October 8, 2020
Losing sleep over your next email send? Worried about how you’ll have to change your strategy yet again? Invest 45 minutes in your institution’s email campaigns to create a reliable and flexible strategy you can rely on during the uncertainty of fall semester 2020.
In this webinar featuring conversations with the Texas A&M Foundation, you’ll gain:
-Practical email campaign ideas you can send right away or store for the future
-Understanding of how current students want to be communicated with
-Solutions for evolving your strategy when and if your school’s plans change
-Insight and inspiration from other successful higher education institutions
– [Kaitlin] Okay. Friends, I think we’re ready to get going. Thanks so much for joining us. Over the next 45 minutes, we’re going to give you the tools that you need to relieve stress and feel confident about your higher education email strategy. In case you’re new around here, this webinar is presented by Emma, an email marketing platform loved by over 500 universities and colleges.
It’s no secret that we love the higher education industry. And it’s our goal to provide helpful communication tools and resources so you can get back to doing what you do best. For more information, visit myemma.com. And now for a little bit about me. I’m Kaitlin Wernet, Content Specialist at Emma, and I’ll be your host for the next 45 minutes.
Since we’ll be spending our time together talking about higher education, I thought it would only be fair to share a little bit about my personal college experience. I attended the University of South Carolina and Columbia, South Carolina. I studied public relations. And one of my favorite college memories is… Well, USC is a big football school. And so, one of my favorite memories is when ESPN’s College Game Day came to our campus, and a bunch of us slept outside on the quad, lovingly referred to as the horseshoe, on our campus so that we could get on TV in the morning.
And we did. So that was a really incredible memory my freshman year. So let’s jump right into an agenda of what you can expect from today’s webinar. First, we’ll talk through creating a plan of action and choosing reliable tools that can help you complete it. Then once we’ve laid that foundation, you’ll begin building flexibility into that plan. And we’ll show you how other universities have already done this successfully.
Then we’ll cover maintaining relationships. And we’ll go over the insights we found from interviewing current university students. Finally, my favorite part, we’ll go behind the scenes with the Texas A&M University Foundation email program to learn how they’ve been navigating the COVID-19 landscape and relying on email to relieve communication stress. So let’s just get started by taking a little inventory of how things are going so far.
In other non-pandemic years, you’ve probably got into the school year with a really robust plan of how everything was going to go, how everything was going to work out. And it likely played out similarly, if not exactly, the way you imagined it. But 2020, it doesn’t look like this at all, friends. We all feel that. So, while these may have also been our expectations for this year, students coming back to campus, everything getting back in full swing, feeling a sense of normalcy, the reality for many of us is a little more like this.
So, whether you’ve been changing class schedules and procedures, adjusting events from in-person to digital or helping students stay connected while they’re apart from each other in a strange time, all higher ed departments are feeling their own version of this Ross and Rachel couch pivot right now. So, how do we begin to relieve this stress, knowing that things will probably continue to change?
We create a plan-of-action. Now, I know that we just said most of your plans for the school year have already become their own dumpster fire. But let’s talk about the ingredients for a plan that you can continue to rely on no matter what happens. First, you’re going to need tools that you can rely on, like an easy-to-use email platform that’s at your fingertips, no matter if you’re in the office or working from home, if you’re talking with your colleagues, if you need to take a last-minute change.
Then one of my favorite podcasters, her name is The Lazy Genius. She talks about this concept of “decide once.” And it’s something that can be really helpful here. This means decide once how you’re going to communicate the most important updates. So, maybe if you are making scheduled changes, if you’re trying to communicate a really big announcement, decide one time, the one tool that you’re going to use to do that.
So don’t decide once that you’ll use social media, email, printed pieces, phone calls, and media releases because that’s just not very realistic. Think about each of these things having to do the Ross and Rachel pivot. That’s just not going to work. So choose one tool that you can rely on. Choose one source of truth, one thing that your audience can look toward as reliable information.
