You don’t need to be an email geek to know that email marketing isn’t dead. In fact, email marketing has an average ROI of 3,800 percent.
Whether you’re working on a one-off email or a nurture campaign, keep these tips in mind for a better email experience.
Write like a human.
Remember that your email is being sent to a fellow human being, and write accordingly. Write in a conversational, trustworthy and upbeat tone. Be concise!
Original copy: The LEED Steering Committee recently added select Parksmart measures to the LEED innovation catalog.
Edited copy: Boost your LEED project score with Parksmart.
Cut the text.
An email is not a webpage. The copy should serve as a teaser and encourage the reader to take action.
Get creative with format.
No one wants to read long paragraphs of text. Use icons or bullets to break down information so it’s easier to read, especially for viewing on mobile.
Original copy: “The benefits of Parksmart are that it enables a frictionless experience for your garage user and the environment through removing parking headaches, welcoming and encouraging cyclists and beautifying your garage”
Reformatted copy: The layout below conveys the same information in a format that’s easier to read:
Include a clear call to action.
What is the one takeaway of the email? What is it that you hope your audience will do with the information? Don’t be afraid to get creative with your CTA either.
Look at your own inbox to see emails that stand out to you. Visit Really Good Emails for some email inspiration.
Use A/B testing.
Don’t be afraid to test! Every email is a chance to learn something new about your audience. Test your send time, subject line or “from” name.
As part of the USGBC marketing and communications team, our design team works on many kinds of projects, from brand identity to article images to print collateral. Not content to rest on their current expertise, they are constantly seeking out what’s new in the design world and incorporating ideas from the wider world into their projects.
Here’s a quick roundup of some of the websites where they find inspiration:
Annie Patton, Director, Creative Services
- I like Fast Co. Design. They send out a daily newsletter focused on articles relating to design and business. They cover lots of different topics and industries, which gives me the opportunity to look at our work from a different perspective.
Amy Civetti, Art Director
- Brand New is a division of UnderConsideration, chronicling and providing opinions on corporate and brand identity work. The reason I love the “reviewed” section of the blog is that they cover current design trends and show what the updates look like. It’s a really great way for me to stay up to date on other branding out there that I may not otherwise be exposed to.
- Resource Cards is a growing list of free resources that help creatives with their next project. I love this because it pools tons of resources into a really easy-to-use page. I have a few go-to free sites in my brain, but when I am struggling to find something, I know I can go to resourcecards.com and find some alternatives!
Nia Lindsey, Senior Graphic Designer
- When creating new brand identities, developing the color palette is my favorite part. I love that Coolors presents the colors full width, with most of the necessary color values calculated.
- Mattson Creative‘s design blog is, hands down, one of my favorite design studios. Every post inspires me to find unconventional ways to innovate and perfect my craft. They recently completed Sesame Street’s 50th Anniversary identity, and it is amazing! #goals
In a time when a lot of content marketing is done on the internet, writers and editors must consider the specific needs of readers who are accessing their articles online. Here are my top three tips for how to reach them with clear headlines:
1. Keep titles as short as you can.
Writing for a print layout gives you the luxury of being creative and clever with your titles, such as by using metaphors, imagery and colloquial turns of phrase. This often manifests as what I call “university press style”—a general phrase followed by further context.
Example: “Playing with fire: Global climate change and the catastrophic rise in forest fires in the American west”
However, writing articles for the web means your title needs to be concise. It will be squeezed into preview boxes in social media and into modules on webpages. If the title is too long, the whole line won’t appear. This limitation can be good, though—it forces you to focus on the main point of your article.
Edited version: “Study shows climate change worsens forest fires”
Titles must often fit within modules on a website layout.
2. Make titles describe what the article is actually about.
Making your title clearly reflect the subject of the article works on two levels. One, readers who are scrolling through content on their mobile devices or scanning a list of recent articles in an email digest are able to quickly see what content is available and to click on what’s relevant to them. Two, it’s good for SEO. Organic search terms will be reflective of readers’ keywords or questions, which tend to be very straightforward.
Be specific, and be factual, to reflect the news content or product you are writing about.
Example: “Leading with a sustainability mindset brings it all together”
Edited version: “Mayor of Anytown adds LEED certification to 2018 building code”
3. Use a number—listicles really do work.
The stats don’t lie. Our analytics have shown that readers love to click on pieces that break down a topic with a number, through titles similar to these: “Top 10 States for LEED,” “Top 4 benefits of installing solar panels,” “3 reasons to earn your LEED Green Associate credential.”
You don’t want to do this for every article, of course, and you must deliver on your title’s promise, not make it mere clickbait. But it’s a good idea to use numbers where appropriate in your content marketing, along with other terms that trigger the same sense of “this sounds easy!” For example, “Top 4 benefits of installing solar panels” could also be “How to install solar panels on your home” or “Simple steps to solar panel installation.” People google “how…” more than just about any other term. It’s all about making your content relevant to the reader.
USGBC’s LEED logo has become an iconic symbol of achievement in sustainability across the world. So, you may ask, why would we need to create a supplemental wordmark design? We set out to create a wordmark that could serve as a visual reference to the LEED rating system that we could share freely with our community, collaborators and others. Our intent is for them to be able to use our distinctive wordmark when referencing LEED in presentations, educational content and other applications.
We went through a design process, and covered a few rounds of possible designs. The main goal was to have the wordmark remain easily recognizable as the LEED brand, but not look too similar to our existing program logo. We wanted to make a departure from our standard colors associated with LEED, and also create a slightly more playful mark that didn’t feel as formal as the existing program logo.
