Using E-Mail to Stay in Touch With
E-newsletters keep your memebers informed
By: Kate Golden
Clearly, e-mail newsletters are becoming vital to non-profit
organizations, particularly membership groups. We spoke with Stephen
Murphy, manager of chapter development and member services for the
American Society for Health Care Risk Management, about how he uses
e-newsletters to stay in touch.
By way of background, Stephen's responsibilities and interest areas
have covered a broad range of activities, including product
development, audio-conference program development, chapter relations
and member services. He is a native of Ireland and earned a BA from
University College Dublin (UCD). In 1995, UCD awarded Stephen the
Distinguished Student Prize for Economics, and he graduated with
first class honors in economics in 1996. He has written for "Forum,"
published by the Association Forum of Chicago and is currently a
member of the Forum editorial board.
Golden: What are the advantages of an e-mail newsletter over
a print newsletter?
Murphy: Most importantly timeliness. While traditional print
newsletters involve a production cycle of up to two months,
incorporating layout and design, printing and mailing, an e-mail
newsletter can communicate this week's news, this week. The lower
production cost is another great advantage. The increased frequency
that an e-mail newsletter allows is also a bonus, enabling an
organization to stay on top of current issues.
Golden: How can you differentiate your organization's e-mail
newsletter from the others?
Murphy: Your communication must be tailored to your audience.
An e-mail newsletter should serve as a resource, even if there are
other benefits of the newsletter to the organization, such as the
marketing impact. A newsletter should offer what the audience wants
to read, rather than what you or your marketing person wants to
highlight. Try to offer value wherever possible. The inclusion of
news, tips, educational opportunities or events calendars will
enhance the value of your newsletter. There are a multitude of
e-mail newsletters. You should ascertain what it is your readership
wants to know and deliver it. A good e-mail newsletter should offer
value, timeliness and reliability. Interaction will enhance your
newsletter. Asking a "question of the week" will generate discussion
and allow readers to hear from their peers. It is also a good idea
to offer an "out" by letting the reader know how they can
unsubscribe to your newsletter.
Golden: Tell us about your own success with e-mail
newsletters and development.
Murphy: In the spring of 2000, the American Society for
Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM) of the American Hospital
Association (AHA) identified a need to offer timely risk management
and society news to its members. The membership indicated that it a)
wished to receive news electronically and b) had the capability to
do so. ASHRM's first e-mail newsletter, eNews, was sent to every
member for whom we had an e-mail address with the inclusion of a
"how to unsubscribe" tag line. Since then the distribution has
increased to over 3,600 readers and is constantly growing. ASHRM
offers eNews to both members and prospective members. Both are
encouraged to pass the newsletter on to a friend. As well as
providing healthcare and society news, the newsletter serves as a
preview to the society and offers an insight into the many benefits
Golden: How can you increase the readership of an e-mail
Murphy: Ironically, the first point to make here is the
inclusion of an "opt out" button, as described above. Everyone likes
to be in control of his or her own in-box and potential readers are
more likely to give your newsletter a try if they can do so without
pressure, or fear of spam. Blasting your newsletter off to anyone
with an e-mail address can do more harm than good. Restrict your
distribution list to those who opt in. If you work for a membership
organization, consider offering your newsletter to non-members as
well as members. By offering your newsletter to all you can enhance
your "prospects" list. Some newsletters include a "forward to a
friend" button, which allows readers to easily share your resource.
Above all, be timely and reliable.
Golden: What trends do you see developing in the future of
e-mail newsletters? Will we see new technology or just better
content and writing -- and which is more important?
Murphy: While some newsletters are sticking to simple-text
layouts, others are switching to colorful HTML formatted offerings.
Play to your audience. Before starting out on an e-mail newsletter
project, you should ascertain that your audience would like to
receive news by e-mail and your audience has the capability to do
so. If your elaborate HTML email newsletter is disorganized or
illegible by the time it arrives in your readers' inbox, then
perhaps a more traditional layout is called for. Content is
paramount. You must offer your reader what they want to read. The
technology will get it to them.
August 14, 2002