In Unity, we make infinite, eternal truths practical and applicable to daily life. As creative communicators, we do the same thing. We’re tasked with discovering all the ways we can connect and convey our message to those individuals who are seeking all we offer.
Just like radio and movies didn’t disappear when the new medium of television came on the scene, and TV networks didn’t disappear when cable and then options like Netflix, Roku and Apple TV became options, new tools just give us more ways to share a message. Today, there are more ways to connect with an audience than ever before, in every industry and all types of media.
The humble newsletter brings a hint of nostalgia, from typed passages with cut-and-paste images that were photocopied, (like the image on the left from my radio internship days) to desktop publishing and email delivery, but it’s still relevant—and a great way to connect.
Especially because e-newsletters fall into a sweet spot that reaches just about everyone these days. There are few people of any age who don’t have and use email. There are the more mature adults who may never go online, or use their phones to do social networking, but they do, at least occasionally, check their email.
For those in your target audience who do use social media, a link to your newsletter can be posted there, too, much like a blog post. But because so often posts to social media are never actually seen by your entire target audience, social media merely serves as a backup, to remind people to check their email, or to RSVP. Most services that support graphic e-newsletters also have a way to share the link on Facebook, Twitter, etc. You can post the entire newsletter or articles to a blog, or have an archive on your website as well, so that your e-newsletter is an important part of your entire connected communication plan.
First, you’ll need an email list, and then to choose a service. With spam filters in place, no one can really send many emails at once from their email provider, and email is limited in terms of graphic design and tools to connect and analyze the effectiveness of your campaign. These services offer templates that will automatically resize and adjust to make your newsletter look great no matter what kind of device is being used (Responsive or Mobile-Friendly design). Constant Contact and MailChimp are probably the two most popular, but there’s a third option I like, Send in Blue, which is great for those who are being cost-conscious. (Sample shown.)
When you’ve chosen the service you like best (I prefer Constant Contact, myself), see how they organize their information, and then organize your email list in an Excel spreadsheet using the same information. Then you can upload your whole list at once.
They all have a variety of instructions available, so it may take a little time if you’re unfamiliar, but in a world where you can Google anything and find someone on YouTube to show you how, almost anything is possible.
Unity branding offers a template for use with MailChimp, and all the services have basic templates that you can adjust with your own images and details. You’ll want your logo, and to stick with the Unity branding guidelines for colors and fonts, but you can also choose a look that appeals to your audience.
You’ll need to decide your purpose. Is it to remind your congregation of upcoming events? Maybe following up with photos or more information about Sunday’s talk or a recent meeting? Is it meant to be inspirational or educational? I try to keep Unity’s Five Basic Principles in mind when I communicate, distilled down to one word each:
Overview – Individualized – Mind – Heart – Action
The second set of principles I follow are basic journalistic ones, known as the Five Ws:
Who – What – When – Where – Why
Even if they’re not in order, even if they’re implied, we need to make sure they’re in there. And make sure they’re in there at the top!
One of the big changes in communication recently is the shift toward brevity and graphics as a means to tell a story quickly: So newsletters don’t have to be, and maybe shouldn’t be, too wordy, but can offer links to get more info if the reader desires to know more. It also then acts as a tool to get people engaged in your website and social media pages.
Brain Pickings by Maria Popova is for intellectuals who like words, but her newsletters include links for the larger blog posting. They also use MailChimp.
For our church community, at Unity of the Oaks, Thousand Oaks, Calif., we use Constant Contact and mainly want to remind people about upcoming mid-week events with links to our website for more information. But I like to include videos every now and then that either supplement a talk or just uplift people. Our content is a connection tool between the virtual and the real.
And anything additional we would offer in terms of inspiration and information is already well-provided by our partners at Unity Worldwide Ministries (UWM) and Unity World Headquarters (UWH). UWM provides free media resources at Unity Worldwide Media. UWH offers Daily Word, Unity Magazine, themed booklets, Unity Online Radio, and those are found on our OneEach Technologies branded website, so we try to always redirect to our website.
Where our leaders have branched into working with other organizations, we link to those organizations so they can be contacted for more information—our local interfaith association, AGNT (Association for Global New Thought), emPower Music and Arts, and emPower Positive Radio, The New Thought Channel.
The 5 Principles Checklist
So whether you’re starting from scratch or maybe evaluating the work you’re already doing for a potential upgrade, here are some guidelines to follow, based on Unity’s Five Principles.
Overview: the Oneness Perspective
How does your headline, your branding and your look and feel invite the reader in to what Unity is about?
Hopefully, seeing that it’s from you will be enough to make them click and open the email, but certainly your subject line should tell them what it’s about, and make them even more interested.
Once they open it, it should convey, with colors, logos, fonts and images a sense of who and what your organization is about. Are you serious or fun? Are you modern or classic? You can switch it up every now and then, but you really want to keep a level of consistency, to convey as much information about yourself in a glance as possible.
Individualized Expression of Oneness
How does your organization express the principles of the wider organization? What makes you different from other similar organizations?
Our Unity branding conveys, with colors, fonts and symbolism, a sense of who we all are. Our events are how we express and connect with our community. Even if all we did was Sunday service, we could share some information to get people interested, so that they could delve deeper after the fact. The image shown uses Constant Contact and incorporates both Unity and Southwestern color schemes. On a mobile device, the blue background isn’t visible.
Mind: Creating Experience with Thoughts
This is where the journalistic five Ws comes in (what, who, where, when, why). You want to give them the information, then connect to their hearts.
Heart: Prayer Is at the Heart of Unity
We want people who read your information to feel something deeper, to connect to heart-centered spirituality, because that’s why we do what we do!
Action: Living the Principles
You want to guide the reader to take action. It can start with clicking on a button or link, and translates into donating online, buying a ticket, RSVPing, signing up to volunteer, or showing up at an event, tuning in to the radio or TV show, or saying a prayer.
So with a newsletter emailed to our mailing list of congregants and friends, we take a wide oneness view on the big picture, locate that spark within ourselves, and then employ our minds and hearts and spirits to inspire action. A newsletter acts as a content-rich reminder of how your community expresses that process, and directs the reader to more information from the website and ultimately, to show up in person at your center!