The final design we landed on mimics the beveled font that our program logo uses for LEED. We wanted to maintain that clean, simple feel, but also introduce a new palette of colors that felt less formal. The three colors we used are Pantone 7416 C, Pantone 7751 C and Pantone 7690 C. The LEED wordmark must always appear in its standard colors or in one color.
Two versions of the wordmark are available. The full version of the wordmark includes “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” below the acronym “LEED.”
This project almost felt like a rebrand, because we had such an established personality for LEED already. We really had to tackle what this wordmark should mean, and how we wanted people to use it.
At USGBC, the PR and Communications team uses data analytics and insights to continually improve our media relations and external outreach strategy. I recently spoke on this topic during a PR measurement webinar for PR News, one of the prominent PR trade organizations, and in a series of follow-up articles for the PR News industry newsletter.
These articles discuss the ways we leverage data and measurement to inform our stakeholder strategy and how data’s importance is already inherent in USGBC’s culture and through the LEED green building rating system.
In the January 23 issue, I talked about specific tools my team uses to capture metrics, as well as our efforts to share data creatively, such as through videos and newsletters. Read the issue.
Then, in the January 30 issue, we delve more into the technological changes in PR over the years and how they have provided an opportunity to evolve and explore using data to better target specific local markets. Read the issue.
If you’re involved with the web in any capacity, you’ve probably heard the term “user experience (UX) design.” It has become an essential element for any successful website. It can often be misunderstood, though, as “UX” can refer to different things, depending on the context.
The general term “the user experience” refers to every touch point a person has with a company or site—to the experience as a whole. However, the field of UX design tends to be more focused, because the user experience designer primarily works on research, planning, organization of site content and user testing.
UX design has existed in some form for almost as long as the web has existed. Designers (and the companies that hire them) have always wanted their websites to be useful and enjoyable. However, we made assumptions about what our users wanted, and a lot of times we got it wrong. We needed to establish best practices and find ways to test our theories.
Over the past decade or so, we have done just that, and UX design has grown tremendously. UX designers are in high demand. Our testing and organization tools are maturing, and you can find best practice research on the smallest details.
At USGBC, we work very hard to make sure we are putting our community’s needs first, so our web team is always looking for the latest UX research and tools. Currently, we are excited to start using InVision Studio. The tool has not yet been released to the general public, but it promises to help streamline the design and prototype process. This, in turn, will help us create more effective information architecture and make user testing more efficient, so we can make sure new digital product and feature launches delight our community right from the start.
Here are a few of our other favorite UX design resources:
- The best UX book, in my opinion, is “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug. It’s a quick read that goes over UX essentials and user testing, which he highly encourages.
- Norman Nielsonessentially writes the standards for UX. If I am looking for research, it’s the first place I go.
- Smashing Magazine is also a great resource. Their UX collection really gets into the nitty-gritty, and I have found it extremely helpful.
- Alistapart is an invaluable resource for all things design and dev from the godfather of web standards, Jeffrey Zeldman.
- General Assembly provides classes and workshops from some of the industry’s best.
- User Interface Engineering is another great place to read up on the latest UX research.
Since 2014, USGBC has published a regular member magazine, both in print and online. USGBC+ runs between 60 and 75 pages as a perfect-bound publication, with a dynamic web presence to allow readers the option of perusing new and archived content at their leisure. With a focus on the people behind the green building movement, the magazine is a vehicle for longform storytelling and allows us to showcase member company successes, project profiles, current research and market trends.
I have had the privilege of managing the magazine production and content development process since 2016, and I have a few key techniques up my sleeve to share with you, especially in relation to working with an editorial board.
Internally, an editorial board of about 20 members of the USGBC senior staff develops our magazine. We also have the guidance of an expert team of content developers, designers and marketers from ContentWorx.
Here are my go-to strategies for successfully working with an editorial board:
Gather the right group at the table.
The first step in developing a productive editorial board is ensuring you have the right mix of voices at the table. For USGBC+, we invite several members of the communications and marketing teams, but we also select one high-level member of each of our functional or programmatic departments to join the board.
This approach ensures that we are hearing from the breadth of the organization and gaining the perspective of senior leadership who can easily draw connections between story ideas and organizational priorities.
Set expectations up front.
We know that our senior staff members are incredibly busy, and that they may not always be able to attend our editorial board meetings. To ensure we reach a quorum at each meeting, we set the expectation up front that if a member of the board is unable to make a meeting, they will send a member of their team in their place.
Additionally, we ask our editorial board members to reflect on the magazine theme in advance of each meeting and to come with fresh ideas for stories that are actionable—meaning they have the necessary information and contacts at hand to help our writers get started.
Finally, we ask our editorial board members to help us promote the magazine content when each issue goes live by sharing it with their network of contacts, posting on social media and following up with individuals who were interviewed to thank them for their participation.
Cultivate a sense of investment.
Because our editorial board only meets once every two or three months, it can be a struggle to create a sense of real investment in the process and the product, especially when our board members have so many other responsibilities and priorities. By maintaining regular contact with board members, sharing our magazine lineup in advance, running drafts of stories by them for input and making them the first to know when a new issue drops, we can help generate a sense of cohesion and commitment.
Celebrate and empower the group.
We have a habit of starting each editorial board meeting by sharing news about the most recent issue. We recap the stories that were included and give our board a hearty pat on the back for a job well done. It is no small thing to take a magazine from concept to reality, and our board deserves a good deal of credit.
We also empower our board to make strategic decisions by sharing information with them such as article performance, web traffic and audience survey responses. This leads to a greater sense of investment and, ultimately, better magazine content for our readers.