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Making Newsletters People Actually Want To Read with Jessica Schimm | Social Studies Podcast

Social Studies Podcast is a talk show produced by TINT about marketing, social media, and technology through the lens of the industry’s most innovative minds. Hosted by Nathan Zaru (@YES). In this episode we welcome Jessica Schimm, a digital audience engagement specialist at Women 2.0. You can find her on twitter at @JessicaSchimm and tweet us with comments and requests @TINT.

 

Nathan:                 Hello and welcome to another episode of the Social Studies podcast. Today our guest is Jessica Schimm, Digital Audience Engagement Lead at Women 2.0. Jessica, welcome.

Jessica:                  Nathan, thank you for having me. It’s great to be here.

Nathan:                 Absolutely. I’ve known about Women 2.0 for a while because mainly we used to work in the same building, right?

Jessica:                  Yes.

Nathan:                 I’ve been to a few of your events. I think it’s a great organization. It brings attention to women in tech. Do you want to tell us a little bit about what Women 2.0 does and what you do for them?

Jessica:                  Sure. We create content, community, and events primarily to empower women in technology. The way we do that is do conferences, monthly meet-ups around 15 cities in the world. Then we also have our community blog where our community writes in and talks about their learnings from being founders and women in tech.

Nathan:                 Is Women 2.0, is it fair to say it like content organization with events?

Jessica:                  Right. Media company and also an events company.

Nathan:                 I think the issue or the question of women in tech is really important. Obviously we need women in tech, right? Women 2.0 empowers women in technology. You guys, pun in joke, pun intended, you girls actually have a really interesting way to do it. Right? You want to tell us about how you bring women into the fold?

Jessica:                  Sure. A lot of people assume that being a Women 2.0, a lot of our content, other events in it are blog focuses on what it’s like to be a women in the tech industry. I guess with that would be the problems, or the hardships they encounter, what it’s like to be a minority. That is not our goal. A lot of people are surprised to know that we don’t like to talk about what it’s like to be women in tech. We just like to talk about how to be successful in the tech industry. There’s a difference. We’ve changed our messaging standpoint which is basically everything I do. I do all of our online messaging to be gender neutral.

That was a huge part of the shift in our messaging that goes along with our new mission statement. Basically, when you look up a male founder you don’t type in male founder. When you look up a female founder, the higher percentage of people are going to type in female founder. We want to get it to the point where you don’t have to type female before founder if you’re googling in a Google search. Just top 100 founders and have to be both a fair amount of men and women.

We think it’s important that we start at home internally with our own organization. We are focused on the idea that we live in the future. In the future there’s not going to be this problem anymore. The best thing we could do to help women in tech is to actually talk about the best practices for being a founder, or talk about best practices for coding or designing. Actually talk about the heart like the skills. The actual skills that you need to excel; not the problems that are sort of exasperated in the media sometimes.

Nathan:                 Sure. I think this is really important. All you listeners listen up. The way Women 2.0 is doing it, I think it’s really well done. Correct me if I’m wrong but it seems like you’re saying that when you embrace differences, difference become magnified and institutionalized almost, right?

Jessica:                  Yeah.

Nathan:                 Right. By ignoring them completely you deny their existence?

Jessica:                  Right. It’s a tough line. It’s hard. It does kind of go against your own internal thoughts. I definitely had times where I sought for pause and it’s conflicting like but we should say something about this. I guess I want to focus on the problems that are being talked about in media. I think ultimately this is the better way to go. That’s really the most empowering thing we could do for our community.

Nathan:                 The most empowering thing you can do for your community is putting them on equal platform to everybody else?

Jessica:                  Absolutely.

Nathan:                 I can deal with that. I really like that. Today we’re going to, you do with all the online and digital communications at Women 2.0, right?

Jessica:                  Yes.

Nathan:                 You do a lot of email. I think, right?

Jessica:                  Yes.

Nathan:                 I’ve seen the emails. I read them every week. If you haven’t subscribed yet, Women 2.0 go check them out. You manage all the email marketing?

