It seems like everyone has some sort of electronic newsletter campaign now. Sure, it's a great way to save paper, but is your publicity gem really effective? Is your e-newsletter generating click-through for your agency?
What percentage of click-through is enough? There are lots of opinions on this, but here's my take:
There are always folks who sign up but never read the newsletters, some folks who read them later (once a week), and some folks who want your newsletter but just give you bum addresses (intentional or not). Assuming your subscription list is clean, though, and assuming that you're successfully delivering "thought provoking or entertaining" content, click-through on at least one article in the newsletter should be pretty high, approaching 50-70% or so.
My advice, if you're falling well below 50% click-through, here are a few areas to take a hard look at:
1. Content - is it entertaining AND informative? Is it relevant to your audience? For example, which makes for a more compelling article- "City Hires 5 New Police Officers" or "Reported Crime Rates Down Across the City"? Headlines can often make a huge difference in click through rates. Upcoming meeting dates are rarely a provocative read.
2. Brevity - I recommend no more than 3 short articles (150 words or less each) with links back to more info. You can have include "quick links" (say to other departments), but include them in a recurring area of your newsletter, like the sidebar, below the contents.
3. Audience - who is the INTENDED target (Community Leaders, general citizenry, Parks and Rec folks, Library mavens, prospective businesses, etc.)? Resist the temptation to answer "My Audience is Everyone" to this question. Compare the INTENDED target to the ACTUAL target (real subscribers).
4. Delivery method - HTML or plain text. In some markets this matters a lot, depending on the savvy of your audience, prevalence of computers, browser versions, broadband saturation, population age,
5. Delivery Frequency - too much and people ignore you. Too little and there is too much "content build-up" in the newsletter for people to bother reading it all. Also, too infrequent distribution may lead people to forget they signed up in the first place, and they'll just delete upon receipt. Monthly works pretty well in my experience.
6. Design - is your newsletter evocative of the city? Does it contain a familiar slogan, tagine, colors, imagery, branding etc. that gives a reader immediate recognition that this is an official publication of your agency? Beware identity confusion.
One last suggestion - think about the e-newletters you subscribe to and actually read the same day you receive. Model your newsletter after one of these and see if click-through improves.