So, choose a tool that you can rely on, like email and move forward. Then after you’ve chosen your reliable tools with your “decide once” mentality, you’ll begin to build an initial framework. Notice here we said initial. And that’s because you could make as many plans as you want. And we know that just 2020 is going to probably change them.
So that’s why we refer to it as a framework because that framework is what’s going to prevent you from starting over each time something happens and it will allow you to be open to flexibility rather than resistant to it. In case you’re still thinking about that “decide once” decision and what your one tool should be, let’s dive a little more into why you can really trust email during this time.
So, first of all, it’s your one always-updated source of truth, at least if you make it that way. So, say goodbye to those 12,000-word document drafts or sending updates back and forth to your colleagues. With an ESP like Emma, you can keep all of your most up-to-date information in one place.
So if you update something on one side, it will reflect that change in all of your emails. So, you can go back and see your draft history, but also you can rest assured knowing that it’s the most up-to-date information. It’s also the only true one-to-one digital marketing channel. And so that means, well, there’s so many ways available to communicate digitally, email marketing is the only channel that transmits from one person to another single person.
So when you use tools like dynamic content to personalize your message and segmentation to target the correct audience, you can ensure that your content is personalized and relevant. And it really highlights that one-to-one conversation, versus the one thing that you would send to an entire list of so many people. So, think about it, would you be more likely to trust a message from a friend or a one-size-fits-all message from a large company?
Email provides a personal touch not available on other channels like social media, but that also doesn’t add more work to your plate. We’ll show you how in a little while. But finally, email stays with you wherever you go. If there’s anything that we’ve learned from 2020, it’s that we can’t exactly count on being on campus, in residence halls, or in the office every day.
However, the one thing that we always have with us is our inbox. Not only will students always have access to email decision-makers, and those sending your emails will too. And just in case you were afraid that students are so over email these days, Generation Z is actually using email just as much as previous generations, just in a different way.
So we see that 81% of Gen Z checks their email at least once a day, the remaining 20% mostly all happens within a few days. And why do they use it? Because they love that one-to-one communication. They are not using it for ads. They’re not using it to get coupons. They’re using it to talk to each other.
They’re using it to get messages from the people that matter most. And so, if you establish email as your primary communication tool, you can really build trust by building this personal communication with your students, your alumni, parents, athletics, any of the audiences that you communicate with.
This is a really great way to maintain that relationship no matter where you are. So as we’re building this plan, and thinking about the content that our audience prefers, this is how you can create a flexible framework. You can kind of set aside the type of email that you would like to send, and then as you go, insert the images, and the stories, and the quotes and the information, and the call to action as they come.
So, here’s three email ideas that work for any department. First, we have an example of a welcome email. And this is one that someone gets when they are admitted to a program or they sign up for your list. And the purpose of it is really just that, to welcome them, to tell them what they can expect from your institution, from being on an email list, something that they can look forward to.
This is something that really sets the tone for your relationship and lets them know that you’re there for them and that you want to communicate and continue this relationship. The second example is a storytelling spotlight. And this can be used for anything. Stories are anywhere, campuses are full of stories waiting to be told. So this could be a student spotlight of something really incredible that’s going on, a student organization that is pivoting or really helping during COVID-19, some really cool things that they’re doing.
You could talk about alumni doing some really incredible research. You could talk about professors and creative ways that they are engaging with their students. Anything that’s going on around you is an interesting story, especially since maybe not everyone is on your campus. And so, storytelling is a great way that you can continue to maintain those relationships.
It can be seen in admissions, where students can feel connected to a campus, even if they can’t visit in person right now. You can see it in Alumni Relations and Advancement, where you are trying to connect with these stories that are happening on campuses and share them with your donors.
It can happen all over the place. And it’s a really good way that when things aren’t normal to continue to signal that there are still things going on and these are the things that we can get excited about. These are the causes that we should care about. There’s a lot of communication that can happen in the human element of telling a story. And so, finally, responding to FAQs. This is something that I think every department probably should put in their email strategy for this semester and probably for the rest of the year because there is so much uncertainty happening.
