10 TIPS FOR BETTER eNEWSLETTER RESULTS 1
ore than a year ago, Ascend Inte-
grated Media embarked on a new
approach to delivering its eMedia
products by employing a landing
page framework to better serve its
event clients. This landing page framework serves
as a year-round repository for all event media that is
developed for a meeting — the preshow promotional
elements, preview stories, directory content, sessions
and conference information, show daily stories as well
as highlight stories following the event. Associated
eBlasts and eNewsletters were designed specifically to
drive traffic to the landing page (website) so the audi-
ence could delve deeper into event coverage.
At the time that Ascend was building its program,
it did not have sufficient internal analytics to measure
the effectiveness of the program. Therefore, it turned
to Marketing Sherpa, a third-party metrics vendor, for
its benchmark metrics. Marketing Sherpa examines
performance across a broad swath of eBlasts and
eNewsletters, all of which closely align with the indus-
try sectors that Ascend serves, including trade associa-
tions and medical/dental/healthcare eMedia.
Although Marketing Sherpa’s 2009 figures provid-
ed Ascend a strong starting point, it quickly became
apparent that Ascend’s own rules of engagement, de-
velopment processes and
quality control efforts
resulted in performance
metrics that were signifi-
cantly higher than Mar-
keting Sherpa’s bench-
marks. As such, Ascend
discovered that its own
outperformed those of
In fact, after nearly 15
months of producing more
than 175 eBlasts, Ascend
products that exceeded
the benchmark averages
published by the Rhode
Island-based company by
22 percent to 200 percent.
10 Tips for Better
This tip sheet provides well-defined steps for
improving the execution and overall performance
of your next eBlast or eNewsletter outreach
effort across your industry community
arketing Sherpa, a
provides benchmark metrics
across sectors for organiza-
tions to compare their email
effectiveness against sector per-
formance averages. For 2009,
here are the average open and
click-through rates (CTR).
Average Open Rate: 17.43%
Average CTR: 2.8%
Average Open Rate: 7.11%
Average CTR: 2.8%
Ascend 2009 Results
Average Open Rate: 21.27%
Average CTR: 3.78%
10 TIPS FOR BETTER eNEWSLETTER RESULTS2
tions are turning to eMe-
dia to deliver pertinent
information and educa-
tional content from their
nately, in some instances,
these organizations are
ill-prepared to deliver
the entire program, from
concept to measure-
ment, in a manner that
will return the most
bang for the buck. They
ignore key elements in
startup and development
requirements that can
advance success and high
Here are 10 key
considerations for your
eBlast or eNewsletter
campaign. These best
practices can help anyone who is working on a new or
existing eMedia campaign to raise the bar on the over-
all effectiveness of their electronic media outreaches.
1. Know Your Audience
Before launching any eMedia program, you should
know your audience. This requires a deeper knowl-
edge than simply the total number of your member-
ship list. You need to know your audience’s needs and
wants in terms of information. Your audience’s time is
valuable. You want to enrich their information gather-
ing, not harass them with email clutter.
When you know your audience needs, you can
identify what you will deliver to meet those needs. De-
termine if your eMedia campaign will cover an indus-
try event or your association annual conference, pres-
ent in-depth, late-breaking research, provide general
industry news all year long or offer something else.
You also should know what other types of elec-
tronic content your audience is currently receiving. Is
there an information gap that only you can fill? Is your
eMedia plan filling a void or duplicating informa-
tion that already exists? In seeking a niche that is not
yet filled, you increase your opportunity for success.
If there is already an information source providing
similar information, how do you plan to make your
offering better, more informative, richer?
Once you have identified the content you plan to
deliver and confirm that it is the content your audience
needs, you should ask yourself if an eBlast is the best
way to deliver this information. Does your audience
prefer to read your proposed type of content online or
in print? Obviously, you are not going to please every
constituent, but knowing the channel the majority of
your audience prefers will help shape your answer.
In confirming the delivery method, you also can
define the exact form the content will take. For ex-
ample, if you are going to provide information about
late-breaking research studies to your medical resi-
dents, do they want the full-blown study, a synopsis
with high-level findings or an outline or synopsis with
a link to more information?