Jessica:                  Yes. I produced the entire newsletter from beginning to end. The overview of that process means thinking about our upcoming events for the week. We actually have 2 newsletters that I do; the editorial and events newsletter. In planning these, I too got strategic about it. I make the plan, brainstorm, got in a Photoshop. Do the design for images. Plug them in the MailChimp. Sometimes I have to deal with HTML and then ultimately write the content.

Nathan:                 Right. You’re the start to finish email marketing management. I think you’re going to talk to us today about how to make newsletters people actually want to read.

Jessica:                  Yes.

Nathan:                 Is that what we’re talking about?

Jessica:                  That is what we’re talking about.

Nathan:                 All right. I’ve read your emails and I do want to read them again. You have the secret. Can you enlighten us on the secrets? Walk us through. First of my thought is email newsletters. How old and boring of a medium, right?

Jessica:                  Absolutely.

Nathan:                 What’s the first step?

Jessica:                  It’s true. Emails, we’re so inundated with so many emails every day, right? Everyone’s inbox is just exploding. It’s really competitive. Pretty much like emails are looked out more as a pain than excitement. I think the first way to combat that is to really hone in on your subject lines. Ironically, subject lines are the last thing I do in my entire newsletter producing process.

Nathan:                 Before we jump into that, can you give our listeners a general overview as to what the content of your email newsletters [inaudible 00:06:50].

Jessica:                  Sure. Tuesday newsletters are editorial. That means that I go through our blog and choose the top 4 articles that are the most important to our readers or that I’m going to project that they are going to be the most important to our readers. In our events newsletter, it basically an announcement of all of our upcoming events and that goes out every Thursday.

Nathan:                 Okay. I see. What was the history of email newsletters in a marketing like at Women 2.0 before you came in? What’s it like now? What got you to where you are?

Jessica:                  Okay. When I first came the newsletter looked a lot different than it does today. There wasn’t a great process. The process for editing was clunky. My own copy was very clunky actually. I didn’t quite know what it’s doing. It was just a very like throw you in there. All right, we need someone to do this. You have journalism background, so it’s good experience. Go ahead. Some of the things that I’ve changed since being there is for example, lessening the copy. Really cutting it down. Trimming the thought. Basically almost all of it. Now, we really rely on teasers. For example in our editorial newsletter, one-sentence teasers.

Nathan:                 Okay. Hold on a second. I think I know what you’re talking about here. You’re saying in the actual email newsletter itself, you’re representing a sentence or 2 from the full blog post only?

Jessica:                  Absolutely.

Nathan:                 Read more, click here kind of thing?

Jessica:                  Yes.

Nathan:                 I see. Okay. Continue please.

Jessica:                  That was one thing we really changed. The second thing was really talking to our audience as what they aspire to be rather than what they are right now. The majority of our audience are founders. We’re making the assumption that they are destined to be hugely successful CEOs running big companies, or getting acquired. We talked to them like they’re already there. Not as if they are just starting out and need support and encouragement. We are talking to them at a different level. The messaging started to change where I guess it got more direct. It got a little bit less, “Oh, you can do it” supportive and more like, “Okay. You’re doing it and these are the tools you need to know to do it.”

Nathan:                 I don’t want to listen the impact of this but is this like the fake it till you make it kind of thing?

Jessica:                  Yeah. You could sum it up that way.

Nathan:                 It’s acting as if you’ve already achieved the thing that you want to achieve?

Jessica:                  Yes. Yup.

Nathan:                 All right. You’re talking to someone on the level that they should be talked to as equal as successful people period. Not as amateurs starting out, right?

Jessica:                  Right.

Nathan:                 You’re really starting with the aspirational and going from there?

Jessica:                  Yes.

Nathan:                 I see. That’s reflected throughout the whole newsletter right?

Jessica:                  Yeah.

Nathan:                 I see, interesting. In making a newsletter people want to read, are you pitching out like an inspirational newsletter? Aspiration and inspiration are different things.

