TRO has spent this week exploring the possibilities of well-crafted travel agency newsletters. We want to wind up the series by delving into a few best practices and a few legal issues that confront newsletter publishers. Many of the best practices pertain to any email marketing, but they are worthwhile repeating to keep you and your agency in good standing both with your clients and with some important third parties!
When formatting your newsletter, try to avoid complicated CSS style sheets. Many email readers, notably Outlook 7.0 are not kind to CSS and will play havoc with the appearance and layout of your newsletter. Have your designer use simple “in-line” html tags instead. It is worthwhile to keep several “test” accounts to which you can send copies of your newsletter. I recommend keeping one at Yahoo, AOL and Gmail. The accounts are free and let you test not only whether your newsletter might be trapped by spam filters, but also whether its delivered appearance is as you anticipated.
Include a link at the top of your newsletter to a web version. Many email readers and accounts block graphics by default. Our experience is that as many as 30% of email recipients prefer to click on the web version as opposed to reading the copy in their inbox.
Make it simple for readers to unsubscribe. Not only is this a legality (below) but it is also a best practice. If you are using an email service to assist you with list management, chances are very good that your service provider was an unsubscribe mechanism built into their system.
Avoid copyright issues by not copying other people’s work wholesale. You can quote from an article, or use a short excerpt and a link to the original article, but avoid large spans of cut and paste. If another site to which you have linked requests you desist, do so. Most sites are happy for the traffic your newsletter will generate, and the “fair use” doctrine of copyright law will protect you in most instances, but when in doubt take the safest avenue and desist.
The CAN-SPAM act will apply to your emailed newsletter. Though not hard to comply with, the Act is important for you to follow. In short, make sure that the “To” and “From” and subject line information in your newsletter is not misleading. Be straightforward in your addressing of the newsletter and make its source easily identifiable as your own. Each issue must contain your physical address. Finally, your newsletter must have a working unsubscribe mechanism. This can be a link that automatically unsubscribes or instructions that enables unsubscribing. You then have 10 days to fully unsubscribe the recipient.
Over time, your newsletter and the list of readers you grow will be one of your agency’s most valuable assets. Protect that investment by following a few simple best practices and legal guidelines and you will enjoy the long term benefits of a strong newsletter strategy.