Monday, October 1, 2012

Your Church E-Newsletter: At Odds or Integrated with Social Media?

A tweet from ELCA pastor, Chris Duckworth (@chrisduckworth) about church emails/e-newsletters showed up last week, asking #ChSocM folks to comment about best practices in this domain. No big response. Actually, no response . . . yet.

I've been thinking about church e-newsletters a lot, in part because I've performed quite a few communications audits during the past six months.

Years ago, I would audit e-newsletters for coherence, consistency, and usability relative to content and design as stand-alone communications. These days, I audit those factors but also whether the e-newsletter is integrated with social media and the website. Disconnects abound!

In far too many instances I've discovered that the intended audience would probably never know that: 1) the newsletter is generated by the same church for which a website URL is included (if it's included); 2) the church has a Facebook page or opt-in open groups; and 3) readers are welcome to communicate via anything other than email.

As luck -- or grace -- would have it, this weekend I came across the Executive Summary for a Nielsen Norman Group Report about Email Newsletter Usability. (True confession: I'd printed out a hard copy.)

This report came out in 2010 which is practically ancient history in Internet time. Still, I found the reported findings durably useful and translatable to the world of church communication, especially findings about scannability, competition with social networks, and the future of e-newsletters.

So what are or should be best practices in this domain? How can your church e-newsletter be more seamlessly integrated or at least nominally coordinated with your social media efforts? How about which e-newsletter platform to choose? What are the relative benefits/liabilities of using Constant Contact v. MailChimp v. VerticalResponse v. MyEmma v. MadMimi v. [your fave here]. How is writing for a social media platform similar to or different from writing for an e-newsletter?

We'll chat about all this and more on Tuesday, 10/2/12 at 9:00 PM ET.

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