Save trees. Save money. Track responses. Those are good reasons to send a newsletter by e-mail. But the main reason the North Star Chapter has been doing so for four years is to get urgent action-oriented information out in a more timely manner.
by John Byrne Barry
Every month, the North Star Chapter sends an e-mail newsletter to 7,000 of its 20,000 members. E-Sierra is a combination of action alerts, tips like how to get off junk-mail lists, and upcoming outings and meetings.
The impetus for E-Sierra wasn’t to save trees, says Conservation Director Heather Cusick, who writes, compiles, and sends the e-mail, but to get action-oriented information to members in a more timely manner.
“About four years ago, our excom directed us to develop a communication to our members in between newsletters and drive people to our expanded Web page,” she says. The chapter’s communications committee works with volunteers to keep Web content fresh and relevant.
Meanwhile, Jessica Willey, chair of the communications committee, was leading the transformation of the print newsletter, published every two months, to be more theme-driven, with a focus on wetlands, clean air, or the like. The print newsletter, which no longer includes urgent action-oriented items, instead encourages readers to sign up for the E-Sierra.
The chapter has clear rules on how often the e-mail addresses can be used. “We allow ourselves one action a month in addition to the E-Sierra,” says Cusick.
The chapter also has an action alert system (separate from E-Sierra) so it can swing into action quickly to sway a particular legislator on an upcoming vote. Not only can they communicate almost instantaneously, they can track who sent a letter. “If their senator voted the right way,” said Cusick, “people can use the system to thank them.” Response rates on the action alert system range from 10 to 20 percent, says Chapter Director Scott Elkins.
Meanwhile in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Chapter is encouraging members to get on their e-mail list and opt out of the print newsletter. Four times a year, newsletter editor Dan Disner sends a note and a link to the Web site where the newsletter is posted as a pdf. Once people sign up for the e-mail list, they can opt out of the print version. Some 900 members now receive the newsletter by e-mail.
(Editor’s note: The Planet has also embarked on the paper-to-pixels trail, and this is the third time we’re publishing both a print and e-mail edition. You can get both or either. Please go to sierraclub.org/ planet to find out more.)
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