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.

Preaching to the Choir

The Russian embassy in London tweeted me an article they posted. A few things caught my eye and I will be writing about them in posts to come, but one thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was that according to the article, the Russian (600) Embassy’s following is the 3rd largest in the UK after the USA (21,000) and Israel (7,200). I find that interesting, especially due to the size of the countries, Diasporas, trade ties and of course relations and interests.

But how accurate is that? Do we measure only pages that state that their belong to the embassy or consulate? What about pages created for niche markets, festivals or other events?

With this thought in mind, I took a brief look at many of its affiliated pages and I realized that while it is remarkably active in social media, Israel doesn’t fulfill its potential, and stays preaching to its own choir.

After successfully establishing Facebook pages for the embassies and consulates around the world, the Israel foreign ministry and staff, as well as affiliated advocacy groups have turned to setting up unique pages focusing on specific aspects they want to amplify in an attempt to reach out to a broader audience through what would be their own fields of interests such as art, fashion, technology etc. The pages are filled with colorful images, messaging and useful information.

After the initial fan drive effect wears off, their fan base remains pretty much stagnant and they find it very hard to expand. Why? I believe it is rooted first and foremost in their very first step: naming the page. The names they choose are almost always directly indicative of Israel – either including the word Israel or a Hebrew word in English lettering.

The content too, is restricted to Israel, and thought there might be abundance and variety of content the country has to offer, it is very limited and consequentially limiting. The direct affiliation with the country, as well as the lack of local content, deters, to my belief, many potential fans.

I bet that if we take 5 of those pages, averaging in 1,500 fans, and cross them, we will find a 70% overlap in both fans and content, leaving only a few of the fans following purely out of niche interest.

Excluding a few, only people who are actually looking for information about Israel will end up finding and possibly liking those pages and will be exposed to the information the country is trying to share with the world in order to broaden the conversation about it and improve its overall image. That leaves the true target audience – the unaware, the unconvinced unengaged.

Understanding this very basic point can easily give them more for their money, which is invested less in Facebook ads and more in the people who are paid to maintain the pages. By the way, those people have many other responsibilities and are not fully minded and geared towards this task. Most of the time, it is a task they picked up on the way, and they don’t all have marketing or PR backgrounds. In many cases, the job is left to interns who do their thing and leave after 3 months; therefore the very important strategic element, tone and continuity are left behind.

This is of course not restricted to Facebook.

I think that breaking out of the paradigm of Facebook + Twitter = social media is imperative. But I’ll get to that in later posts on this blog. But as I said, first things first. If you have an image problem, why the hell would you name a page that is supposed to attract those who wouldn’t normally flock to you, after yourself?