Content Strategy, Marketing Musings
For many companies, email newsletters are still a vital tool for communicating internally and keeping employees looped in to company-wide news.
However, internal newsletters are often running on a tight budget. As a result, internal communications teams often design, develop, and disseminate these newsletters in-house. For an internal communicator tasked with an email newsletter project, one of the first things to consider is what kind of template will work best to make newsletter production manageable. Because there are so many options for email newsletter templates, it takes a bit of planning and foresight to choose one that fits your needs and resources.
A visually appealing template is definitely important, and employing the services of a graphic designer is money well spent if your budget allows for it. It’s easy to become hyper-focused on aesthetics (everyone likes a pretty email newsletter), but a good design isn’t the only thing to consider. To me, a template that balances beauty, functionality, and flexibility—and plays well with a wide variety of email clients—is a clear front-runner.
In my experience, people tend to lean towards using Microsoft Office Word document templates when email newsletter projects arise, because they are so familiar with Word. However, there are other options worth considering. Below are a few of the options that I have come across, including the up- and down-sides I’ve experienced with each:
||Email Marketing Solution
+ Easy to edit design, layout, and text. Can track changes through the review process. The Word template will embed images, so it can be easier to insert images within the body of the email.
- Unstable formatting; does not always render properly in different email clients.
- Embedded images can increase the size of your newsletter (you usually don’t want go over 1 MB), which can be a headache for your subscribers.
+ Allows for a wide variety of design options, limited only by your creativity and old-school HTML coding abilities.
+ The HTML template can typically be applied to your email client easily without many formatting tweaks.
- It can be difficult to make changes to the design without the help of a designer and/or web developer.
+ Customizable templates tend to offer very stable design with minimal formatting required after design is locked down. Different providers offer different levels of customization.
+ The tool manages sending the newsletter and often includes some form of reporting and tracking (e.g., open rates and click-throughs).
- There may be a per-mail or per-user cost to use the tool.
At the end of the day, it comes down to your needs, preference, and budget. You can compare a good email newsletter template to a good, practical car. Ultimately, it should do what you need it to do: get you where you’re going, or communicate across your organization. In both a template and car, I want something that’s attractive, economical, and reliable.
One recommendation before you choose: make your email newsletter accountable. Having the ability to get metrics (e.g., open rates, click through rates, etc.) is key to measuring the success of your program, and worth considering as you look for a newsletter solution. A communication ROI study by Towers Watson found that highly effective communicators are using more communication metrics (than less effective communicators) in their employee communications programs. However, 43% of participants reported that they had no formal measurements or assessments in place. The primary obstacle to using metrics was insufficient resources. This can become something of a Catch-22; if you don’t have budget, you may have trouble implementing a solution that allows for metrics, but if you don’t have metrics, you’ll face an uphill battle in demonstrating the value of your program to build a case for more resources.
There are a lot of options, but if you can update the template easily, the formatting is stable, and you have reporting and tracking capabilities, then you’re ready to roll. If you need help developing or producing effective internal communications, contact us. We’re always happy to help!