Whether you’re unsure how to create an email newsletter or are looking for the best email newsletter designs, after reading our Ultimate Guide you’ll be an email newsletter expert.
Your email newsletter can be a powerful tool to drive productivity and growth within your business. Imagine having your employees reading your employee newsletter with the same fervor with which they consume their social media.
This Ultimate Guide is designed for you to get the most out of your email newsletters. From knowing how to make an email newsletter to picking the best email newsletter designs, you will have the confidence to create and send beautiful email newsletters.
What is an Email Newsletter
Email newsletters are electronic communications intended to inform recipients of information relevant to them. That last part is important.
The primary function of the email newsletter is to be read; what good is your carefully-crafted employee newsletter if your employees don’t think it is worth reading?
When you’re creating an email newsletter constantly ask yourself, “would my readers want to read this?”, and let this be your guiding principle for your email newsletter format, visuals, copy, everything.
It’s worth considering who your audience is. The best way to categorize your audience is to separate them into internal and external audiences. Understanding this important difference is crucial when thinking about how to write a newsletter.
An external audience is a group of recipients outside of an organization that have signed up for a mailing list—also known as a distribution list.
You can easily gauge the engagement of your external audience: if people don’t like your content, they’ll unsubscribe from your mailing list!
When writing for an external audience, it is important to remember that any number of other organizations are all vying for your recipients’ attention; you have to make your content stand-out!
An internal audience are recipients within an organization that receive an email newsletter.
With employee newsletters, it’s more difficult to determine if your readers are enjoying your content; employees often can’t opt out of employee newsletters, so you can’t use the number of your recipients as an indicator of success.
Did you know: Open Rate—the total number of people who open your email newsletter—is just one of many metrics you can track on emails. To learn about the different email analytics that can give you the inside-scoop on your employee newsletters, read this.
Employees who regularly consume company information will be better aligned with your business’ objectives and ethos. This is why Gallup found an important relationship between employee engagement and growth.
How to Create an Email Newsletter
Now that you know the ins and outs of email newsletters, let’s explore the process of putting one together.
Before you get started thinking about how to create a newsletter, it’s important to ask yourself some preliminary questions:
- What outcome am I trying to achieve with my newsletter?
- Who is my primary audience? Secondary audience?
- What kind of content will I feature?
- How can I determine if I achieved my desired outcome?
We’ll use an ongoing example to illustrate each point:
You are an internal communicator and many of your employees are now working remotely. You want to create an email newsletter that keeps them up-to-date on your organization’s COVID-19 precautions. Your goal is to inform employees about the latest health and safety news. You know you will be sending your newsletter all employees. You are getting your content from a memo sent to you from the Human Resources department. You want to make sure that all recipients will read this information. And you will determine your success by monitoring the Open Rate and employee feedback of your email campaign.
What’s the best approach for this newsletter?
You’ve identified the what, who, and why of your email newsletter; now it’s time to determine the how.
Think about the best way to present information to your specific audience; using emojis and GIFs to announce someone is taking a bereavement leave might not appear very sensitive!
In our example scenario, you know:
- that the information you’re tasked with communicating is important for employee well-being, but also likely fairly uninteresting; and
- that your employees have been working remotely for sometime now, and may be slightly disinclined to pay extra close attention to another work email.
*Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are benchmarks used to measure the success of a project.
Doing the proper preparatory work can give you plenty of ideas for effective ways to engage your employees.
Did you know: Creating an inventory of the content you use on your newsletter can save huge amounts of time. Have a piece of content that you use frequently? Make a dedicated folder on your workstation for all of your newsletter content!
Email newsletters often rely on HTML code to format their content. With HTML you can send graphics, videos, charts, buttons, and more within Outlook or Gmail, which is why so many people opt for HTML-based email newsletters.
But HTML can have issues on different devices, which can mangle HTML and morph your great-looking content into a jumbled mess.
Missing subject lines and fonts, incorrect information, and broken images and tables are just some of the issues you can encounter with HTML email in Outlook.
Look at how different content gets displayed across varying devices:
If you’re experiencing HTML-related problems when sending your email newsletter in Outlook, then we have a surefire solution for you: email templates.
Building an HTML newsletter from scratch requires a great deal of HTML coding knowledge, and there are plenty of excellent resources for those interested in learning the practice.
But for the rest of us who don’t feel like learning hypertext markup language, there is a much better way to produce email newsletter content:
It’s perfect if you’re looking for how to send an email newsletter in Outlook or how to send an email newsletter in Gmail.
With ContactMonkey, you have the option to build from template from the ground up or choose from a number of professionally-designed email templates:
For our example newsletter, the “Crisis Communication” template would best suit our purposes. This template clearly features the information that employees need to read, and is free from unnecessary distractions.
Whatever your level of newsletter-building expertise, you can be sure that ContactMonkey has a solution to meet your needs.