Also, in knowing your audience, you will be able
to identify what day of the week your eMedia out-
reach will be most appreciated. Conventional eMe-
dia wisdom suggests that eBlasts and eNewsletters
should go out Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. In the
early days of eMedia campaigns, most organizations
focused on this three-day sweet spot to send their
However, Ascend has increasingly found that this
conventional wisdom does not apply universally. For
example, one association’s physician membership had
more time on weekends to catch up on their reading.
Because of this, Friday afternoon/evening was deter-
mined to be the optimal time to send eBlasts.
Likewise, another client from the retail sector
knew that first thing Monday morning was the best
time to snag the attention of its readership, just as its
retailers were kicking off the new week. In both of
these instances, the eBlast metrics defied conventional
wisdom and proved what the associations knew best,
that Friday night and Monday morning, respectively,
were the optimal times to reach their audiences.
or the purposes of this
white paper, here are
the definitions of eBlast,
eNewsletter and eMedia.
eBlast: an email outreach that
narrows the elements of cover-
age to focus on a theme or
subject matter. It provides the
reader with a quick overall read
and serves to drive traffic to the
website for more information.
The frequency of an eBlast can
be driven by an event, an infor-
mation need or other specific
eNewsletter: a longer form of
an eBlast that tends to cover in-
much like a print eNewseltter.
It typically has a set frequency,
such as weekly or monthly.
eMedia: collective term used
to identify content prepared
and delivered using email and
the Internet, connecting email
messaging to websites.
10 TIPS FOR BETTER eNEWSLETTER RESULTS 3
Finally, in knowing your audience, you should
know what frequency of outreach is acceptable —
daily, weekly, monthly. Once you determine the
frequency, set the dates and stick to them. In order to
develop a following with your audience, you should
seek to provide regularity of messaging — for exam-
ple, every Tuesday morning they can expect to receive
2. Identify Great Content
The heart of great content consists of important messag-
ing that delivers on an unfulfilled need and is written in
a form that most resonates with your audience.
Your eMedia outreach must provide your associa-
tion’s great content. However, it should not become
the place to throw everything including the kitchen
sink. Your eBlast should be targeted content and hold-
ing to the standards set forth by your organization.
Knowing and understanding your audience’s needs
will direct your efforts in developing and providing
great content. If it is original information and not dupli-
cated, if it is delivered when and how they need it, if it
is provided in the form that is most useful to them, you
are halfway home in providing great content.
3. Empower Subject Lines
The subject line is your invitation to readers to open
your eBlast or eNewsletter. With the growth and reli-
ance on email communications, complemented with
an unhealthy dose of unsolicited spam, the average
audience member may be receiving upward of several
hundred emails a day. You want your subject line to
immediately stand out, connect, engage and induce
the reader to open the email.
Subject lines that work are accurate, succinct,
clever, informative descriptors. Subject lines that do
not work are vague or exaggerated, long or run-on,
inane or bland descriptors.
Most organizations want to identify their eBlasts
with a tie to the association moniker. If you are going
to use a subject line prefix such as this, limit it to two
words. That will allow you to get to the juicy part of your
invitation sooner. However, the information that follows
should truly lure your audience to open the email.
Try to keep your subject line under seven to eight
words total. The primary reason for this length is many
email preview windows will show just a portion of the
One client Ascend
worked with wanted to
use a long prefix to iden-
tify the eNewsletter. It
was similar to: XYZ Fall
Exhibition and Confer-
ence Wrapup. This was to
be the prefix that kicked
off the subject line for all
of its eBlasts. In many
email windows, that
is all that would have
appeared three days in
a row. The reader might
have opened the first
one, but afterward, what
would be their motiva-
tion to open the second
Further, this same
client wanted to include
a main headline after the
prefix. Unfortunately, the
lead-in took so much space
in the subject line, no one
would have read it all.
Being clever or witty
in a subject line can be an
effective way to encour-
age readers to open
your eBlast. However, in
doing so, do not mislead.
For example, one group
played off the familiar
book title for its subject
line: Everything You Ever
Wanted to Know About
Radiology But Were
Afraid to Ask. Unfortu-
nately, the eBlast content
Open rate: A measure indicat-
ing how many people “opened”
the eBlast or eNewsletter you
send out.The open rate for your
campaign is most often cal-
culated as the total number of
“opened” emails, expressed as
a percentage of the total num-
ber of emails sent or — more
usually — delivered.The number
delivered is itself measured as
the number of emails sent out
minus the number of bounces
generated by those emails.
