The very personal mass email
May 29, 2017
Heads up... I'm starting a quarterly update email.
Most of you are too young to remember the Holiday Newsletter. Thousands of women (most with families) used to type them up every holiday season, have them copied (mimeographed or xeroxed), stuff and mail them to a dozen or a hundred people. Family news was the focus: who graduated, whose Little League team went to regionals, new hobbies, and the occasional divorce announcement. Once email newsletters became a thing, I had a friend who did an annual "what happened this last year" email that was wonderful to read. Then she found Facebook and now we get more frequent but less considered updates. I prefer the annual perspective...
But annual seems to make things too important, so after reading the article excerpted below, I'm going to try the quarterly version. I will try to be entertaining.
Fast Company: The Networking Secret That Only Requires Writing Four Emails A Year, 2017-Apr-30 by Jason Shen
For the past eight years, I’ve sent quarterly personal updates. Every January, April, July, and October, I send out an email to about 200 or so of my friends and colleagues. It’s a mix of what I’m doing at work; where my side projects have taken me; interesting books, movies, and articles I’ve enjoyed; and personal things like travel, events, deciding to move, feelings about an election, and sometimes even relationship or dating info.
Here’s the thing, though: These updates aren’t short. My last one came out to around 1,200 words, plus photos, videos, and links. It’s taken me a long time to find the right balance between thoughtfulness, familiarity, and polish when putting an update together...
[He uses Mailchimp. I'll be using Vertical Response. Jason has lots of good tips...]
2. Decide how you’ll add people to your list. This means setting a few ground rules to make sure you’re only contacting people who you actually care about and are valuable to you. My rules are that they can’t be someone I just met last quarter, and they should be someone I’d like to be friends with forever, not just for “right now.” It can be a nice courtesy to give people a heads-up to new additions before the next update goes out. ...
4. Don’t be shy about promoting something that’s important to you. If you’re on the hunt for a new job, or looking for tips for your trip to Peru, don’t be shy about asking for help, advice, ideas, or connections. This is your update, and the people reading it care about you and want to help you!
5. Be humble, personal, and presentable. I’ve found that it’s really important to keep it real when writing updates. No one likes a braggart (or a humblebragger), so lay off the overenthusiastic tone. Imagine you’re throwing a house party. The vibe should be personal, and it should feel personal, but that doesn’t mean you don’t pick up all the socks and underwear you had lying all over the floor beforehand.
6. When in doubt, just start a conversation. Don’t overthink it. Your first few updates might feel awkward, and that’s okay. It takes time to find your voice and tone. All you’re really doing is conversing with people you already know. Ben Bechar’s work modeling and quantifying networks suggests that developing more connections between people in your network strengthens the overall community.
So make introductions. Initiate discussions. Ask a question or bring up a topic, then start a smaller thread with the people to weigh in. As Becher explains, “the more you make yourself a bridge builder for others, the more they will value their relationship [with] you in return.” The more connected your readers are with each other, the more likely your update is talked about or brought up with someone who didn’t open it. You end up with more people keeping you top of mind for longer. “The stronger your community,” Becher adds, “the more you gain for the same amount of work.”