There are so many people asking questions. And so, think about those questions that you get asked most often and round them up in an email with the question and the answer. And we really think that this is going to be so successful because people who are not asking those questions right now probably will in the future or they haven’t thought to ask them.
And so, they’re going to really see you as anticipating their needs and helping them with those answers before they even think to ask them. And so, this is another way to kind of point back to, okay, email is our primary sources communication. Email is the one source of truth. It’s where you’re going to find the most updated relevant information. So they can really kind of…
Their expectations can be set to rely on those emails, especially when you send out the FAQs, showing that you really are looking for that one-to-one communication. So now that you have some ideas for creating that initial framework and some inspiration for your send, let’s talk about how we can build flexibility into that plan. So these features are going to become your best friends forever, custom templates, drag-and-drop editor, automated workflows, shareable assets, lock brand styles.
I know that sounds like a lot, but it’s not. These are all the things that are going to make your life so much easier. And it can really be shown through this email from Vanderbilt University as a welcome email that they sent to their business school. And they likely used a template in their account and updated this as they go. So maybe not every student is getting a welcome email on the same day, maybe they’re getting them as they’re admitted.
They likely use a template for this, change the text and images as they go. You can see here, they feature someone who is on their staff and going to interact with the students. So it’s a face that they can begin to get familiar with. And so they probably add those through the drag-and-drop editor.
They use automation to send just at the right time. So like I was saying, with the welcome email, you can set that up so that when a specific event happens or a specific day comes, you can schedule those emails to go out in the future. And they probably shared and locked brand assets using Emma HQ, which is a product created especially for sharing across departments.
So, if you are sharing things with the Admissions Department, or the Alumni Relations Department, or athletics, or even just within your team, Emma HQ allows you to be able to share things like logos, and fonts, and brand standards without having to keep them anywhere else. So you always know you have the most up-to-date everything within Emma HQ.
If you’re already an Emma customer, and you are looking to set up a welcome email like this, amazing, you can begin a welcome email series using the Automation Workflow Builder. And so what you’re going to do is create a name and new workflow, and then you choose your audience. And maybe that’s newly-admitted students, maybe that’s donors, maybe that’s donors who have joined your list between a specific time period.
So then you’re going to select the triggering event. And so maybe that’s they got admitted, maybe someone donated, maybe someone joined your email list. And so then you set that trigger for when it’s going to go out. Now we’re going to see how these features support you during all of the change that can happen during the semester.
So, while that list of features may seem overwhelming in the last slide, now you’re going to see how they really will become your best friend. So, maybe you need to send something immediately. Don’t worry. You already have a template ready. You don’t have to start from scratch. Maybe you need to change or update details in something. It’s so easy with the drag-and-drop editor.
Do you need to schedule a message that will go out in the future, but you’re afraid that you’re going to forget about it? You can do that using an automation workflow and you can trust that it will send at the right time. Do you need to keep everyone in the know? You can share those assets and maintain brand consistency using the Emma HQ Approvals dashboard.
So another idea for a send is an internal newsletter. And I love this example Dome to Den. It’s from Notre Dame Research at the University of Notre Dame. And they began sending a weekly internal newsletter at the beginning of COVID when all their employees were working from home. And so it really focuses on community building, logistical updates and personal updates, all with the intention of keeping people connected.
And so some tips for doing this on your own are to create a reliable cadence. So, their employees really came to expect this and to look forward to this newsletter. Have fun with it. The thing that I love about this, I don’t know if you can see it from here, but they have a green thumb corner. And it’s where all the employees are sharing pictures of their gardens.
And then make sure you share with these people your backup plan for university procedures and the backup plan to your backup plan. And all that really means is make sure that these people really feel like they are in the know. Make sure that they know that you’re thinking of them, that you are making plans, and that you are communicating them well.
