Of course, that question begs another – Does your school have an eNewsletter?

Which, of course, leads to another question – Should it be called an eNewsletter or an iZine?

Let’s work backward, since doing things backward is sometimes the best way to get to where you want to go.   I learned this long ago by walking uphill.

In my neighborhood, there was a very steep road that led to my friend’s house.  Unfortunately, he never liked coming to my house since he had to walk uphill, and I never liked going to his since I had to walk uphill to get home.  And running to get home was worse going uphill.  Then I discovered that by walking backwards uphill, it gave my the muscles in my feet a rest, and it was easier on the knees.  I could even quicken the pace a little by jogging backwards.

Back to the eNewsletter or the iZine question.  The real question is, “How do you want to brand your communication?”  A newsletter is informative,  but the inferred design comes from the paper newsletter, where every bit of text was contained within the document.  Many organization that moved from paper to electronic communication in recent years have simply “repurposed” their publication, including all the information and detail in the electronic version.  Many paper newsletters were 11×17 sheets of paper that were folded in half to create a four-pager, and could hold up to 12 stories.

When programs like Constant Contact and iContact were developed, many organizations simply transferred that information to the computer, creating a scrolling monster in the process.  Those of us in Educational Technology called that process “repurposing,” rather than using the power of technology to its fullest potential.

The moniker stuck too.  A newsletter was quarterly or monthly, so an electronic newsletter (eNewsletter) was an easier way to distribute the same information, saving paper, printing and postage.

Today, many organizations are using their eNewsletter differently, showing a photo associated with a headline and a “teaser” of an article, and a link to where the rest of the story can be found.  For your school, that place should be your school’s Web site.

The iZine, however, is an “Internet Magazine.”  It’s the evolution of newsletter, as magazines are published either monthly or weekly.  Rather than scrolling through a sea of text and featuring 10 or 12 stories that occurred over the past few months or weeks, it can have a fewer number of “teaser” stories that makes the information easier to review since time is at a premium these days.

The other subtle difference of a “magazine” vs. a “newsletter” is the newsletter infers that it contains “news.”  “Featured stories” and “items of interest” are more in line with what a magazine does.  You might even have a sponsor that could underwrite the cost, and offer a small ad that connects back to their Web site.  Magazines have that; newsletters may not.

Now let’s look at the reason your school should have one or the other.

Some time ago, I attended a seminar where a school administrator suggests sending home communications on different color paper based on the importance of the message – green paper means information; gold paper means something for the calendar; red paper means an emergency or situation of critical importance.

But that’s not how you’re going to communicate with your prospective parents, your donors and prospective donors (let’s call them friends) or members of the community.  Indeed, you are marketing to four different audiences.  One newsletter just doesn’t cut it anymore…you need at least two – one for internal constituents, and the other for external constituents.  Optimally – four.  But you don’t have to create four different newsletters…you have to create two different ones, one that’s full of information for internal constituents, and one that’s packed with successes of your school, as well as invitations to events and to participate in the life of the school for external constituents.  You can then tweak both just a little to appeal to the specialized audiences you’re trying to reach.

As for when to release these, a weekly communication to all four constituent might be daunting at first.  So, if you’re communicating with four groups, release one document per week, realizing you’ll have four mailing lists, and they must be mutually exclusive.  Marketing is unlike development in this respect.  When you have a Development database, you want to know that donors may belong to several constituent groups (parent, parent of alumni, last year but not this year, etc.).  However, for marketing, it’s important that constituents receive the newsletter that is targeted to them (unless they’re board members and want to be informed about all communications that are being created and delivered).

As for paper vs. electronic, many schools have said, “But what about those parents that don’t have email?”  Five years ago, that was an issue.  But consider that this is about advancement, and advancement is forward-thinking (if not, it’s called “regression.”).   Consider what the preferred communication form of parents will be five years down the road.  Today, if an email isn’t available, a text message is.  You can text a link to your eNewsletter or iZine which can be viewed as a Web page.  Five years ago, I mentioned that the personal computer may become the new paperweight of future, and that and everyone will have a mobile handheld device.  This is especially true for elementary schools who are welcoming a brand new breed of parents to your schools – The Millennials – who use Facebook more than they watch television.  If they watch TV, more and more are watching it on Internet sites like Hulu.

Why should you choose an eNewsletter or iZine service and not just send an email “blast” to those you’re trying to reach?  Because today’s technology has advanced to the point that an email with lots of addresses may be recognized as spam.  If you put the word “free” in a subject line, your email will probably end up in a spam filter or junk email folder.  Also, if you have too many “Click here”s in your text, spamland is where it with land, and, may be immediately deleted.

So if you’re using an eNewsletter service, why shouldn’t you say “click here,” and then hyperlink it to more information on your school’s Web site?  After all, that’s how these services will track the readers’ actions when they want to find out what the rest of the article holds.

Mobile devices recognize markup text (such as http://www.schooladvacement.com) rather than text and create automatic hyperlinks.  When users receive communications on their mobile devices, they want to be able to “click here” when it says to “click here”…and that’s not always the case on mobile devices.  Besides, one doesn’t “click” on mobile devices – they tap, or touch.

Here’s hoping you and yours are blessed with a wonderful, safe, happy and memorable Thanksgiving.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2010-2015 (Original Publication Date: 20101122)