8 Ways to Improve Clicks on Your Academic Newsletters |
Adelphi University has seen the number of newsletters grow from one per month – sent by our President – to over 200 per year
Sent weekly, monthly or, in rare cases, daily higher education newsletters give readers the opportunity to hear top news, interviews or academic information. They give us the chance to make our voices heard, share ideas and build community. But there are pitfalls: irrelevant content, missed opportunities, overlooked accessibility.
At Adelphi University in New York, our University Communications and Marketing group has seen the number of newsletters grow from one a month – sent by our president – to more than 200 a year, each with its own message and his distinct point of view. This explosion of work – in design, writing, strategizing and sending – can strain the resources of any university. All content creators therefore benefit from taking a step back and reviewing the effectiveness and strategy of your newsletter.
Here are eight strategies for improving your higher education newsletter.
1. Consider Your Mailing List Carefully. We have seen department newsletters that omit alumni, a missed opportunity for commitment and scholarship support. We have seen report cards that omit families and parents; an unfortunate decision when they probably have to pay tuition. So work with your Admissions, Alumni Relations, and Registrar teams to get the right mailing list. Track your open and click rates to ensure you’re sending to audiences interested in your story. If this is not the case, you risk unsubscribing, i.e. losing all connection with an individual.
2. Make sure your content and images reflect diversity. Before hitting send, review your newsletter for gender diversity, cultural diversity, and age diversity in visuals and content. If a newsletter is about people of one race, gender, or age, you risk unnecessary insult. There is always another image, another story or another approach to help you build a more inclusive community.
3. Do not crush. The trend is towards more powerful and striking visuals, as well as text that summarizes and links to more information. Make it an easy step: Live link the visual, headline, call-to-action button, or email address. Readers interested in a topic will click on a story to learn more. You may prefer longer emails with lots of text; just be aware that you may turn away many readers who would otherwise be part of your community.
4. Include a link for donations in the footer. Although it may seem pleading to some, your readers may appreciate a quick link to a donation, especially if your content is compelling. Readers may want to be part of your mission. Give them the opportunity to donate, so they can join your common values and be proud of the shared results.
5. Be aware of accessibility. Although some still have a PDF newsletter at heart, this one has its limits. It’s hard to read on a phone, doesn’t allow readers to zoom or click stories, and doesn’t allow moving images. If your college doesn’t have email marketing software, a simple email offers more flexibility and better accessibility than a PDF. The font size should not fall below 12 points. Videos must be captioned.
6. Honor the accomplishments of your alumni. This will inspire current students and build your credibility. Tracking your alumni can be time-consuming and difficult; before your students graduate, encourage them to join LinkedIn so you can stay connected through the years.
7. Include future event listings and do not post past events. We often see a request to include past events in newsletters; but we find that these are misread and rarely clicked on. Nobody wants to read something they missed. The best advice is to send information about upcoming events that shows you’re advancing your mission and leave expired events where they belong – in the past.
8. Video will increase engagement. According to Pew Research, YouTube is the most popular online platform in the United States – almost twice as popular as next, Instagram – and usage is not declining for older age groups. Include a film showcasing your research, a faculty member on the news, or even a student-made TikTok.
If your newsletter is well done, you will have a higher open rate. In the education and training category, the average open rate for the newsletter is 23%. If you regularly see open rates below this, redefine your strategy.
In summary, now is not the time to silo information, hold back your news, or wait for meet-and-greets at a conference that may or may never be live again. Your newsletter tells your story, so give it the thoughtful and dedicated effort it deserves.
Joanna Templeton is Editor-in-Chief and Senior Director of Content for UCOMM at Adelphi University.