Another idea for a send is a student engagement email. Every year, the University of Central Florida takes a Welcome Week photo. And that’s of students in school year, spelling the letters, U-C-F. And instead of forgoing the tradition this year, they decided to pivot to a digital mosaic requesting the photos via email.
I love this idea. I love the spirit of continuing traditions where possible. And I can’t wait to see how this year’s turned out. Something that you could do for your own send like this is to spotlight a student organization. See what they’re doing, the cool ways that they are staying connected. Really think about how your students’ need for social interaction has changed and will continue to do so.
So, think about ways that you can keep them connected either via Zoom or socially distance events, and ask for participation and build community through social networks. And so, really piggybacking on that, just think about how you can continue to build that connection and maintain those relationships and help others to really do the same. So our third and final thing to keep in mind is remember that this is all about relationships.
So, your goal is to maintain a relationship with your audience no matter what. So, there’s not a specific formula for, these are the exact emails that you should send, and this is what they should say, and this is when you should send them. The main point is to remember who you’re talking to and really cater to them. And so, do what’s best for your audience.
There’s no real rhyme or reason to your specific audience, you know them the best. And you could continue to ask them what they want and to learn about them and to understand their needs. So, just in case you needed a little jumpstart, we interviewed some current university students during COVID-19 to see how they’re doing.
This is something that you could definitely do, but you could also just include a survey in your email. You could ask your audience what information they’re looking for. You could ask them where they’re looking for updates to see if they’re doing that in the email and you’re communicating that well. You can ask them what their current priorities are because they really might have changed and there may be a need that you could speak to even better that you haven’t considered.
Okay. So this first quote that we have from Carolyn Diez, she is a junior at Western Carolina University. She says that, “Online school does not provide the same college experience and the skills that I believe are important to entering the real world.” And so our takeaway, the reason that we care about this is that your students don’t just view this as a semester, but as part of their future.
So don’t minimize their feelings by sending robotic-sounding emails. Remember that if you’re sending something about a major change, kind of anticipate that disappointment that students may have or think about the reaction that your students may have in response to an email that you’re sending, and just really keep them in mind and keep that human element and that relationship at the forefront.
Next, we have a quote from Lily McClung. She’s a junior at Cleveland State University. And she says that she’s very routine-based. She usually attends class, does homework at the library, works out at the rec center. And then when COVID hit, it was really hard to have those core parts of her routine flipped, and still be expected to have the brainpower and emotional capacity to produce adequate work from home.
And I think that that’s a feeling that a lot of us have right now. I’m really glad that she articulated that though because our takeaway here is to be patient and understanding about all the changes your students are going through. Don’t expect them to engage with every email in the way that you’re used to. So the data that you have from last year about the ways that your students are engaging with email may be different this year.
And that’s something to really pay attention to. They could be on their computers more and really seeking that connection. So they could be checking their email more often and engaging more. And in that case, you could maybe send them or you could give them more content to engage with. On the other hand, like Lily mentioned, they may be really burnt out from looking at their computer and doing all of their Zoom classes.
So, in that case, that doesn’t mean you need to stop sending them email. That just means you need to reconsider your cadence. And this is really where testing can come into play. And you can do an A/B test, do different versions of your email to see when they should go out or the content that you should send. You can test all of these elements to see which ones they respond to best.
So finally, we have Sam Sternsein. He’s a senior at Indiana University, Bloomington. And he says… This is in response to a question that we asked about, “If you were in charge of sending your University’s emails, what would you do the same? What would you do differently?” And he said, “I would be specific about the changes happening on campus and break each aspect of student life down explicitly without sugar-coating the fact that this semester will not be ‘normal.”‘ So our takeaway here is that specific bite-sized content is key to preventing overwhelm.
