An architect’s guide to newsletters during lockdown

16 April, 2020

Picking up the phone to clients to let them know of any disruption that could effect projects is important and many architects are doing this.

But prospective clients, professional contacts and colleagues also need information right now, And that’s where newsletters come in. They are perfect for communicating with larger audiences.

For non-consumer audiences, email is the third most influential source of information for audiences, behind only peer-to-peer recommendations and industry-specific thought leaders.

For us at Archiboo, our newsletter is key to our success. Almost 50% of those who receive our newsletter open it – which is far above industry averages, and it drives significant traffic to our website. Over the years we’ve experimented in various ways, always looking to improve upon our formula.

Now, given the current situation, newsletters are more valuable than ever as a way of keeping in touch with your network.

Getting the tone right

Architects’ newsletters often fall into the trap of only talking about themselves – projects wins, planning permission and awards won. But given that people are sitting at home with a shirt on the top half and pyjamas on the bottom, this looks like navel-gazing.

It’s fine to blow your own trumpet – everyone does that – but particularly at the moment, make sure you also include items that are not about your achievements. This could be a short, informative piece on your practice during this pandemic or something inspirational you are enjoying and want to share, like a free Zoom class.

We enjoyed Mikhail Riches most recent newsletter where they confronted the issue head on, before providing some engaging content that will resonate with its audience.

Without mentioning names, we’ve also receiving newsletters where the practice makes a passing reference to the pandemic, before moving onto their recent wins and projects.

And it’s important your newsletter does recognise the status quo. Discussing the effectiveness of brainstorms, without a single mention of the current situation makes you seem out of touch.

Perfecting your subject line

Your email subject line will be the first thing that most recipients see, so it can have a huge impact on your open rate. A few tips:

  • Keep it between 6 and 12 words
  • Don’t use the word ‘newsletter’ – this reduces open rate by as much as 19%
  • Avoid ‘spammy’ words  and don’t use ALL CAPS

Be patient with growing your audience

If you’ve only just started sending newsletters, the biggest challenge is growing your email database. Additionally, with GDPR you have to be more considered than before.

Start with your current and past clients, perhaps a few friends. If your newsletter is consistently valuable to your audience, it will grow organically over time. We know that our own newsletter is regularly forwarded to others, and this is what drives our subscribers.

It’s also important that you make subscribing as easy as possible. Make sure your sign up form is accessible, promote it on your social channels and place it clearly on your website. Also, don’t ask for every piece of information under the sun – each extra piece of information you request will increase drop-off rates. Try to keep to email, first name, last name and company – at most.

Platforms

Use a reputable email platform such as Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor. These platforms help you ensure you keep to legislative requirements – including GDPR. It’s good to have this safety blanket. And they provide an easy way to create good-looking newsletters, with simple to implement templates. Finally, reputable platforms are less likely to push your emails into someone’s junk mail.

Frequency and timing

There’s no golden rule to how often to send – but remember we are seeing an unprecedented rise in screen time so while it’s true we may have more time on our hands, we don’t necessarily want to spend it online. Some brands that are used to sending daily newsletters are beginning to run out of relevant things to say – and this is the quickest way to lose your audience.

Consistency is important but at the moment, only send a newsletter when you have something to say.

And try to experiment with different times and days and note down when you receive the best response. For instance, we get success from sending before 10AM, usually on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. However, we’re monitoring this closely, as work patterns are very different to what they are in “normal” times.

Housekeeping

There’s a natural turnover when it comes to email subscribers. People move companies, change roles, change careers. This can mean that you end up with a number of subscribers who will never receive and open the email.

Every few months you should take a look through your reports and consider removing those who haven’t read any of your newsletter for a long period of time.

Other than good housekeeping, you can be penalised for emails not being opened – and this can increase your chances of going into spam.

Reviewing your performance

One of the great things about newsletters is the detailed analytics available. Providing you are using a reputable platform you can see who has opened your email, and what they have clicked on. This is invaluable information for practices who decide to invest the time to understand it.

You can compare newsletters and evaluate why a newsletter may have performed better or worse. You can understand what subjects engage readers more, and use this to inform your future content. You can also see which audience members are most engaged and consider if you are catching the attention of the right people.