How to Grow Your Newsletter Readership

To be very honest, I don’t like newsletters. Maybe it because I am the type who likes to Google specific information I want to find or maybe it is because it always requires an extra click to view the content.

Whatever it is, for a very long time, it had prevented me from viewing the newsletter as an important engagement tool. With an average of 18% open rate I couldn’t understand why my colleagues at the consulate spend so much valuable time wording and rewording items, scavenging the web for information to post, and pressuring us all with deadlines. good newsletter

But then one day, my boss decided to pass on the task to me. As much as I didn’t want it, it only seemed right that the newsletter resides with the person responsible for digital diplomacy, right?

Not wanting to waste my time, I decided that if I am to deal with this headache, I have to do it right and make it worth the while. With the help of David, my dear intern at the time, we managed to increase our readership from 18% to 38%. A rate much higher than the 19-25% average most companies and non profits expect, and than the 12-20% average many diplomatic missions are accustomed to.

Here are a few things we did, I hope this helps other diplomatic missions increase their reach:

* Note- we used constant contact as our platform.

Content:

  • We decided to focus on “soft news” and only refer to political matters if absolutely necessary, and even then, rather than issue a statement, we embedded it into the opening greeting paragraph/section.
  • We tried, as much as possible to localize our newsletter by bringing the stories of our activities in the region as well as coverage of events (academic, cultural or other), business and companies. For news items that occurred in Israel, we found a local connection and tackled it from that angle (family member, a person involved etc)
  • We gave 1 video and 1 travel tip each week.
  • We made a spotlight section that gave us the freedom to post uncategorized material and/or promote conferences in Israel.
  • Event listing – Always in the same part of the newsletter and always updated. The list would always include the basic Who What When Where info + a small pic, both linked to the full information either on the consulate’s website and/or the venue’s.

Layout:

  • 2 column newsletter – I find that one item leads you to read the next item in the column next to it. You can really play with this in the sense that if you have something less attractive that must be posted, etc
  • Clean colors – White background, black writing, friendly font, orange borders, and blue titles.
  • Images – For the most part, we had the pics and text appear together rather than one before the other. For events happening in Israel or travel tips, we tried to use less iconic images to stimulate curiosity which increases the click count.
  • Keeping it short – Few sentences and a link to full story on our website (not “read more” but using keywords to help with the website’s SEO)

Back work – clean up:

  • We did our research and moved all of those who never open the newsletter to a group we called “zero opens”.
  • We fixed all the broken/wrong email addresses
  • We removed non active users

Gimmicks – highly important:

  • We changed the setting so that it appears as an email from the consul general by using his first and last name.
  • We gave each email a different name and a title that reflects on the content in an attractive, localized way.
  • We started sending the email 2 hours earlier than we used tom right before lunchtime on a Friday.
  • We shared in on Face book and twitter.

Once published, the newsletter would be tweeted and posted to Facebook.

Remember, you can always use the Join My Mailing List App to connect Facebook fans and one-time visitors from your page to your mailing list.

There are many more tricks and tips that can help you increase your newsletter’s reach. But the most important thing to remember is this:

If someone signed up for your newsletter and or are following, they might be following your counterparts in other cities in their country or even in other parts of the world. In light of that you must make yourself relevant- not by publishing the same unified content but by creating your own content, give people a reason to follow you and not someone else.

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Digital Diplomacy Colors the AppStore RED

On November 17th, I posted one of my most viewed posts “Gaza Shells Israel on Twitter” where I tried to make the point that the lack of Israeli presence on Twitter is harming the country’s public diplomacy efforts in light of the latest round of hostilities between Gaza and Israel. I simply said: “Israel is the startup nation and the hub of technological innovation – Don’t ask them for photos, don’t create hashtags that no one searches for. Develop a simple, visual, location-based app that would enable people to share real-time alarms/sirens, rocket shells and of course photos and tags that will help them share their experience with everyone in the world, and not just their own circles.”

Surely enough, today, only two days later, an app named “Tzeva Adom” (literal translation: Color Red, which is the name of the sirens sounded throughout the country when a rocket is fired in its direction) appeared in the AppStore!

color red siren app israel

The Tzeva Adom App as appears in the AppStore

Funnily enough, I learned about it from an article on Ynetnews, reporting that Knesset (Parliament) Member Gila Gamliel from the Likud party currently in power, called upon foreign ambassadors posted in Israel to download the app in order to “get some understanding of what is going on in Southern-Israel”.

Whether this was a direct result of my post, a spark of common sense or lessons well learned on the go, it is interesting to see the growing understanding of the importance of digital diplomacy and how to utilize it as part of the overall diplomatic effort.

Gaza Shells Israel On Twitter

My uniform is ironed, folded and ready for the anticipated call from my unit. After barrages of rockets from Gaza to Israel, it was time to retaliate. Many Israelis, who were getting tired of the situation, kept posting memes and updated their statuses expressing their wish to block rocket attacks and get back to normal life. It was at a certain point that the government decided to strike back, and has been doing so in surgical, pin-pointed airstrikes designed to stop the rockets by exploding them in mid-air as well as pounding at Hamas, its leadership and its infrastructure.