Notice, he said that he did want specific information about different aspects of student life, but he also doesn’t want it to be sugar-coated. This speaks again to this disappointment that students are having. So remind them that, you know, we all are under the understanding that this semester is not going to be normal. But this is also an opportunity for you to really nurture that relationship with them and show them that you are also experiencing those things, and it’s also difficult for you, and you’re looking for ways to better connect your organization or better help students.
And so I think that, while this could provide some challenges, this actually is a time that you could absolutely improve the relationships that you have. So now that we’ve gotten through all of those things about building the foundation of email and then building flexibility into your plan, we’re going to go over to our customer Q&A.
To be honest, this is the part that I’ve been looking forward to this whole time. We have Diana Tomlin from the Texas A&M Foundation joining us. She is the Assistant Director of Market Analytics at the Texas A&M Foundation. And we are so excited to have you today, Diana. Thank you so much for joining us.
– [Diana] Thank you for having me. It’s a delight to be here.
– So I kind of started this talking about my own alma mater and a fun college fact. And I was just wondering if you could share the same if you had a fun college memory.
– Yes, I was privileged to be able to go to the University of Arizona. And the first thing that popped into my mind had to do with weather, actually. But Arizona overall was an amazing place to be as far as weather because it’s pretty tepid, I mean, most of the time and you sort of weren’t there during the summers when it was way too hot.
You might have tried to escape. But Arizona does have a monsoon season, and the university campus doesn’t necessarily have the best drainage because it doesn’t need it the rest of the time. So, I have some fun memories. I have a couple of times where the monsoon would hit, and I came out of class, and I literally had to pull up my pants and wade through the streets to get back to my dorm room.
And that was really fun, actually. And it would last like two hours or maybe even less, and then the water would all be gone. And we’d be back to the desert. And that was so beautiful in Arizona.
– That’s amazing. I can’t say that I’ve ever been in a monsoon much less during my college experience, but I feel like if you’re going to be in one, you might as well be in college to make the most of it.
– Exactly. Yeah.
– Well, thank you so much for joining us. As I mentioned, you’re from the Texas A&M Foundation. And could you just tell us…? We are so excited about the things that you all are doing over there. You’re sending so many emails and so many campaigns. And so could you just kind of give us an overview of your role in the program and kind of the goals of your email program and how you use it day to day?
– Yeah. The Texas A&M is uniquely set up and that we have a couple of different foundations that do fundraising on behalf of Texas A&M. So, my organization, the foundation, which does major gift fundraising, along with our sister organization, which does our annual fund and Alumni Engagement, we together kind of manage our Emma accounts, and we provide them to our colleges and departments within the university to mainly do alumni engagement and fundraising.
So that’s our purpose is actually to stay connected with our former students, and to, you know, start a partnership with them, and to let them know about the cool things that we’re doing so that if they, you know, choose to give, or volunteer, or participate, that they have the ability to do so. And I am…
– That’s amazing.
– Oh, go ahead.
– No, you go.
– I was just saying, I’m currently serving within market analytics. So I’ve recently moved over from a pure marketing job to look at the bigger picture and all the data that comes in. We have so much data through Emma to be able to make kind of long-term projections and steer us in the right direction of where we need to go and, you know, move towards the wants, and passions, and desires that our alumni are kind of showing us through their engagement on platforms such as email.
– That’s amazing. So we have looked behind the scenes of some of the emails that you guys have sent, and they are incredible. And I think that we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn’t show them to our guests in the webinar today. So, let’s jump over to this first one. You guys sent out this incredible email from the Texas A&M College of Medicine that was a virtual meeting invitation.
Could you tell us a little bit more about that?
– Yes. So, this is a new time in place. And so, for us, doing virtual meetings has been for many of us kind of, like, “Oh, okay, what are we doing, trying to set that up?” But using Emma through that process has been so beneficial to us. So, that was our initial invitation for a virtual meeting that we sent to alumni, actually, current faculty, and staff, and students, and those that had indicated that are on our mailing list, but it might be interested in medicine.