An internal comms solution like ContactMonkey can supercharge your email building process, and help you easily prove the value of internal communications. With ContactMonkey you can:
- Design beautiful email newsletters for Outlook and Gmail
- Build responsive HTML email templates with our drag-and-drop email template builder
- Send your employee newsletters with employee surveys that your employees can comment on anonymously
- Track in-depth email analytics to zero-in on your best content and most effective campaigns
Save time building your email newsletters so you can focus on providing the best possible content for your employees.
An email newsletter service ContactMonkey can expedite your newsletter building process and help you achieve repeatable success.
You could always just choose a pre-made template that best suits your purposes.
But to learn how to create an email newsletter you need to know what goes into one, top to bottom.
Step 1: Create an email template
Name your email template something descriptive so you can easily find it later. Is your template part of a series? Be sure to create a sequential label so you can sort and locate your templates.
Set the content area width of your email template to at least 800 pixels. This way you’ll have plenty of space to work and your content won’t be bunched together. Simply adjust the content area width slider in the Settings tab:
Default colours will appear in all colours menus, so you won’t have to keep selecting your desired colours. Find the hex codes of your company logo using tools like this.
Does your business have brand guidelines? Set the default colours to match your brand. Consistent colours and style helps solidify your brand, and builds trust with your customers and employees.
Just like consistent colours, your internal communications will benefit from clear and consistent fonts. We recommend using at least 14pt font for your email newsletters, and that you double space your lines of text. Your readers will appreciate these precautions!
To change your text settings, drag a text tile onto your document. A text editing ribbon will appear:
Now that you’ve set your email newsletter format, it’s time to build out your content.
Step 2: Add your content
Because you’re sending an announcement about COVID-19 precautions to employees—you should think about the best ways to achieve your goal of ensuring employees read this information:
- Present relevant information in a clear way
- Reduce distractions
- Highlight key points
You can create the framework for your content using rows. Rows are template elements that organize your content into a vertically-oriented configuration.
Rows can vary according to how you want to display your content:
Within these rows you are able to place your content. ContactMonkey’s email template builder has numerous content tiles built in, including text, images, GIFs, and videos.
Choose from ContactMonkey’s free library of more than 500,000 images and select header and footer images to your email newsletter:
For the purposes of designing an employee newsletter that informs readers about important information, text-based content will be best:
Excessive amounts of content can dissuade readers from engaging.
Smaller chunks of information are easier for your readers to digest. Use dividers to break up your content into different sections:
If there are additional resources employees can consult, you can use buttons to create call-to-actions within your newsletter.
Alternatively, the Icons tile can be used to a similar effect, except you can use a custom image instead of a button:
Put the finishing touches on your email newsletter template.
Add social media links to your business’ various pages to provide paths for employees to learn more. They also make your newsletter look more professional:
You can also add GIFs and videos to your email newsletter. Visual media can be useful for communicating certain kinds of information where words may fail.
ContactMonkey’s email template builder comes equipped with a video tile in which you can embed online videos from Youtube, Vimeo, and elsewhere. It also features a GIFs tile powered by GIPHY‘s massive library of content:
In this case, however, excessive visual media can distract from the main message you’re trying to communicate here: important safety information.
Unless there is a video accompanying your company announcement, it’s best to forgo unnecessary distractions.
Let’s face it: your employees aren’t all the same and would prefer not to be treated as such.
Thankfully, there is an easy way to personalize your email newsletter so your employees feel like they’re receiving something just for them.
Merge fields are elements that grab information from your .csv file distribution list and display it on the newsletter. Distributions lists are often saved in .csv file format, which lists the first name, last name, and email address of each recipient.
A merge field will identify who the email is being sent to, and grab that person’s information from the .csv file or distribution list and insert it into the newsletter.
To insert a merge field into your email newsletter, click the text box you want the merge to appear in. Within the text editing ribbon, you will see a button that says Merge Tags.
Select what custom info you want to display within your email newsletter:
Step 4: Let your employees respond
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to ensure your employees not only open your email, but read and understand it?
Well, ContactMonkey has a solution: employee feedback tools.
We mentioned some semi-interactive features above—buttons, icons, and links—but a truly interactive newsletter lets readers give input, answer questions, fill out surveys, and more.
You want to be sure your employees understand the updates in your organization about COVID-19. But you also want to receive feedback from employees about what they think about the updates. What can you do?
Just ask them!
HTML email newsletters can collect responses from your employees, which makes them perfect for surveys and pulse checks. Adding a question and response in ContactMonkey is super easy.
Add another row to your email newsletter. Select “Emoji Reactions” from the dropdown menu within the Rows tab.
Drag the Yes/No rating checkmarks onto your email template:
Next, go to the Content tab and drag the text tile on top of the Yes/No checkmarks:
Nice! You’ve just linked your emoji reactions to text.
Type in your yes/no question into the text box so your employees know what they’re answering:
Do you like our new safety precautions?
This is a sensible yes/no question that can confirm whether or not your employees understand what they’ve read. The expression of support will compel employees to actually read the information to learn what they’re endorsing.
But you can go one step further with ContactMonkey.
