About 10 years ago, this article was titled, “Does Your School Have a eNewsletter?” About 5 years ago, it was changed to, “Is your School’s eNewsletter Mobile-Ready?”
And today, things are different once again…but the need for communication with your constituencies is now more important than ever!
There’s also been some talk about the word “eNewsletter.” After all, it’s extremely important to call things by their right names to clearly communicate with your parents of current students, parents of prospective students, donors and other engaged audiences.
So does your school publish an eNewsletter or an iZine?
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 organizations that moved from paper to electronic communication 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, organizations simply transferred that information to the computer, creating a scrolling nightmare in the process. Those of us in Educational Technology called that process “repurposing,” rather than using the power of technology to its fullest potential. Further, it provided no metrics on what articles were of significant interest to readers.
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, 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 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 publication 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?” Ten years ago, that was an issue. If you’re still doing that today, you are NOT considering the not just the “want,” and not just the “need,” but the “expectation” of your school’s market. Parents expect that everything about the school will be available on their mobile device. Today, the preferred communication of most parents isn’t even email, but text! If you have a service that creates your eNewsletter or iZine, you can delineate your constituencies, AND you can view the publications as Web pages, so you can can text a link to them! Ten 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 whose parent community is primarily made up of Millennials, who use Facebook and Instagram more than they watch television. If they watch TV, more and more are watching Netflix and 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” messages in your text, it may be immediately deleted.
So if you’re using an eNewsletter service, why shouldn’t you say “click here?” 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. If you’re still saying “click,” you’re thinking “computer.” When thinking “mobile,” there are no click – only taps. Or they could always “visit this link.”
Here’s hoping you and yours are blessed with a safe, happy and joy-filled Thanksgiving. Even though we’re in the midst of a pandemic, we are called to “Always be joyful, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess 5:16-18).
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2010-2020 (Original Publication Date: 20101122)