The Four C's of an Engaging E-Newsletter
by Emily Kittrell, Director of Communications & Marketing
As the age of digital media continues to unfold, the weekly, monthly, or quarterly e-newsletter is a critical means of communicating with church congregants. While email should not be the only way church leadership and staff share events, outreach, formation, and news with their congregation, it is an increasingly efficient and effective way to spread the word.
The Church is not the only organization to realize the potential of online communications, and our church members (as well as clergy and lay leaders) are bombarded with thousands of messages each day. Catching our community’s attention, not to mention inspiring them to get involved, is increasingly difficult; however, with a plan and a good template, we can avoid common mistakes and strengthen communications with our congregants.
Establish a Plan
As you begin investing time and energy to develop or re-develop your church newsletter, you must ask yourself, or perhaps a handful of leaders, a few questions in order to establish your newsletter strategy.
- Who is the audience? Identify who you are trying to reach and what they might want to know about and hear from the church. What will delight and intrigue your membership?
- What is the purpose? Determine the goal for your newsletter, and give yourself permission to create primary and secondary purposes. What actions do you want people who read this e-newsletter to take? Are you trying to grow participation in church events and formation opportunities? Do you want to encourage individual and family study by sharing resources? Do you want your members to get involved in the broader Episcopal Church community or the local neighborhood?
- How will we facilitate it? Selecting and utilizing an email marketing tool to manage your contact list and compose and send emails to your contacts is imperative, if your congregation has not already taken this step. Constant Contact and Mailchimp are two widely used, subscription-based online platforms for email marketing; both are generally affordable for non-profits and worth the investment of time and money. Once established, decide on the frequency of your newsletter, and be consistent. Don’t be afraid to send frequent (weekly or bi-weekly) newsletters, but do not over-commit yourself or your team to a publication schedule that is not sustainable.
The Four C's of an Engaging E-Newsletter
It’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel lost as you determine your content and begin composing your newsletter. The best way to keep moving forward is to select, or create, a template for your newsletter that will be used consistently and with very little variation in its design and overall content. Constant Contact and Mailchimp each provide basic newsletter templates that can serve as a solid foundation for the design and layout of your newsletter. As you customize a template design to fit your audience and plan, follow the four C's of an engaging e-newsletter: Keep it “Clear, Concise, Compelling, and Connected.”
Keep it Clear
- Simple is best. Don’t be afraid of a simple, clean layout with lots of white space. Readers will learn the underlying structure of your newsletter over time, and the more consistently you stick to your layout, the easier it will be for people to find information they are interested in. Choose clear headings and subheadings to distinguish and categorize content, e.g. “Announcements”, “Resources”, “Upcoming Events”, “Outreach Opportunities.”
- Use your brand. Your logo should be the first thing people see. Pick three or four colors, ideally from your logo colors or brand guidelines, to use throughout the template as backgrounds, buttons, headings, text, and link colors, then stick to them.
- Limit the number of font styles and sizes. Choose a font type, size, and style (that is, regular, bold, italic, etc.) for your Headings, Subheadings, Copy Text, and Links / Buttons, and do not use any others. The minimum font size should be 14 pts with use of common fonts such as Arial, Tahoma, Times, and Verdana.
- Color contrast is our friend. Pair dark text with a lighter, solid background color or vice versa. Steer clear of reds and yellows. Click here to read more about accessibility guidelines for online communications.
- It must be mobile-friendly. More than half of all emails are viewed on a mobile device and so using a template that adapts automatically to a different screen size and is legible on a mobile phone or tablet is imperative. Send yourself a Test Email to preview the newsletter on your phone before you hit “send.”
Keep it Concise
- Short and sweet does it. People often do not scroll past the halfway point on an email, or any other kind of news article, blog, or communication, truthfully. If they have to wade through a wall of text to get to the main point, they won’t and your message will be missed. Place the most important information first.
- Use bold headlines and bullet points so your content is scannable.
- Include links or “Learn More” buttons to share more detailed content. While it’s likely that you have a handful of details you could publish in your newsletter, your readers simply need to know the basics, and then how they can find out more or take the next steps. For example, when you’re sharing about an upcoming event, readers only need to know who is hosting it, the date/time/location, and where they can sign up or visit to get more information.
Keep it Compelling
- Images are powerful. An intentional selection of a few quality photos goes a long way to tell a story, and they help break up text, giving the brain a moment to process the information shared thus far.
- Share stories. Prioritize quotes and contributions from congregants that connect with your local context, as well as short-form stories about events, experiences, impact, and transformations taking place through your church and its ministries.
Keep it Connected
- Connect readers to your other communication channels. Your e-newsletter should always include links to your website and social media or video hosting accounts that are being actively maintained.
- Include option to "View as a webpage." This will help anyone that wants to print the newsletter or share a direct link to view it with others.
- Encourage readers to share your newsletter with others and provide a link with brief instructions to help newcomers subscribe or “opt-in” to receive email communications from your church.
Don’t underestimate the power of your e-newsletter to help your congregation stay connected and engaged with you, with each other, and with the broader Church. If you find viewing examples helpful, here is a small sample of diocesan church newsletters that exemplify many of the principles mentioned in this article.
- St. Luke's, San Antonio: "E-News from St. Luke's Episcopal Church," September, 23, 2020
- St. Mark's, San Antonio: "St. Mark's eNews," September 23, 2020
- St. John's, New Braunfels: "St. John's eNews," September 24, 2020
- All Saints', Corpus Christi: "Here's What is Happening at All Saints," September 25, 2020
- St. Elizabeth, Buda: "Weekly News at St. Elizabeth," September, 27, 2020
The Communications Office of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas is committed to being a resource to churches and ministries throughout the diocese. For questions or inquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or submit a contact request through the website at dwtx.org/contact.