Easy Email Newsletters With WordPress

Recently a society decided they wanted to begin the move from a printed quarterly newsletter to an email newsletter. Not only was the printed quarterly quite expensive, it was unable to inform members about short-term deals and discounts. Since their site runs on WordPress with Jetpack, they already had the ability to deliver an email newsletter to their members. In fact, a significant number of members were already subscribed. Why go looking for a new platform, spending the time to learn how to use it and then forcing their existing subscribers to move to a new system? All they needed was a bit of planning and a little design effort to create a newsletter just as impressive as any external platform.

Their current site content plan includes posting a weekly article discussing a research topic and a weekend article with the latest news from the archives, deals and other items of interest. In addition there are posts to remind members about upcoming meetings, calls for journal articles and other announcements. The Jetpack email subscription plugin sends each of these posts to every subscriber. Why not reduce those postings to just two a week – the weekly research article and a weekend newsletter – and let the newsletter pick up the other “newsy” topics?

sample newsletter

Email example from a WordPress.com site.

The research article is distributed as any “normal” post but the weekend newsletter gets a design overhaul to look more like a newsletter. It will be more graphical with a masthead and topic dividers. Instead of a “long-form” article, the newsletter is a series of short news items and links to other sources. Instead of separate posts calling for journal articles or meeting reminders, include them as “feature” items in the newsletter.

Here are a few design and distribution tips:

  • Only images and photos uploaded to your WordPress site will appear in the email edition of your newsletter. Embedded photos (and videos) do not.
  • Create and graphic masthead and include it at the beginning of each newsletter post.
  • There is no style sheet attached to the emailed message so you don’t control fonts, colors, etc. If you want “styled” headings, create and insert them as graphics.
  • Use subheadings and the horizontal line feature (found in the formatting toolbar) to separate content within the newsletter.
  • Create a newsletter category and assign it to each newsletter. Add a menu item pointing to this category and you have an instant archive for your newsletter.

Place the Follow Blog widget somewhere on your WordPress site. Modify the text to suit your purposes. Subscribing to a WordPress site is a two-step process. First the visitor enters his email and clicks the subscribe button. He will quickly receive an automated email message from WordPress asking him to confirm his subscription. He then clicks the button to confirm. If you only want to give society members access to the email service, instead of the widget you will invite your members as “followers” from the Users section of the WordPress admin area. They will also receive an email from WordPress to confirm their subscription so it would be a good idea to let them know ahead of time what to expect. Of course they can unsubscribe at any time.

The Site Stats area of your WordPress Dashboard includes a section for followers. The “Blog” followers include both those following your site using the WordPress Reader and email subscribers. Click on the Blog link to display a list showing who they are.

What about the people who don’t have emails or refuse to subscribe? You can print out the weekly newsletter posts and mail them to those users once a month – on a date scheduled early enough to update them on the next monthly meeting. For those without computers or emails, they won’t mind missing the latest discounts offered at the online archives. For those who just refuse, missing those deals might inspire them to subscribe.

Moving from a quarterly printed newsletter to weekly digital updates means the society can continue to provide a professional-looking newsletter that includes functional links as well as current news on things like the latest additions at the online archives, book reviews, society news and any deals or special offers – things that have often expired by the time a quarterly newsletter is published.

What do you think?