Sharing Work News through a Newsletter
Over the years, I've tried different ways of promoting my work to those in my field. I used to send a mass email maybe 2-3 times a year in which I summarized my main publications.
But this was sooooooo tedious for a few reasons.
First, most basic email clients only let you email 80-100 people each time. I'm at the point in my career in which I have 2000 contacts! So I would have to copy/paste the email dozens of times. And then, the bounce backs. My email would be flooded with them as people had changed jobs and positions. I tried using services like Spark and Mailbutler that allow you to create templates, but it was still painful to select the allowed number of recipients and send email after email. Also people might not want to receive your emails but be too sheepish to say so.
So about six months ago, I tried Mailchimp and I'm a convert. Mailchimp lets people unsubscribe themselves. There are no email bounce backs and Mailchimp automatically deletes the emails that didn't work from your contacts. And I only click one button to send to everyone. So using this service saves me tons of time and effort, and also it looks super professional. AND the newsletter is something your RA can put together for you. BONUS.
OK. So you want to put together a newsletter. Here is how to go about it.
1. Plan and pay the setup costs. There are other mass emailing services, so do some research and choose which is best for you. I use the free version of Mailchimp but I don't really need anything fancy. Then take the time to get to know the platform. Editing text on Mailchimp, for example, is not straightforward. You click on the text but edit in a separate window to the side. I just point this out because if you only do this every few months, you may forget these tricks. So take some notes for yourself.
The biggest hassle is keeping your contacts up to date. When you first set it up you have to upload all your contacts as your 'audience.' Then you have to keep it up to date. I do an export of new contacts at the end of every month so it isn't too overwhelming. Depending on how you store your contacts, the input method may vary. So research this too.
2. Put it together. The two big things to prepare are contacts and templates. For the contacts, I export from iCal. But again, it isn't self-explanatory. I had to do a lot of googling to figure out that you have to drag and drop contacts into the application 'numbers,' then select export to csv. And this point it sometimes creates two email columns which will confusion Mailchimp, so you have to merge then. Then upload when prompted in Mailchimp when you select manage audience. I keep notes on how to do this in my Mailchimp evernote.
On the templates, I created one with my name at the top. Then I summarize my work in witty and casual prose before listing everything, hyperlinked with pictures at the end.
My RA also put together for me instructions for how RAs should help to put together the newsletter. Those are below is you want more detail.
3. Produce reminders. I have two reminders associated with my newsletter. First, to send one every three months. Second, to update my contacts in Mailchimp at the end of every month.
4. Performance notes. I've only just started doing this, so I don't have many lessons learned. I will say that I get a lot speaking and writing requests right after I send these out, so even though most people may not read them, I think it is still worth it. I have a colleague that does something similar but writes in the subject 'delighted to cite you' which I find makes me read them more. So maybe a way forward is to send a particular publication to the people I've cited to try to increase its visibility.
If you are interested in other ways to promote your work, take a look at my recent blogpost on the subject of using RAs to help you.
That's it! Pretty easy. Give it a go and see if you think it's worth the effort.