13 May A Tool To Connect
Who even likes email?
Listen, I get it. In 2014, there’s nothing about the phrase “email campaign” that’s sexy. In fact, you probably hate email. I know I do. There’s nothing that interrupts your train of thought like the beep of your phone or the little red notification on your computer mail client that’s telling you in a only slightly less annoying way: “You’ve got mail!”. In fact, in preparing this blog post, I first turned off every email program I had open so that I wouldn’t be interrupted.
Yeah, so email can be pretty terrible.
Email connects people
Email, however, does things for your Local Baha’i Community that nothing else can. If there’s an event coming up, how are you most likely to hear about it? Email. If the House of Justice or the National Assembly send out an important announcement, how are you most likely to find out (besides Feast)? Email. How do you let “Naw-Ruz Baha’is” who you only see a few times a year know when the Holy Days are? You guessed it. How do you keep interested seekers in the loop (though you should call them, too)? Email. I could go on. Email isn’t exciting, but it is absolutely necessary for the well-functioning of a Local Baha’i Community in the developed world, which if you’re reading this, probably includes you.
We can do it better
So, while email is essential and it helps connect the people in our Local Community, there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
For example, do your event announcements look like this?
I picked this one because it’s actually pretty concise and direct, which people appreciate. It does have some weaknesses, though.
First of all, there’s no unsubscribe button, which, depending on the circumstances of the email, can actually be against the law (because of spam concerns). In one Baha’i Community I’m familiar with, someone who was accidentally included in the email chain (a non-Baha’i) couldn’t figure out how to opt-out and finally threatened to sue the Community if she wasn’t removed. Because the email setup was much like the above, with the email-sender doing it all by entering all of email addresses and event details by hand, it was hard to manage replies and the concerns of this poor non-Baha’i weren’t able to be noticed.
In addition, it’s actually pretty hard to subscribe to the email list. You have to know who manages it in the Community, ask them to include you, and hope that your request is remembered (which is sometimes difficult in our busy lives).
Lastly, text-only emails aren’t very attractive, especially if they don’t feel personal. If you take the time to craft a unique invitation to someone you know, text-only is great. If it’s a mass email, it feels impersonal and the attendance at events can suffer.
There is, however, a better way.
The event information is clear and concise, the logo of the Baha’i Community is included to help with memorability and legitimacy in the receiver’s mind, images are included so receivers know what to expect at the event, and there’s an “unsubscribe” link at the bottom so that you’re abiding within the law. (After all, we wouldn’t want to break the law, now would we?)
Best of all, this service is free through MailChimp and some other email marketing providers as long as you meet certain conditions, which most Local Baha’i Communities do. It takes a bit of training to learn how to operate this service well, but even a novice can use it without too much trouble and greatly improve the image of the Faith in the medium of email. Here’s how to get started.
You can see what percentage of the people on your email list actually open your emails and click on any links inside of them. Creepy, perhaps, but if you notice no one opens them, you can focus on improving them to be more relevant to the user. It’s nice to have feedback, right?
It’s easy to add and delete names and email addresses in your email lists. Also, it’s easy to have different lists for different uses. You can have an email list for events that apply to everyone, one just for LSA members to discuss more sensitive issues, or even one just for people involved in junior youth activities. The only limit is your imagination.
You should start using standardized email campaigns because they look better, give you more information about whether they’re being looked at, respect seekers’ privacy and self-determination, and you can even personalize them with the name of the recipient. Also, they don’t break the law and follow industry best practices.