Taking the time to plan the written and visual content of your email BEFORE writing and building it is important for making sure your email is relevant to your targeted audience. 

Questions to Ask Yourself

1. What is your goal?

What do you want your reader to DO after reading your email? This is the call-to-action (CTA). Have one CTA, make it obvious, and make it simple for your reader to do it.

For a newsletter, set one goal, this will keep the content focused and keep your reader interested.

2. Who is your audience?

Segment your email: have a specific audience, understand your audience and write to that audience. The more targeted and specific your email, the more successful it will be. Curate email newsletters to your audience: make your content valuable, interesting and educational to your readers.

3. How does your audience read email?

42% of emails are read on mobile devices (Litmus). Optimize your email for mobile (iModules templates are mobile-ready). Make sure links in the email go to mobile-friendly pages. Be mindful of text size on a smaller screen size, and overall length.

According to the Nielsen Norman Group, the average reader spends 51 seconds scanning a newsletter. Yes, only 51 seconds! Newsletters that are overly lengthy and take too much time to read demand too much from the reader. Make the newsletter simple, useful, and easy to deal with.

4. When will the email(s) send?

A campaign frequently will require more than one email. For example, an event email campaign may involve a save-the-date, an invitation, a reminder, and a follow-up email. Plan out how many emails there will be and when you will send each email in the series.

When planning a newsletter, your readers will appreciate a consistent email schedule. (The Alumni newsletter, "Madison Update", always sends at the same time on the same day every week.) How often does your audience want to hear from you? And do you have enough content for a quality newsletter at this frequency?

5. How much time will you need?

Give yourself plenty of time for the email process. Put your data request in early, write, build, make edits, send it to your boss, send previews to yourself and look at it on your phone, make more edits... Newsletters are especially time-consuming; creating great content is hard. You'll have to write, edit, find pictures, build and send; manage recipient lists, read replies, evaluate effectiveness, etc. Emails beings sent through iModules may not be released more than one day in advance.

6. Wash, rinse, repeat...

Learn from your email campaigns once they've ended. Are they effective? What could you do differently? 

You'll learn a lot about your audience from looking at opens/clicks and things like web traffic, registration, and replies. Always be evaluating what is working well for your target audience, and seek to improve with each email.

Before you hit send...

Make sure your email meets the following criteria! Your emails are the voice of the engaged university and should engage the reader with:

  • interesting, relevant, and useful content (not interesting to you, interesting to your reader)
  • interesting visual(s)
  • easy to read copy
  • a compelling call to action
  • mobile-friendly design


Email Frequently Asked Questions

How often should emails be sent?

There's no formulaic answer to the problem of frequency. It comes down to your audience, and your content. 

It's simple to base frequency on what's sustainable for you and your content. You may not have time to compose weekly newsletters, so monthly/quarterly/semester-ly are good options. Other emails, can be sent on a schedule that's based off of what the email is about; a giving email can be sent during the campaign, an announcement can be sent when it is timely, an informational email can go when registration opens, etc.

If you do increase frequency, keep an eye on your unsubscribes and open rates; reduce frequency if the data indicates that you're annoying your readers. But, you don't want to send so infrequently that your readers forget about you.

What are the best days/times to send email?

Almost all JMU emails are sent M-F during business hours. You can send at other times if you have good reason too. Think through your content and what makes sense for your audience. Make it timely for the action you are asking them to take.

If you want to read more about the science of choosing send times, this article is informative: customer.io/blog/timing-week-day-email-sending-schedule.


Make your email easy to scan. Incorporate images, headlines, bulleted lists.

Are there options besides JMU Informational Email? 

If you are emailing an audience that is outside of JMU (such as Alumni) you may use iModules. If your department elects to use another service provider (Constant Contact, MailChimp, etc.) follow the guidelines and recommendations for email in the Brand Guide.  

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