And the cool thing about using Emma to do that is we could reach the people in so many different ways throughout the campaign. So you’re seeing an example of one of the initial emails but, you know, we, of course, sent the actual Zoom information later, and then followed up with, for those that have requested to get the recording, the recording that we were able to send and, you know, we were able to link other stories and additional information that people indicated they wanted during the virtual meeting, so that they got that afterwards.
We also, you know, did a good job of looking at who was clicking on these things, where they were clicking, who maybe didn’t sign up, but then, you know, seemed to show some kind of interest through their clicking. And so, that gave us an indication of, you know, what our audience wanted in the future, as well as some of the polls that we did during the Zoom meeting. But really, you know, before and after, there was additional indications, and we were able to kind of sort through our audiences and, you know, target people further, based on how they raised their hand and how they responded to the email there.
– I really love what you said about listening. Do you feel like there were any responses that surprised you?
– So, yeah, with regard to listening, one of the ways we were able to get a little bit more information is we did have a signup form, and it allowed people to answer questions about what they might want to hear, or the subjects, or specific COVID-19 questions that they had. And in terms of being surprised, I mean, our responses were all over the place.
People wanted to know, how can we fund these things, but then they also had their own personal, like, you know, what happens if I play tennis? Can I play tennis with a mask on or without mask on in the field? And all over the board, but it made it really fun and interactive for the Zoom time.
And then our answers that we can send out afterwards could then really address what our audience wanted to hear.
– I love that. I feel like as marketers, we can get really overwhelmed, especially during times like this when we feel like we have so much information to share and things are changing minute by minute. But I think that you’re doing such a good job of remembering that it’s really just a relationship at the heart of everything and that you’re communicating with people who have needs.
And I love that you’re continuing to anticipate those, and listen to them, and really just kind of cater your sends to their needs, which brings me to the next email that you shared with us, which is the one where you used the polling feature. Could you tell us about that?
– Yes. So what you’re seeing is an example of one of our typical monthly newsletters that we have sent out. And we have recently added a poll and we’ve actually not given it all that much prominence. It’s actually at the bottom of our email at this point. And if for some reason we wanted it to be, we’d move it up higher but it’s for us as simple a thumbs up, thumbs down poll, which is a very aggy thing to do.
We have a [inaudible] thing. And then backed that up with a Survey Monkey form. And it asked a few additional questions. Like, you know, tell us why you liked it so much. And they can respond if they want.
However, through Emma, because we capture clicks, if they choose not to give us any additional information, more information, we do already have captured that, you know, thumbs up thumbs down that they might have clicked on right away. This has been so helpful for us because we’ve been able, through our back end, to link up the class years and the kinds of responses that we’ve been getting with our class years to see, you know, what age groups, what generational differences might we have in our…and how people are liking or not liking our emails.
And we did see actually a major generational difference actually recently…
– Did you?
– …is, you know, helping us think about targeting our audiences and maybe doing some dynamic content by generation in the future. But it’s a real simple way, it doesn’t take that much to add that poll, and you don’t even have to back it up with any kind of a survey. You can just put those links and then, you know, track as you track the clicking on an email.
And it really gives you a lot of information about, you know, whether people really are liking this or not because you can see who clicked if you have additional information tracked there within your database. You can learn a lot about your audience there. And so this is helping us change the way we’re doing content. And just a little bit, you know, tweaking it a little bit so that we’re really meeting our audience’s wants and needs again.
– That’s incredible. I really love that because I think it’s easy to feel, like, maybe generations just totally rule out tools of communication altogether. And I think that it could be easy to think that about email, but we’re probably finding the opposite, that I think that, especially college students currently, they really like using email, but it’s in different ways that the generations before us have used it.
And so, I love that you’re really thinking about how you can cater those and make it a more personalized experience, while also not isolating the rest of the people on your list. You’re using that segmentation and really able to stay relevant to many different generations and groups of people.
