Increasing internal newsletter engagement

By Gabrielle Perret

For a couple years now I have spearheaded the internal newsletter for my division. I act as a combination of editor and author. My newsletter tends to have the following flow: division news, open jobs/details, upcoming events, recent events, a writing or grammar tip, a tech tip, and lastly, a call for content. My articles are as short as possible, and link longer content. I also try to get in pictures from our regions as much as possible.

Since its debut, my internal newsletter has averaged a 68% open rate. Click rates within the newsletter vary, but are generally low. A low click rate is ok with me as most of the articles are short, to the point, and I don’t really expect people to click to read more.

I recently reached out the FCN community to ask for advice on increasing my open rate, which I described as persistently ~70% (it actually turns out that is pretty good!). Glad I reached out because the FCN community offered some useful tips. Here my 7 big takeaways:

  • Lead with things that benefit staff. The FCN member provided two great examples of leading with things that benefit staff: “How to save money on health insurance” and “Are you maximizing your retirement outcomes?” Was I leading with things that benefitted my readers? Sometimes. For example, I usually include an IT tip and I have gotten a lot of feedback that people like it. Sometimes not though! Sometimes my article leads were just kind of FYI articles, so I decided I could improve my headlines and leads by focusing more on how staff is affected. 
  • 70% is actually pretty good. What was I expecting, a 100% open rate!? No, but my expectations were probably about 85%. As one member pointed out, a 70% open rate is far above the standard for open rates! He suggested I do a little research (and pointed to the Bananatag blog as an example) into developing benchmarks. However, after doing a little research I have adjusted my expectations and agree now that 70% is pretty good!
  • Include a feature that focuses on the people who work there. One member emailed me that after she had included this in their newsletter, the “Getting to Know” so-and-so feature has become the most popular section of the newsletter and garners more clicks than anything else. The idea was to make the newsletter more fun and interesting to read. The member told me a little more:

The feature includes a dozen or so questions that we ask the employee to answer about themselves.  This is voluntary, and the person can answer as many or as few questions as they like. Some of the questions:

What is one thing that your co-workers would be surprised to learn about you?

What is the most interesting job you held before working here?

If you could take only three things to a desert island, what would they be?

This was one of the suggestions I liked the most! So easy! Who isn’t interested in their colleagues across offices and regions? It’s a nice way to get to know people you may not be in regular contact with. I can see why it gets the most clicks. Now if I could just convince staff to send their picture for the article…

  • Make the email subject line interesting. One member reported that the subject line makes a difference. For an instant uptick in open rates, he said all you have to do is use “budget update” in the subject line. Of course, since you only get to do that infrequently, you also need to come up with things that catch people’s interest. If you can think of something that would attract a lot of interest, or at least something that is new or a new twist on an old topic, that may help. Another FCN member echoed this suggestions, saying that subject lines are super important! A subject line that tells employees what is in this edition will likely increase the likelihood that they will open and read it more than a generic subject line like “Our Weekly Newsletter.”

Well, I’m embarrassed to admit that my newsletter’s subject line was simply the newsletter name, issue number, and the date. For the next issue, the subject will be “Newsletter Name: Something really interesting you can only find in this newsletter”! Did any of my colleagues care about the issue number and the date? In hindsight, I think not!

  • Make it easy to navigate with short articles. One member suggested making it easy to navigate around the document with headers and links to the longer version that’s been posted somewhere else. Another member underscored content, content, content. She said if you can craft articles that are concise, attention grabbing and USEFUL, folks will be eager to read your newsletter each time it comes out. I was very pleased with this suggestion as my newsletter is already pretty good at with this! My articles are short and to the point, with links to more resources. I also like a clean, modern format.
  • Pulse surveys! One FCN member suggested asking staff via a one question survey, “Have you read our newsletter in the past three months?” and include a comment box for the “why or why not” explanation. I’m a fan of short, quick pulse surveys so I definitely will be trying this one out. 
  • Include news that people absolutely need. According to one FCN member, this last one is the toughest, because the temptation is to resend and reshare anything vital through multiple channels. However, this is the only way to train people to read something is for them to see the harm not staying informed causes them.  According to the FCN member, often communicators start out condensing the news into one vehicle and then go back on the process when they get complaints, which short-circuits the transition in staff habits. I like the idea of making newsletter the best source of information, especially the idea that if staff read it they really have a picture of everything they need to know!

Thank you to everyone who submitted responses! I am going to make some changes on my next newsletter and see it ups my open rate!

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