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We often hear from orgs that want to join the Hub but aren’t quite ready. It’s always hard to let people down, so we try to offer constructive advice.

Here’s an example of what we might say:

We evaluated your numbers. We recommend that you spend some time on list and audience development before joining the Hub. The success of a membership program depends on having a deep pool of email subscribers, as well as strong loyalty among them.

There are many ways to measure loyalty. One easy way is to look at the percentage of 4-5 star-rated subscribers on your MailChimp list. For our most successful organizations, 30-60% of their list is rated 4-5 stars. Another way to measure loyalty is open and click rate, although it’s less predictive than star rating.

Build Audience

Evaluate your newsletter product

Email is the most direct way you can communicate your mission and quality to readers. Create a unique, essential newsletter product, deliver it consistently, and work to make it part of your reader’s routine. Consider adding a distinct voice and value to the product.

Optimize your site for list building

Member growth is tied to list growth, so make a goal of consistently increasing the number of organic subscribers on your list each month. A good goal is 400-600 net new subscribers per month.

Tactics:

  • Popup: Create an attention-grabbing call to action (CTA) that asks people to sign up for your flagship newsletter. Avoid using ones that block the whole screen, appear more often than once per session, or appear indiscriminately. Be sure to suppress it for people referred to your site via MailChimp, for example.
  • Forms: Add an email signup option to your contact forms and commenting system, as well as other prominent places on your site—especially popular posts and pages.
  • Make signing up easy: Make sure people can sign up in one click, from the page they’re currently on. Don’t make them navigate to another page to sign up.

Make organic list building a priority in everything you do. Don’t buy, rent, or scrape lists.

Build Loyalty

News organizations must build meaningful relationships with audience members in order to earn their trust and achieve long-term sustainability. That type of relationship requires dedication, honesty, and a commitment to two-way dialogue.

Create a welcome series

First impressions matter. Set up an automated welcome series in MailChimp for all new subscribers. This series should be heavy on genuinely useful and interesting information—and light on the asks.

Use the welcome series to cultivate a relationship with your new subscriber. It’s a great way to convey things that aren’t apparent to casual website visitors.

Try to answer these questions:

  • Are you a nonprofit?
  • What is your mission?
  • Do you have any other newsletters or products?
  • Who are the people behind the work?
  • How much does the average donor give?
  • Do you host events?
  • How else can readers engage with you?

Break these topics down into two or three emails—but don’t be afraid to reinforce themes or highlight important things repeatedly across the series.

Also encourage your readers to reply to your emails (and be sure to answer reasonable inquiries).

Example workflow:

A thoughtfully designed welcome series will open a direct dialogue with readers and begin the process of convincing them to donate.

  • Email 1: Welcome email, from CEO: Establish that you are a news organization with a mission. If you are a nonprofit, make it clear.
  • Email 2: Ways to engage, from COO: List all the different ways a reader can access your content.
  • Email 3: Audience survey, from Engagement Editor: Solicit honest feedback from readers. This continues to reinforce trust, transparency, and communication.

Send the first email within 24 hours of joining your list. Send subsequent emails every 7-10 days.

MailChimp offers automation as part of its basic service and has detailed resources on how to get started. If email automation is not available to you, we encourage you to manually send a welcome email to new readers once a month.

Build reach

Reach is difficult to engineer, but here are a few tactics you can try:

  • Google News: Make sure you are publishing content on Google News and your news feed is built to Google News specs.
  • SEO: Surface your most important and useful content prominently on your site. Make sure you actively use sound SEO strategies
  • Use HTTPS on your site: Google may demote content in its search results that doesn’t use HTTPS.
  • Boost your signup form on Facebook: Don’t worry about boosting posts unless you have a strong signup form on every page. Instead, create a compelling landing page for your newsletter, and boost that. In your ad, target audiences and interests that are similar to yours.

And of course, feel free to reach out anytime if you need advice on the fly!

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