Click-through rate (CTR): CTR
is obtained by dividing the
“number of users who click
on an ad” by the “number of
times the ad was delivered”
(impressions). For example, if
a leaderboard ad is delivered
1,000 times (impressions deliv-
ered) and 10 people click on it
(clicks recorded), then the re-
sulting CTR would be 1 percent.
In most cases, a 2-percent CTR
would be considered success-
ful. If a person clicks a single
advertisement multiple times,
the CTR doesn’t change.
Soft bounces: A bounce is
considered soft when an email
address is good, but perhaps
because their server is down
or just busy. In the instance of
a soft bounce, you may be
able to resend at a later date
Hard bounces: A bounce indi-
cating that the email address
is not deliverable.The email
address simply doesn’t exist. It is
a bad address and should be
deleted from your email list.
10 TIPS FOR BETTER eNEWSLETTER RESULTS4
ter is probably the worst example of a subject line.
It provides nothing more than the date. Unless the
reader has received this eNewsletter before, he or she
may not even know who sent it, what it is about, let
alone why they should bother opening it.
In creating subject lines, be sure to avoid employ-
ing popular words used by spammers. These words
likely will get your email bounced or filtered out by a
company or email spam filter.
Email spammers are continuously employing
new and effective ways to entice people to open their
emails. Therefore, the list of most commonly filtered
words used in spam is long and growing. Table 1
provides examples of words you should avoid in your
subject lines in order to prevent your eBlast from get-
ting bounced or otherwise filtered.
Table 1. Words to avoid in subject lines
act now don’t hesitate new customers save
amazing stuff free no obligation save now
buy free preview opportunity take action now
cash marketing solutions opt in terms and conditions
cash bonus money back please read this is not spam
congratulations money making profits U.S. dollars
To test the effectiveness of your subject lines,
review your open rate metrics following your first se-
ries of emails. If the open rate of one or more of
your eBlasts seems low, try to determine what about the
subject line that didn’t resonate with your audience.
In 2005 and 2006 when rumors were flying about
Steve Jobs introducing the game-changing iPhone, you
could guarantee that your tech eNewsletter would see
a bump in open rates with the mere mention of the
iPhone in the subject line. Find out what the equiva-
lent to the iPhone is with your audience.
Use metrics to learn more about your audience
and what resonates with them. Go to school on your
subject lines. If one type of subject line doesn’t work as
well as you would like, try a different approach.
4. Enhance With Visuals
Even if your content is purely academic and your
readers are accustomed to reading gray tome-like
didn’t deliver. It featured
only one article about
one element of radiology.
It was hardly everything
someone would want to
know about radiology.
This misled the reader.
Another example is
a recent email sported
the subject line: Thank
you so much for your
support. Upon opening
the email, it was not a
personal thank-you from
the association. It was
simply the association’s
eNewsletter. There was
not a clear indication
upon opening the email
why the subject line was
a show of gratitude. It likely left the reader feeling
duped and potentially jeopardized future open rates.
All you have to do is look through your own
email account to get a sense of what works and what
doesn’t. Here are a few bad examples from the main-
stream press to illustrate what not to do:
• Today’s Paper: Asia from the Wall Street Journal Online
If the reader is interested in Asia, he or she might open
this. Or perhaps the reader is a loyal Wall Street Journal
reader. But a better subject line might have been:
WSJ Asia: Stocks plummet on Toyota stock news
• Knoxville.com Entertainment eNewsletter: Upcom-
This subject line demands that the reader is a loyal Knox-
ville.com reader. There is very little that is intriguing or
interesting about this subject line. It is especially disap-
pointing as the lead story was “Diana Ross Works Hard,
Wows Crowd.” To lead with a story about the 66-year-
old Motown singer wowing a crowd and to leave it
buried under the above subject line is a wasted effort.
• Thurs 3rd June 2010- Part 1
This subject line from a cellular technology eNewslet-
Types of email filters
ilters are used by a recipi-
ent system to identify and
organize spam.The differ-
ent types of filter systems are:
• simple and complex lists
that are known to be associ-
ated with spam
• black lists and white lists that
identify known IP addresses of
spam and non-spam senders,
• hash-tables that summarize
emails carrying hash values
which are symptomatic of
• artificial intelligence and
probabilistic systems that
analyze word frequencies
and patterns that usually are
associated with both spam
and non-spam messages
10 TIPS FOR BETTER eNEWSLETTER RESULTS 5
pages, your eNewsletter should offer visuals in the
form of pictures, graphics, illustrations and buttons.
