Having a mailing list for your advocacy group is a great way to keep them informed and engaged about your programs and events.

A mailing list is also a means of currency for establishing your advocacy group as an important component for a particular patient population.

Just like any currency, a mailing list needs to stay engaged in order for it to have value. One way to measure that engagement is through your open rates – or the percentage of people on your mailing list that actually open the email. There is no magical percentage that will define your email campaign as a success but open rates in the 10% – 30% are generally considered to be good open rates.

One problem with getting a low open rate that it feeds on itself. Once servers notice that your readers are not opening your emails, you may get flagged as spam and your open rates can quickly plummet. To avoid this scenario, here are a few tips to keep your readers interested in opening your emails.

  1. Make sure you are using a reputable mail server. Mailchimp is probably the most common one used but there are several other reputable servers out there. These servers help guide you into creating a newsletter that will not get marked as spam. One of the reasons Mailchimp current leads this market is that they are very good helping their clients so that the newsletters reach their audience. Anyone who has worked with Mailchimp can tell you that they can be a bit finicky about the group’s mailing list and the type of information contained in the newsletter. But, it is in your best interest (and Mailchimp’s) to have a newsletter that will not get targeted as spam. So, whatever mail service you use, you are strongly advised to take their advice.
  2. Make sure the newsletter looks good on different platforms and devices. You can send out test emails to yourself and look at it in different ways – in webmail, in outlook, on your phone, tablet, and laptop.  And in each version, ask yourself:
    • Are the images the right size?
    • Is the text easy to read?
    • Does it load quickly?
    • Is it the right width and length?
    • Are there any typos (always check for these, always)?
    • Is it easy to unsubscribe?
    • Is it clear who the email is from?
    • Do all the links work?
  1. Make sure that the people on your list are those that want to receive your newsletter. There should be an easy way to subscribe (and unsubscribe) to your newsletter. Just adding someone to your mailing list who you think would like it will get you in trouble (and it is actually against the law).
  2. Make the content of the newsletter relevant for your audience. If you are sending an email to people all across the country but the content is only about an upcoming fundraiser in Toronto, they do not send that newsletter to people outside of southern Ontario. Similarly, if your audience includes researchers and clinicians, they tend to want to learn about the latest clinical research. They do not want information about fundraisers. This is a very important item to be aware of because if some of those researchers start to get upset about your emails involving fundraisers, they will click the ‘file this as spam’ button. Once that happens, red flags begin to appear amongst the groups monitoring your emails (yes, your newsletters are being monitored), Once a few of your recipients mark your newsletter as spam, it is very difficult to stop the exponential effect that has on future newsletters not being labeled as junk mail with other recipients.

 These are just a few of tips to get you started. The number of factors that go into making a e-newsletter a good and reliable means to inform your audience is growing every day. But as stated at the beginning, your newsletter email list is currency. Invest in it wisely and it will pay you back greatly in dividends.

Look for more tips in the coming weeks on how to keep your audience engaged and to make sure you are not breaking the law.