Introduction to email newsletters for academics

Table of Contents

In this blog post, I want to share what I’ve been learning about e-newsletters and why they could be an important tool for academics.

Let’s start by defining some key terms.

What’s an e-newsletter?

An e-newsletter, or email newsletter, is a periodic email sent to a list of subscribers.


What’s a subscriber?

Subscribers are individual people (or organisations) who have opted-in to receive your e-newsletter.

They must have given you permission to use their email for the purpose of sending them your e-newsletter. If they haven’t, and you send them your e-newsletter, you’re at risk of breaching email laws and regulations – learn more about the Spam Act in Australia.

People (or organisations) become subscribers by giving you their email addresses with the expectation of some form of value being delivered to their inbox at some point in the future.


What’s a mailing list?

A mailing list is a collection of email addresses that have been voluntarily shared with you.

You might have only one mailing list, in which all your subscriber emails are stored. But you can have many! For example, if you research multiple areas, you might have different mailing lists set up for the different topics you want to write e-newsletters about. That way, if someone signs up for your emails about, say, gender studies, they won’t receive information about #vanlife, which is your other research domain.

It’s important that you respect your subscribers’ emails and use them for the purpose they were intended for. If you abuse your subscribers’ trust and send them irrelevant information (i.e. send the #vanlife info to people who were expecting news about gender studies), you might find a long list of unsubscribe notifications arriving in your inbox!


What can I use a mailing list for?

Typically, mailing lists are used to disseminate your e-newsletter i.e. send out information about new blog posts, articles, products, or services.

For example, you could send a newsletter to your mailing list about your upcoming speaking event, or raise awareness of a paper you recently published on The Conversation.

Not all e-newsletters need to be about self-promotion though. You might use them to share what you’re learning with your audience.

The key to keeping your readers engaged seems to be about providing value to the person who’s trusted you with their email address.


What are the benefits of creating a list of subscribers? Why not just Tweet?

When you have a mailing list (i.e. a list of subscribers), you can control the content that goes out to your subscribers.

The key is ‘control’. You might have 5,000 followers on Twitter, but if Elon wakes up tomorrow and decides to pull the Twitter plug, you would instantly lose the ability to contact those subscribers.

When you have access to people’s emails, however, you own (well, kind of) that connection because there is not a third company (e.g. Twitter, YouTube) mediating the relationship between you and the people who’ve chosen to follow you.

Another reason academics might build an email list of subscribers is to build a community.

Email newsletters can help build community by fostering relationships between academics who share similar interests. The newsletter can act as a forum for academics to ask questions and receive feedback from their peers. Email newsletters can help build community by promoting collaboration among academics (e.g. a Call for Chapters for a book you’re planning).

Email newsletters can also provide a platform for academics to share their work with people outside of academia. But, as mentioned above, if you’ve got more than one audience you might want to consider breaking up your subscribers into different mailing lists.


Ok, I’m up to speed with the basics… what’s next?

If you’re ready to go down the path of creating your own e-newsletter, there are a few more steps to configure before your words of wisdom can arrive in people’s inboxes.

  1. Decide if you’re going to use an online tool to create your e-newsletters (e.g. Mailchimp)

  2. Create a content strategy

  3. Decide how often you are going to send your e-newsletter

  4. Create space in your diary to write your e-newsletters – creating a content plan

  5. Promoting your e-newsletter

Covering all these topics is too grand an ambition for one blog post, so I’m going to continue to explore them in future posts.

If you’ve found this blog post useful, please share.


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