These are all effective ways of catching and engaging
your readers’ attention.
Early on, some consultants advised eBlast and
eNewsletter senders to limit the use of images in emails
because “some of your readers will never see them
anyway.” Although it may be true that some readers
actively turn off images or some people work at compa-
nies that block images in emails to save bandwidth or to
stop porn, that is a shrinking population.
As time has gone by and email outreach has become
more commonplace, the use of images has become inte-
gral to engaging readers, adding to the reader experience
and communicating more effectively.
The pictures do not have to be large; the email is
not the vehicle for sweeping graphic panoramas. They
simply need to provide a sense of the direction for the
article or feature.
Even if your feature provides only a headshot, it
helps break up the copy. Further, it connects the reader
to the speaker in your article.
You also can include other types of informational im-
ages such as charts, graphs and other graphics that will
enhance the reader’s understanding of the subject.
5. Segment Your Audience
Many associations host a diverse membership, a range
of job titles and functions. In many instances, the asso-
ciation would benefit if it could segment the member-
ship list and provide content specifically tailored for
that job title. Unfortunately, many associations cur-
rently do not segment their membership lists so they
can easily parse out certain titles.
Consider the example of a medical association
membership that includes residents, researchers,
nurses, office personnel and practice management
professionals in its major membership categories. The
medical association hosts an annual event with confer-
ence programming that targets each of these categories.
However, programming that resonates with residents
may not even apply to the needs of practice managers.
By segmenting the audience list and developing
messaging specifically targeting those titles, you can
deliver essential messaging directly to that category
of recipients, rather than forcing everyone to weed
through your eBlast for content of value to them. You
can make the content that much more effective by talk-
ing the talk of the category. It makes your messaging
that much more effective and increases the opportu-
nity for your open and click-through rates to soar.
Another way you could segment your audience
around an event would be for attendees and non-at-
tendees. Your messaging for registered attendees could
focus more on the content of the event, while the focus
for the non-registered members could be geared to
encouraging them to register, providing tools to make
registration quick and easy and to showing them what
they would be missing if they did not attend.
6. Strike the Right Tone
As with any media outreach, you should have a clearly
defined audience; your tone should match that audi-
ence. For example, a medical eBlast aimed at practicing
phsyicians should not be written in a tone conducive
for patients, or vice versa. Physicians and other medi-
cal professionals do not necessarily need definitions of
basic medical conditions. If you write that way, you risk
sounding as though you are talking down to trained
professionals. However, in writing for patients, it would
be appropriate and beneficial to explain medical terms
and conditions in simple layman’s terms.
Your tone is further defined with your mission. Do
you intend to educate, inform or entertain, or do you
plan to do all three? The answer to this question will
guide how you develop and write your content. Your
tone becomes your eBlast’s personality and further
ingrains the brand.
As you build your content plan for your eBlast
campaign, you need to identify essential elements of the
eBlast and how it will be shared. For instance, do you
want a personal column from the association’s leader-
ship to lead off each eBlast? Will the tone of the eBlast
be consistent with your website? Or alternatively, will it
take on a more informal tone? These are determinants
that you need to refine as you prepare the content.
Finally, in developing the content, you need to
know if you wish to provide functional information —
10 TIPS FOR BETTER eNEWSLETTER RESULTS6
just the facts, ma’am … the who, what, where, when
and how — or are you looking to establish a more
relaxed relationship with your reader? Is it possible
that your audience responds better to creative and pro-
motional copy in eBlasts and seeks more serious and
academic content composition on the website?
7. Clean Your Email Lists
You should be in the constant process of cleaning your
email lists. People opt out, change jobs and change
email addresses all of the time. Your eMedia strategy
should make sure that with each eBlast you identify
and remove bad addresses, update change of email ad-
dresses and add new member email addresses.
List hygiene is essential for two reasons: your
reputation and good results.
Without proper list hygiene, you risk damaging your
sender reputation and getting your emails blocked by
the Internet service providers (ISPs). For example, if you
continue to send emails to bad addresses, ISPs will take
notice. This could lead to your email being blocked.
You also could run afoul of spam traps. Essential-
ly, an unclean list tells ISPs that you don’t care about
your customers or about adhering to best practices.
