Email communication has spawned the proliferation of emailed newsletters. Unfortunately, with so much content pouring into our digital mailboxes, these newsletters can get lost amid all the clutter.
On the bright side, the email newsletter space has been home to vast amounts of research and innovation. So, while this lane of the information highway figures to remain heavily congested, you can take what others have learned and use it to take your church newsletter to the next level.
Here are four tips to get more people opening your email and viewing your newsletter:
1. Treat subject lines like magazine cover lines
The subject line of your email newsletter is the most important factor to get people to open it. For many church newsletters, it also is one of the biggest roadblocks.
Here are some examples of poor subject lines:
- Insight: Your weekly newsletter from First UMC
- Jan. 4 News from Asbury UMC
- Saint Mark UMC Herald: Easter Edition
- News for the Mission Field
The problem with these is that they treat the subject line like the name of the publication. Those who struggle to create intriguing subject lines may find it helpful to think about publications in a magazine rack.
When looking over the rack, it often is not the name of the magazine that makes someone pick it up and thumb through it, but the cover line, something such as “2022’s best dressed celebrities” or “The hidden tragedy in Ukraine.” The subject lines of your emails should read like cover lines.
Here are some subject lines that spark interest:
- Exciting announcement about a special visitor in worship
- 4 ways to pray (and other news from First UMC)
- Have you seen these photos from our Easter celebration?
- Does God really love everyone?
2. Make your subject line stand out
There are some tricks to really make your subject lines pop. One of the easiest is to add a related emoji within the first couple of words. Putting an important word in all caps or adding punctuation within the first couple of words also can help.
Email marketers also have discovered that it can be really effective to end a subject line with a colon. The colon has a psychological effect on people because it implies there is an important piece of information after it. When people read a subject line that ends with that type of punctuation, they are significantly more likely to open the email than when it ends with a period or no punctuation at all.
It’s not just about attracting attention. You also want to draw in people. To do so, phrase your subject line in a way that implies there is valuable information inside.
3. Give readers more than dates and announcements
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Often, your goal may be to simply get out the details about when people need to register for your next event. But you need to be compelling. Consider adding a mix of content along with your announcements to spur interest.
For example, you might get a church member to share an interesting story from their life or have your pastor put together a playlist of their favorite non-church songs. A subject line that reads “Discover Pastor Kathi’s hard-rock playlist,” might entice more people to open the email just to see what’s on the playlist and, in doing so, end up seeing the announcement about that registration deadline, too.
Another way to boost open rates with content is to offer giveaways or free gifts in the email.
For example, if you are producing a devotional for church members during a season such as Lent, you might create a PDF of it and add it to the newsletter. Or, consider finding a funny prize from your church’s basement — a weird costume or a rubber chicken (or whatever else you find down there) — and give people a chance to win the prize by reading and following specific instructions within the email. If you really want to have fun with this, you could present the prize to the winner during announcement time of the following week’s worship service.
4. Find out if your emails are going to spam
Of course, if your emails are being marked as spam, it doesn’t matter how great your subject line is.
Mass email tools such as Constant Contact or Mailchimp have a spam checking and vetting tool that will help you avoid the spam filter. Don’t ignore these tools. They are absolutely essential to making sure people can see your newsletter.
If you aren’t using one of those services, check out one of the email spam checkers, such as Unspam, which will run a basic check on your email for free and even help you see where people might be most likely to read closely.
Whether it’s a better subject line or just avoiding the spam folder, a little extra thought can make a huge impact in how many people read your newsletter. With the popularity of newsletters very high right now, the time is right to double down on this effort to make sure you have the best possible results.
Jeremy Steele is the associate pastor at Los Altos UMC in Los Altos, California, as well as a writer and speaker. You can find a list of all his books, articles and resources for churches, including his most recent book, "All the Best Questions," at his website: JeremyWords.com.