– Yeah. Yeah.
– Okay, so finally, we have this email from Texas A&M AgriLife and it is of all of your recent media placements. Could you tell us a little bit about that one?
– Yeah, this is fine. This wasn’t actually one that I personally worked on but my colleague did. And I came across it and I thought it was a good example to share. One of the reasons is because the topic is how to not be stressed through COVID. And I think one thing that we can do as marketers is to repurpose things. And this colleague, she repurposed her media placements for, it was actually a smaller audience of donors that they wanted to see, you know, how have we been doing, what have we been doing in the media during this time.
And at the lower down on the email, you can see that, you know, she wasn’t all that fancy. She really linked each story separately, but she put a header in there so that, you know, it segments it out. But I think this is something that you can do fairly easily if you are getting some media placements to, you know, reuse, the good traction that you’ve been getting through PR and to send it out in email.
And then also you, again, can track where people are clicking, what stories they’re actually looking at. And, you know, she did a simple header there. She even did a letter, you know, which you may or may not want to do depending on… Because this was such a small audience that was appropriate for this mailing. But I wanted to use that and because we have had success both with that mailing and others that we’ve had of repurposing our content that we have all over the place, and really, you know, getting more bang for our buck out of that PR that’s going on.
– This is such a great example of what we were talking about earlier, kind of with deciding once and deciding that email is going to be your primary tool of communication. And that really comes into play here because while these articles may have been somewhere else, everyone knows that they can rely on this email when it comes in to really find the most up to date posting.
So I think this is such a good idea, such a unique use case, but it seems like it’s been really effective.
– It has. It has. We do… A lot of our stories, a lot of even our social media stories, even our print, we have chosen that email is our main way of communication. And we always repurpose those in some way, shape, or form, and in some kind of mailing through email, and so we get a lot of mileage out of our stories that way.
– Such a smart idea. And then it’s, you know, great content that’s getting more eyes on it, versus creating it over and over and over again, and exhausting all the people on your team. So that’s definitely a way to relieve stress, too. We’ll add that to the list. So you talked a little bit about how with your virtual meetings that we are in such a different time and place than we’re used to as marketers, as humans.
Kind of what have you and your team done to maintain relationships during this strange time of COVID-19?
– We have maintained mainly our email schedule that we already have. So, we did back off at the very beginning a little bit. But then when we started emailing, again, we wanted to make sure that the content was relevant and up to date.
And I think that took a little bit more time and effort because we had to have a shorter content cycle of things and to make sure that we were, you know, in the moment. And it’s getting a little bit longer now. I’m sure the rest of the viewers are finding that now, too. But, you know, we have continued the conversation with our alumni and donors.
It hasn’t stopped. And we’ve been a little bit more aware, like through the polling and the kinds of questions that we were asking for our virtual meetings, we were a little bit more aware of getting their feedback during this time because…
And also, because a lot of our fundraisers our one-on-one meetings and events haven’t been able to happen. So the conversation has had to happen in this unique format. And so, we’ve been staying really attuned digitally, to what our audiences are saying to us, and trying to feed back what they want to hear, and keep them abreast of how we’re doing.
I mean, they want to know, you know, are the students surviving? How do they, like, you know, partly going on to school online, and, you know, the scholarships still are they still, you know, working and the students still active, and maintain that form of communication, and letting them know how the students are. That’s a huge part of what happens through email for us.
– And that’s so important. I think that there are so many worries and concerns during this time. And people don’t really know where to go for that information. But it’s so great that you’re able to kind of collect that information and not just answer it in a one-to-one conversation, but be able to kind of anticipate the needs that alumni might have or the questions that they might have about what’s going on and kind of beat them to it, and help them feel really heard and understood because I think that’s really at the heart of it is that people want to know that someone’s listening and taking care of what they’re worried about.
– Yes. Yes.
– So, you talked a little bit about choosing email as your primary tool as a team and kind of how that has worked functionally, but how do you think as a marketer, that’s really saved you time?
