

Make it Accessible

Not everybody can view enhanced (HTML) email messages or properly view encoded images (although this is pretty much the norm these days). You can offer the option to view the message in a browser, but this is risky for your recipients and is annoying for regular postings.

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 customer.

It is recommended that you 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.

Avoid Bandwidth Hogs & Incompatibilities

Remote Images

Don't depend upon images to convey the message content and avoid including images with unrelated names stored on remote servers.

Sure, this 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.

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.

Both spammers and many legitimate businesses use downloaded images within emails to verify email addresses and logging when the message is opened. While useful for the sender, this tracking invades the user's privacy.

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 download 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 may sound great from a sales point of view, but is kind of creepy. Addons like Ghostery are starting to disable these beacons, allowing the visitor to choose whether to allow the information to be gathered.

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 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.

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.

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Using Email Attachments

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

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

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 Word is used by most businesses, not everyone has Word (although they may have LibreOffice or OpenOffice).

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

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 Addresses 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.

Any “presumed close” practice is 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 either get off it or to change their preferences.

Opt-out Sucks

Simply offering a way off your list does not in itself make your list opt-in — that's an opt-out list.

There is an exemption for persons sending commercial eletronic 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 newsletter and offer them the option to opt-out.

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 sending 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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RussHarvey.bc.ca/resources/e-news.html
Updated: April 15, 2020