On Facebook, you couldn’t help but notice the heartwarming gestures of people living in the central and northern parts of the country, offering their homes and sending warm wishes to the 1 million civilians within rocket range. But soon after, rockets started falling in central Israel, making it 5 million civilians under rocket range, exposed to physical danger as well as much frustration, confusion and anxiety.

Israelis love Facebook so much that they forget there is a whole world out there which isn’t comprised of family and friends and who doesn’t necessarily support, understand or even know the slightest thing about what is happening now between Gaza and Israel. I noticed many of my friends, calling their friends and fans to post photos and testimonies of the rockets flying over their heads so that “the whole world will see”.

gaza fires rockets on israel

“The Foreign Ministry calls upon the citizens of Southern-Israel to send videos, photos that show your lives under rocket threat”

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has asked civilians to email them videos and photos so that they may use them to create posters, memes and clips that will serve as advocacy materials in the public diplomacy efforts to keep the world informed and to maintain the first time ever general support of Israel and the opinion that Hamas launching daily, if not hourly rocket attacks from Gaza to Israel is the direct cause of this escalation.

But you see, the conversation is on Twitter, not just on Facebook. If Facebook is a social network, then Twitter is a source of information to all, at any given time, on any topic.

gaza shells israel on twitter

Gaza & Israel, or should we say just Gaza, on Twitter

Israelis, as opposed to Palestinians, don’t use Twitter. And when it comes to Instagram, they seem to keep the tags very local. This simple truth leaves the 4th battle field totally neglected.

A quick scroll down the twitter feed using the tags #Israel or #Gaza will show exactly who is shaping and controlling the conversation. No matter how many advocacy groups and governemt organizations will try to contribute, it is the people, in this case the Palestinians who control the Twittersphere simply because it isn’t used by Israelis.

As I wait to be called for duty, I would like to call upon the Foreign Ministry, the Israel Defense Forces and everyone interested mobilizing civilians to keep the world informed:

Israel is the startup nation and the hub of technological innovation – Don’t ask them for photos, don’t create hashtags that no one searches for. Develop a simple, visual, location-based app that would enable people to share real-time alarms/sirens, rocket shells and of course photos and tags that will help them share their experience with everyone in the world, and not just their own circles.

The concern of a location based app revealing to Hamas the exact location of where the rockets fell I s understandable. So is the fear of encouraging people to take pictures of rockets when they should be running for shelter. But the thing is that, Hamas will know whether you tell them or not, and people will be taking pictures of rockets anyway…

Once again, the best speakers and the people themselves, the moment you do it for them, you lose the ears and the hearts of your potential audience which is not yours, it’s in fact, theirs.

The Power Shift

I had a very productive week.

I started my new job as the managing director of New Family organization and met with a few of my existing and potential clients:

A website building and design company, a PR Strategy company, an SEO and online reputation company and an advocacy group. I also had coffee with a young lawyer longing to find a creative outlet that might incorporate her profession with her passion.

More about my interesting meetings with some some other time, but for now –

I was shocked to find that in a country that is connected to Facebook as if it was an IV such as Israel, in a city so tech, nightlife and creativity-motivated city such as Tel Aviv, that web, PR, marketing and advocacy groups fail to understand the very basic influences of social media on modern society and how it changes (or at least has a tremendous impact) on marketing advocating and PR strategies and tactics; THE POWER SHIFT

As I mentioned in previous posts, today, a person’s voice opinion thought, feeling or experience speaks much louder than any logo or official spokesperson. No more dictating messages. Authenticity is the key to success.

At the Twiplomacy conference held on October 22 (2012) at the Italian embassy in Washington DC, Senior Innovation Adviser to the US Secretary of State, Mr. Alec Ross referred to the exact same point. In this video, Ross explains simply and effectively this very principle that should be understood by professionals, explained to clients and implemented in marketing tactics so as not to waste the client’s hard-earned money, Using new technology in old thinking can only go so far. And those looking for PR, Strategy and Marketing professional’s services should be aware of this before hiring their services.

Italian Embassy to the USA to Host E-Diplomacy Conference October 22

E-Diplomacy is changing the way governments interact with each other, with their citizens, and with the public. It is also changing the way foreign policy is actuated to respond to new challenges. Italian Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero and a panel of experts will examine where ediplomacy is heading and the future of communications. A follow up to Turin’s Twiplomacy conference in June 2012, the round table is organized by the Embassy of Italy in Washington DC. The panel includes: Alec Ross, Senior Adviser for Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; David Ignatius, Columnist at the Washington Post; Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, host of HuffPost Live; Deborah Seward, Director of Strategic Communications at the United Nations.

Click here for more info and to RSVP

8 Simple Steps Towards Reaching A Broader Audience

As I have mentioned in previous posts, your country’s achievements may seem wonderful to you and your Diaspora, but if your goal is to make friends for your country, showing off is not enough, and can sometimes be annoying. I mean, if your country has a strong economy and you are promoting that aspect in a country that suffers from high unemployment, you might start pissing people off.