– Well, one of the wonderful things for us and great things with Emma is that it does speak to our database automatically. So, we have, you know, that connection there. And the fact that we can segment within Emma, so we can segment groups, by degrees or units or schools, and the fact that we can have separate sub-communities that are reaching different groups of people, that saves us a tremendous amount of time because we’re not having to, you know, make a million different Excel spreadsheets.
That automatically is going in and populating regularly. And so since we are very conscious about targeting and we continue and want to do that more and more, the tools that allow us to do that within Emma are really important through the segmentation and grouping that we can do. The other thing is the ability to take some of the templates that we either have seen are available in Emma or that we’ve already done before and, you know, reuse them again, maybe and change them slightly.
I mean, my first example there with a College of Medicine virtual meeting, it turned out that we had… Something came up with actually the environment at that point. And we had a day off right during when that meeting was. So, you know, I had to cancel the meeting, reschedule it. So I ended up sending that one template out like six times in different versions, you know, with just notification at the top that this is changing, but the fact that I can duplicate, and then change it, and still have the form and the template, it just makes all the difference in the world.
It would have taken me hours and hours or more if I hadn’t had that.
– It really does.
– It does.
– It helps so much.
– So that is such a blessing. And we continue to use it and, you know, the cool thing is, when you see something like that that you like, sometimes I’ll see things on other vehicles or other, you know, websites or whatever, with a drag-and-drop editor in Emma, it is often very, very easy to replicate the look and feel of something that you like. And so we do that often here.
– I love that. I started working with Emma before I was on the Emma team. And I had never built an email before. And so there were people on my team, like you who are more advanced, and we’re really into all the analytics and could really track everything. And I was just trying to figure out how to make my email look good.
And that’s where I really think that the drag-and-drop editor comes into play because you can really trust anyone with it. Anyone on your team, regardless of their email marketing skill, I think is going to find it pretty intuitive. And I think that that’s really incredible.
– Yes, yes. [inaudible].
– Okay. So final question. We’ve talked so much about reducing stress, what we can do to kind of think ahead and build a framework that will then be flexible in the future, whenever we do need to go change things or something happened last minute, and we need to make some adjustments. But what’s kind of some final advice that you would give out to a really stressed-out email marketer?
Maybe they are dealing with something at work where they have to give a message to a lot of people or their school’s changing their policy, or they’re really trying to recruit more donors and really maintain their relationships. You know, there’s so many different departments here, but kind of what’s your advice for them?
– Through a lot of the testing of our monthly newsletters that we’ve been doing, one of the things that we found is that… This is not going to be actually a surprise or anything, but I’m just going to reiterate it, the button can be your friend. And so we do that… You know, we’ve looked a lot of where are they clicking, what they’re clicking, are they clicking on images?
Are they clicking on…? The button is what they are often clicking on. And so, you know, in this time, where you have so much content and you have so much to say, like, let yourself take it down. And that can be time-consuming, but it’s okay. Make it more simple and put a button there. And then click out to something you’ve already created or is already out there on your web website.
And, you know, that will be effective, and then watch who does click and then retarget them with something else. You can even do that through the automatic features that Emma has. You know, keep staying engaged, but it doesn’t have to be tons and tons and tons of content.
It can be just, you know, even two stories or one story with that button, but you’re still maintaining that communication and allowing people to learn more if they choose to. That’s my advice for the day.
– I love that. I feel less stressed already. I feel like I can do it.
– Yeah, exactly. You can do that little drag-and-drop with the button and there you go.
– Absolutely. Well, Diana, thank you so much for joining us. We are so excited about everything that y’all are doing at the Texas A&M Foundation. And we’re just so excited to share your emails and your story. And I feel like probably everyone else here just like me feels so much more encouraged, feels like they can do this.
So thank you so much for joining us.
– You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.
– Thank you. See your next time.
– Okay. Bye-bye.