Jessica:                  That’s very true. I do include a dose of inspiration on our newsletter now but that’s not how I would pitch it. Is that every newsletter I want our audience to feel as if we’re helping them with the hardest struggles they are facing right now. That’s where addressing their pain points in the subject line comes into play.

Nathan:                 I see. Okay. It sounds like you got a couple of tips so far for us. You have make aspirational content. Short teasers in the body with subject line. That’s obviously very important. That’s the number 1 indicator of anyone opening any newsletter. Walk us into Jessica Schimm’s subject line writing class 101. What you got?

Jessica:                  Okay. In my experience to make a good subject line, you need to really know your audience. After you determine who your audience is, you need to take a look at their pain points. The majority, I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again. Majority of our audience is founders. The next second majority to founders would be women in technical roles. We kind of bounce back and forth between the 2 audiences. Some example pain points for those audiences would be-

Nathan:                 Actually, I want to stop real quick. I think the first rule of marketing and far the biggest rule of marketing is to know your audience 100%, right?

Jessica:                  Absolutely.

Nathan:                 Create content. Do everything in marketing according to the person you are marketing to. It should be a specific and discreet set of people. Just for listeners hearing me, we have a very specific set of people which are founders and women in technical roles.

Jessica:                  Yes.

Nathan:                 Loving that. Please continue Jessica.

Jessica:                  Okay. I did some thinking and brainstorming and a lot of on field research. At our events I would try to talk to all of our attendees and ask them what is the hardest part of your job right now. What is the hardest part of what you’re going through right now? What would make your life easier? A lot of them, the number 1 thing they said was funding. Okay? Funding and we just leave it there.

Nathan:                 Funding. Yeah, that’s a big enough subject to be covered on a separate podcast, right?

Jessica:                  Right. I took that and ran with it. I went back to our content team actually and told them we need to boost our content around funding because that is what our audience is struggling with right now. Once we got more content on funding, I was able to reframe the newsletters to basically circle around that. As a result, direct all of our subject lines to addressing the lack of funding for our founders. Not addressing the lack of it, providing the option that there’s more of it and where there’s more funding.

Nathan:                 Okay. Interesting. By the way I didn’t mention this earlier, can you give us a hint as to how big this mail list of yours is?

Jessica:                  Sure. We are about 30,000 plus.

Nathan:                 Super legit. I figured as much. Okay. You write a great subject line. Have short teasers and then write for aspirational content. Is that the way to go?

Jessica:                  Yup. Yes.

Nathan:                 If you were starting out on email newsletter from scratch which I know a lot of our listeners are. What do you see as big opportunities for a fresh email newsletter campaign in 2015?

Jessica:                  I think [inaudible 00:14:11] for a second.

Nathan:                 I find that the medium of email interesting. What does email look like vis-a-vis your social channels, right? All the social networks you could be on. I know Women 2.0 is on Facebook and Twitter. I don’t know about Instagram.

Jessica:                  Right.

Nathan:                 Should the content be one-to-one? From social to email or what are the tradeoffs?

Jessica:                  I think that email is very personal. I do think that an email for us always ensures for at least 5 minutes. We have our audience’s attention. Once they open that email, they are only looking at everything that applies Women 2.0. Whereas I guess like Twitter of Facebook, they might see a tweet of [inaudible 00:14:58] tweet. There’s more distractions. If you’re going to hook in by the subject line and they’re all of a sudden just looking at all of your contents. It’s a pretty strong pull. That’s a good, 5 minutes is just hard to get in today’s crazy media-

Nathan:                 Environment.

Jessica:                  … influx. Here we go, environment.

Nathan:                 Email is if you can get their attention, potentially the most focused marketing channel that exists right now?

Jessica:                  I think so. Right now? Yes. I also think something new to look out for email marketing is interactive email. Emails with GIFs. Emails that have animation in them. I recently opened an Uber email the other day and there was a map of the world with sparkling blue lights and like, “Wow! That’s delightful to look. That’s cool. That different.” Those are some things that I’m looking to implement into our email strategy very soon.

Nathan:                 Jessica Schimm, in making delightful emails. Thank you so much for enlightening us today.

Jessica:                  You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.