You must show how your country’s achievements benefit the region or city you reside in.

It is classic “What’s In It For Me” only with the mind-set of ‘What’s In It for Them’ elevated by social media, and creating a win for all situation.

For example, let’s say that one of the pillars of your country’s overall branding strategy is its medical field. It is part of your job to make people aware of the fact that you have a lot to offer in that realm. So what’s the problem? Write a few words, add hashtags and attach an article from a website published in your native country raving all about it and post on your Facebook page, right? Sure if you want it to end right there, but if you want to be effective there are more ways to do it, and here is one of them:

  1. Contact the author of the article as well as the hero of the story.
  2. Email the article to local bloggers who would be interested in that content and offer to connect them with the above.
  3. Contact an online medical publication as well as a specific community that would be positively affected by this breakthrough, and get them to publish the story (written by the blogger who picked it up) on their website, newsletter and social networks. Don’t just post it on their page, it works better for all involved if they post it on their website and later share it themselves.
  4. Tell them all that you will be more than happy to promote the post using your mission’s networks as well.
  5. Once it is published, keep your promise and share it on your Social Media Channels using effective hashtags.
  6. Post on your website that the local publication/blog/organization wrote about this amazing discovery in your country, give the gist of it and share the link to where it was published.
  7. Thank the blogger as well as the organization/publication for posting and promise to let them know if and when you receive anything that would be of interest to them and send them the link to the featured article on your website.
  8. Use the information in the article and refer to it in an answer you compose in response to that or a related topic on Quora or any other significant Q&A based social network.

By applying these simple and basic PR moves, you will be able to:

  1. Deliver your message to a broader audience.
  2. Give your country positive exposure.
  3. Make new connections with bloggers, organizations and publications that will in the future be open and willing to receive more information from you and also possibly host or co-sponsor joint events, delegations or co-ops.
  4. Contribute to the local community and show how relevant you are to their day-to-day lives.
  5. Improve your country’s online presence and reputation. The circulation of linked information from one website to another, as well as newsletters, tweets and shares help search engines pick up on you and the story.

Having an APPtitude

I’ve noticed that recently, governments on both local and national levels have entered the marvelous mobile world by developing apps designed to provide citizens, tourists and expats with relevant information serving their needs.

Such initiatives are important tools in providing service and increasing visibility.

It also helps governments on any level position themselves as progressive, in tuned with the public, moving with the times, and well-organized. Especially in an era when people’s patience is wearing thin and bureaucracy, well bureaucracy never goes anywhere.

Going back to some of my previous posts, those who may be seeking this information are already engaged with your country one way or another and though it helps you strengthen their appreciation of you more, it doesn’t do enough for making new friends.

Encouraging tourism or foreign investments starts by raising awareness to what your country has to offer. In addition to campaigns, conferences and other forms of targeted engagement, I propose a slightly less likely utilization of apps:

Wait for it…: Gaming.

Before you raise your brow or go back to checking your emails, hear me out.

Gaming is not just a lifestyle of junk food and avatars. We’ve all resorted to games conveniently available on our phones at least once while attending a boring meeting or lecture or even on the train or flight on some business trip.

According to an article published on Mashable.com,  In September 2012, 251 million people played games on Facebook, up from 226 million in September of 2011. Beyond the growth rate, the scary part is that those number refer only to  Facebook!

Every game we play, whether on an old-school board game or on a savvy flashy mobile phone have one thing in common: A Background.

A background can be a storyline and or a location in which the game takes place. Why not make the background your own?

Now, obviously if your aim is to improve your country’s image and to increase tourism and foreign investments you wouldn’t want to design a bloody war quest set in your land. But if business capital is what you seek, why not complement your efforts by producing a rollercoaster or runner game set in the downtown business quarter of your financial and commercial capital? Or if tourism is your goal, why not use the beautiful landscapes of your country as a background even for an angry birds style game? Sounds silly? Maybe…but you have an opportunity to make your country visible and attractive without an obvious direct affiliation and positioning one or more of your cities with an already well-known and strong place brand that you aspire to become like or even surpass.

Think about it for a moment. If the game you designed allows the gamer to choose a layout setting or even simply advance to different levels using the same group of cities, the long-term effect of associating the place you are promoting, is that it is in the same league as the other cities in the group.

If your game takes place in Tokyo, London, New York and a city in your country, what does it imply about its economic importance or its fashion industry?

This is not a new concept and is found mainly in track racing games, but it is applicable to almost any genre. The better the game, the more people download the app, the more people consume you regardless of their existing perception of you.

All you have to do is decide what aspect of your country you what to amplify in conjunction with your branding efforts, invest a small amount of money or even have an intern do it for you for free and use your contacts to launch the game.

As far as promoting the game goes – the sky s the limit. You might find it effective to promoting the app by giving people who share their high scores on your Facebook page or a game fan page prizes that support your message.

There is really no need to reinvent the wheel. Move with the times, and give people what they love.