Best practices require that you respond to unsubscribe
requests and bounce data immediately.
Reputation aside, list hygiene also makes financial
sense. Restoring customer connections and increas-
ing deliverability leads to increased open and click-
through rates. If you use a third-party email provider,
removing bad addresses also will reduce your associ-
ated CPM charges.
Cleaning lists will directly affect your open rates
and click-through rates. You should strive to have 98
percent to 100 percent deliverable addresses. Why? You
might consider 94 percent to be an effective deliver rate.
However, if you deliver to 94 percent of a potential of,
say, 10,000 addresses, you have effectively wasted the
opportunity of reaching nearly 600 members due to bad
addresses. If you clean your list and improve your deliv-
erables, you automatically improve your open rates.
Say your average open rate is 17 percent. In this
situation, it potentially could have been 23 percent ei-
ther by correcting those bad email addresses or adding
email addresses of people who want to be engaged with
8. Beware Interstitial Challenges
Some association bylaws require any outreach featuring
advertising to provide an interstitial page between the
eBlast and the advertiser’s website. This is done with the
intent of preventing any confusion of church and state
between the host association and the advertising entity.
Interstitial means “in between,” and effectively is
a “page” that come between the eBlast and the website
page it references.
For example, say that Bayer has a leaderboard
ad on a medical association eBlast. If this association
requires interstitial pages, the reader who clicks on the
Bayer ad would go to an interim page that asks the
reader to confirm that he or she wants to proceed to
the advertiser’s website or return to the eBlast. While
this requirement is expected within some association
circles, it also can negatively impact click-through
rates. For the user, it comes across as, “Are you sure
you want to go to the Bayer site?”
Some users argue against the use of these intersti-
tial pages to present online advertising because they
force readers to answer twice by clicking twice for
information that in most online instances they only
have to request once.
Less controversial uses of interstitial pages include
alerting the user that the next page requires a login
or has some other requirement the user should know
about before proceeding.
9. Employ Calls to Action
“Click here,” “More” and “Read More” are all impor-
tant calls to action. They ask the reader to click for
more information. A call to action is essential if you
want to drive subscribers to your website.
A common approach is to provide a percentage of
a story on the eBlast and promise the entire story if the
reader clicks on the More button. This approach allows
the reader to quickly scan the contents of the eBlast
or eNewsletter, selecting the individual stories and
elements that are most important to click through and
read in their entirety.
10 TIPS FOR BETTER eNEWSLETTER RESULTS 7
You also can provide links within the story (hy-
perlinks) that take the reader to other locations to aid
in telling the story. This makes your content more of a
one-stop content play for the reader. For example, you
provide a story about the rising percentage of patients
exhibiting type 2 diabetes. You run the first paragraph
or two in the eBlast and offer a link to your website for
the entire story. However, in those first two paragraphs
as well as in the rest of the story, you hyperlink to other
articles on the subject. This provides readers with more
information in a convenient manner if they choose to
drill deeper. It also increases the average readership
time and click-through rates.
10. Provide tools your readers can use
An effective eNewsletter always is mindful of tools
the audience can use in the form of additional links,
forward-to-a-friend features and viral connections
through social networking.
For example, if you provide a promotional eBlast to
encourage registration to your first annual conference
event in Bora Bora, you should consider providing a
boxed item including all of the links a reader will need
to take them to conference registration, host hotel res-
ervations, the preliminary program and general island
information. Even though you may feature separate
articles about each of these elements, make it easy for
your reader to do everything necessary to prepare for
your conference in Bora Bora.
And think virally. Attendees may want to share
the email with a colleague so he or she can also attend
this important event. The forward-to-a-friend feature
has a three-fold benefit in this situation. First, your
outreach increases virally. Second, you potentially sign
up an attendee you might not have otherwise reached
before. Third, you also increase your email list with a
“recommended” new email address.
Social networking is not only extremely popular in
the mainstream, it is also integral to most association
outreach programs. By providing easy access to Face-
book, Twitter, LinkedIn, Delicious and other popular
social networking groups, you benefit from your mem-
bership talking up your articles, your information and
your great content.
Ascend Integrated Media is
ready to be your partner and
expand the possibilities of
your custom communications
and event media. Contact us
today for a consultation with
one of our vice presidents of
vice president, media development
vice president, media development
vice president, media development
vice president, media development
vice president, media development