Dave Sharp advises architecture firms on social media, communication and marketing strategy. More.
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Architects do a really bad job of newsletters. We don't really understand what a newsletter is for, why somebody would subscribe to it, and what they're expecting to get from it when they do.
A successful newsletter has to be about value for the reader. Value is a vague concept, but one way to think of it is, "did my audience feel like their life was improved in excess of what I took from them (their time, attention, space in their inbox)?"
Here's a couple of examples to help you understand how newsletter can provide value, and the reasons architecture firm newsletters miss the mark.
The social club
Maybe you're a member of a local footy club. They'll send out emails telling you all of the info that you need to know about upcoming games and club events. Maybe there'll be commentary about players to keep you informed, summaries of the weekend's action, but really the reason that you're opening is to find out when the next fun thing is happening at the club. It's event driven, and fundamentally it's about me, as the reader, being interested in attending those events.
The consumer brand
A fashion brand will be talking about new products coming out, sales, things I want to buy. I'm interested in those emails because I'm looking for deals, new stuff, and discounts.
These are highly transactional emails. They're informative in the way that a Coles catalogue is informative.
Those two examples serve really different, but clear purposes. We can understand how the person receiving them is interested in opening them and clicking them. We know their incentive.
When we look at what architects and interior designers typically put in their newsletter, it's just updates that are of no meaningful benefit to the reader. "Main St has reached building approval....". "Brunswick House has broken ground...".
These emails don't create value, they're just press releases. The information doesn't benefit the reader. They can't do anything with the knowledge you're giving them. It doesn't make them smarter, happier or better informed.
These newsletters don't scale, they shrink.
So, what do we put in that newsletter?
There's two different ways you can approach it. Both share a goal of being personal, anticipated and relevant.
Summarise original content, if you have it.
If your firm is regularly (weekly) creating content like blog posts or videos that are going to help the reader to improve their lives or decision making in some way - then you'll want to summarise your new content that's been added to your website in your newsletter. People will be signing up to know when this content becomes available, so that they don't have to remember to check your website for new stuff every week.
Beyond summarising new content, the newsletter is a place to act like yourself and build trust. If your reader hits reply, you write back.
Curate it until you make it
If you're like most firms and you don't create original content, then you'll need to approach your newsletter as a curator and guide.
Create a weekly digest that people are interested in reading, known as an editorial newsletter. You'll spend the week collecting links, articles and resources that you haven't made, but have taught you something, have made you laugh, or that were interesting to you about architecture.
You'll want to put these resources together using a tool like Revue, and send that out on a weekly or fortnightly basis.
Just like the two examples at the beginning of the article, your editorial newsletter will have something to offer the selfish reader. They're going to be incentivised to open your emails to get the best articles, the best videos, the best resources of whatever topic brought them to you in the first place.
What to collect for your editorial newsletter
It's a good idea to broaden out beyond the main thing you do to provide some variety and context. If your firm does a lot of houses, your reader will also enjoy receiving links about neighbourhoods, density, community, sprawl and sustainability.
If you're focused on multi-residential you'll be talking to a business audience about trends in the market, new products that make the building process better in some way, economics and other issues that matter to you and your reader.
Whatever your core service offering, there's loads of content out there that the media and bloggers are producing that is directly related to your service, or around it's edges. Some of it is good, some is bad. As an expert, you can provide a lot of value by simply digesting it for your clients to save them time and to steer them away from things that aren't true.
Pay attention to google news, the mainstream media, social media and become more of a consumer of the latest content so that you be better informed, and pass that knowledge onto your clients via 6-10 relevant, helpful links in your editorial email each week.
If you provide value, your email will drive a lot of word of mouth and people will be eager to sign up. That will help you to build and maintain that audience, then when you have that significant milestone that you want to announce or promote, that can sit very cleanly inside an email as well.
When it comes time to sell, your audience will already be sold.
That's how to approach email. Don't focus on the minutia of what you're doing in your office. Focus on curating or creating content that's going to keep your audience opening the emails weekly and building that relationship with your firm over the long-term.