In addition to emoji reactions, you can enable your employees to respond in depth to questions on your newsletter. Instead of simply asking Do you like X?, you can now ask Do you like X and why?.
Once they select yes/no they’ll be able to add a comment to their response. Responses are anonymous, which will encourage employees to say how they really feel.
To enable employee comments, simply click the checkbox at the top of the email template builder:
Employee responses, along with their choices of emoji reactions, will display on your campaign analytics dashboard:
With this information, you can not only be sure that your employees understand the important information being communicated, but you can also gather feedback and use that to improve your process!
Let the Data do the Talking
At ContactMonkey we believe that your email newsletters can provide their own value, and we make it easy for you to show exactly how effective your communications can be.
In addition to collecting employee feedback with anonymous comments and emoji reactions, you can use our Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) feature to get a pulse check of your workforce. Imagine being able to know which employees are the best-suited to be brand representatives just from sending an email!
How to Send an Email Newsletter
Now that you’ve created your email newsletter template and filled it with content, it’s now time to send your email newsletter.
Your audience and your newsletter goals should inform your sending practices just like your design practices.
ContactMonkey works with both Outlook and Gmail, but we will show you how to send your email newsletter in Outlook.
Many people use their mobile devices to check their emails, rarely opting to use browser-based email clients for their daily updates.
You can ensure that your your recipients don’t receive broken and jumbled content by using responsive email templates.
Within ContactMonkey’s email template builder, select Preview mode in the top right corner of the screen. On this page, you can preview how your newsletter will appear on both desktop and mobile devices:
No more guessing how your newsletter will appear on mobile, no more worrying about broken content or skewed images.
Your newsletter looks perfect on both desktop and mobile; it’s time to import your template into Outlook.
With ContactMonkey, email templates appear automatically within your email client, so you don’t have to deal with pesky HTML files. Simply select which one you want to send and click Insert:
Sending to a CSV
Because CSV files are basically simplified versions of spreadsheet files, they are easier to work with and have smaller file sizes, making them ideal for storing contact lists.
To create a CSV file, simply export your distribution list from your email client as a CSV file.
Sending your email newsletter to your CSV file is simple. In the ContactMonkey sidebar for Outlook, click Upload CSV and select your saved CSV file:
Personalize your subject
Want to add merge fields to your email newsletter in subject line Outlook? No problem.
To insert a merge field into your subject line, be sure to select Individual for the type of email campaign you’re sending.
This tells ContactMonkey to treat every recipient on your distribution list independently. Merge Fields option will appear in the sidebar within Outlook after selecting Individual tracking.
Click the drop-down list:
From this menu, you can select which kind of merge field you’d like to include—first name, last name, display name, or any combination of those.
Simply copy and paste the merge field text to the subject line.
Now every recipient you send to will see their first name, last name, username, or whatever you’d like appear in the subject line!
Schedule a delayed send
Knowing when your employees are most likely to engage with their emails is crucial to maximizing the effectiveness of your newsletter. C
ontactMonkey provides plenty of ways of determining your employees’ peak email engagement times using in-depth email tracking.
When you’ve found the best time to send your email newsletter, schedule a delayed send by clicking the Send Later button in your Outlook sidebar.
Enter the date and time you’d like your newsletter to be sent:
You’ve done it!
You’ve just created a stellar email newsletter that is designed especially for your workforce. It communicates important information in a clear and concise way, is formatted effectively, and it provides ways for employees to express their thoughts and you to gather useful information.
Talk about a win-win.
Email Newsletter Best Practices: Measuring Success
After you’ve sent your email and allowed your employees some time to respond, you can now think about measuring the success of your email campaign. Your measurement process can include a variety of verification methods, but here are a few of our favourites.
Follow-up email surveys can be super useful for gauging how your email newsletter was received.
Remember your KPIs way back from the beginning? You can ask questions about the information in your newsletter to learn if you met your second KPI—ask if they understood everything or have any questions.
Be sure to ask questions about the email newsletter itself—like if employees found it easy-to-read or if they have any suggestions for improvements.
Your first KPI of having an Open Rate over 95% can’t be measured with a follow-up survey, unfortunately.
To learn if you met this KPI, you’ll need an email tracking software like ContactMonkey. Measure Open Rate, Click Through Rate, Opens by device and location, and more all within your campaign dashboard:
Most newsletters are recurring, which means you’ll have plenty of opportunities to perfect your design and sending skills.
Always try to improve your newsletter performance, whether that be brushing up on your design skills, finding new templates, creating new ways for readers to engage, or whatever you think your recipient will love.
We’ve mentioned it throughout, but a surefire, data-driven way to improve the performance of your email newsletter is to measure its performance using an email tracking software like ContactMonkey.
Take the guesswork out of sending newsletters by measuring exactly how your recipients engage with it.
Your newsletters will flourish and your readers will appreciate that their preferences are clearly being considered when creating your newsletters.
Want to see ContactMonkey in action? Book a free demo with one of our internal communications experts to see all that our powerful software has to offer. Feel free to ask any and all questions you might have!