MASS COMMUNICATIONS IN YOUR MINISTRY

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1 MASS COMMUNICATIONS IN YOUR MINISTRY W H I T E P A P E R MCWP0609

2 S M A L L G R O U P S M I N I S T R Y G U I D E C o m m u n i c a t i o n Communication is an important tool in determining the success of your church or organization. To be successful you need to be sure that the information you are sharing is useful and relevant to the recipients, otherwise your message will not get through. This is especially true for and is essential for any mass communications you will be doing. The amount of information we are exposed to is staggering and it continues to grow through sources like TV, radio, newspapers, Internet (blogs, news sites, Twitter and the like), mail, phone, , etc. This white paper offers you practical ways to get the most from using mass campaigns but many of the principles will also apply to your other communication efforts. 1

3 T I P S HTML HTML hypertext markup language mass s may take the form of messages, newsletters or announcements that contain graphic elements (pictures/images), special fonts, backgrounds, color, etc. These s are called HTML because they are written in the same language used to traditionally create Web pages. Include text versions of your s When you are sending an HTML , you will need to have a text version available for the recipients that are not able to receive formatted s. Most mass service providers require that you have a text and graphic version of your and the system will automatically deliver the appropriate format. Some service providers will automatically create a text version of your for you but you will need to review this version to ensure it is correct. What is Mass ? Mass s are messages or communications sent to large numbers of people via . These messages can be sent from a person s own account in programs such as Outlook, Yahoo! Mail, Google Gmail, even in ACS or through an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that specializes in sending large communications like Constant Contact. The history of origination is murky. Some say it started in the 60 s with mainframes, and others say it started in the 70 s with the Internet the fact is, has come a long way and will continue to evolve, but today s users have some great options when it comes to enhancing and formatting s to communicate their messages. Customizing your Mass s A simple way to enhance your mass s, thus increasing your readership and response, is by using images, personalization, compelling subject lines, etc. However, be careful Plain-text Mass Plain-text mass s do not contain graphic elements, special fonts, or any formatting. Try copying part of a Microsoft Word document into Notepad on your desktop. You will see the basic formatting of your document is retained; this is what a text would look like. Be sure to send a test of your text to check for any formatting issues. Graphic (HTML) Mass HTML mass s may take the form of messages, newsletters or announcements that contain graphic elements (pictures/images), special fonts, backgrounds, color, etc. It should also be noted that s may view differently in different programs and mobile devices. These s are called HTML because of the language used to create them -- hypertext markup language -- which is the same language used to traditionally create Web pages. These would be the most common types of s that you receive in your inbox. Today many service providers allow you to create HTML s without having experience in programming or even design. They do this by providing templates that can be easily customized by the user. In many cases it is as easy as adding your text to the existing template. Don t over use color, graphics, and fonts When creating HTML s don t over use color, graphics, fonts, etc. Only use them to add interest and for a professional look and feel. 2

4 T I P S Personalized Mass s. Personalized mass s contain information customized to each recipient. This would be information that you gather and maintain in a database, other program, or within your service provider. ACS Technologies and many service providers offer an option which allows you to insert fields that are specific to the recipient. For example, you can insert the recipient s first name to the salutation. (This feature is similar to the mail merge function in word processing software programs.) s that are personalized tend to be better received than non-personalized messages. (Just as a personalized letter captures your attention before a generic letter might.) Keep in mind, though, that too much personalization can be a bad thing. Do not include information that may be considered sensitive or private. This may cause concern with how personal information is handled within your organization. You may also want to avoid using personalization in the subject line of your s since this is a key SPAM tactic. Test your s before sending Testing is a good idea no matter what type of you are sending. It gives you a chance to see the communication as the recipients would, which may help you identify problems before it goes out. Problems to check include layout, spacing, spelling, link testing (to be certain links go to the correct place), and checking phone numbers (to ensure all numbers work). Using the Extend Platform If you are using the ACS Extend Platform you may want to link s directly to the content in Media Manager. Golden Rules for Mass Communications No attachments. When sending mass s it is important not to send attachments in the . Many servers are set up to block these types of messages because they can contain viruses. Therefore, if you do send an attachment you may run the risk of the recipients never receiving your message. The work around for an attachment would be to include a link to the same information on your Web site or media server. You want people to start using your Web site to find information. This eliminates calls into your church office, which can increase everyone s productivity. Capitalization. When crafting your subject lines be sure to avoid tricks used regularly by Spammers. This includes using all capital letters, excessive punctuation (!!,, #, etc.), and even certain words like Free, Buy, Offer, Opportunity. A simple Internet search will provide you with a list of words and phrases to avoid when crafting your subject lines and s. If you are using an service provider, they often include a tool that will allow you to check your for the appearance of being SPAM. They will score your based on numerous factors, including those above, and give you feedback on how to improve your chances of deliverability. 3

5 T I P The Importance of Subject Lines. All s should contain a subject line and it is important to use it well. This will be one of the main factors in deciding if an gets opened or deleted if the senders name isn t familiar (and sometimes even if it is). The most important thing you can do in a subject line is mention your organization. Be sure people know who the is coming from; if they do not, your may get deleted. Another important rule for your subject line: keep it brief! Following this, also keep it to the point. Below are a couple of specific examples that illustrate the above points. CAN-SPAM For additional information on the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 please visit T o o G e n e r a l Subject: 2009 Winter event tickets Subject: Youth Summer Program G o o d Subject: First Baptist Winter Gala Tickets Available Now Subject: First Baptist Vacation Bible School Registration These examples are a bit obvious, but the point is to spend time thinking about what the subject line is communicating. This is a key to getting your open. Opting out: Several years ago, the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (and its update in 2008) was passed. This legislation requires that you include a clear and conspicuous unsubscribe mechanism in every . This means that you must give your recipients a way to stop receiving your s. This opt-out can be through a link that will unsubscribe them or via a reply to your . It is important to indicate how they unsubscribe in the message. Most organizations place this information at the bottom of the message. Other important points of the CAN-SPAM Act are: Postal mailing address must be provided in your message Fraudulent or deceptive subject lines, headers, return addresses, etc. are prohibited Harvesting/collecting addresses from other Web sites is illegal 4

6 ACS Technologies has partnered with Constant Contact for even greater mass communication levels. This partnership allows ACS clients to pull info from their database and pass it directly to Constant Contact. At this point, it may seem overwhelming to know what to do and not to do when it comes to your mass s. there is a simple way to remedy your concerns. Using an service provider, mentioned several times already in this whitepaper, can help simplify the process of sending mass communications. ACS Technologies has Chosen to partner with one provider, Constant Contact, to make your decision even easier. Constant Contact assists you by providing a simple process to create and send your s that complies with the CAN-Spam Act as well as other etiquettes that will contribute to your communication success. Constant Contact can assist with the ability to opt recipients out of s through a link provided automatically at the bottom of every . Constant Contact also features other tools that simplify compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act of These tools include having a standard address footer on every , verifying source of addresses, providing SPAM rankings on content and formatting. For additional information on the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 please visit How can I get started? Now that you know how to create the best message, a compelling subject line, how to avoid being viewed as SPAM, and how to follow the laws of ing, you re ready to send your but who are you sending it to and how? Collecting Addresses. In order to start sending mass s you need to start collecting addresses. There are many touch points where you can collect addresses from your church attendees and visitors: your Web site, event registrations, visitor cards, church records, VBS forms, daycare registration, etc. Another great way to collect updated addresses is through Access ACS. When collecting the addresses be sure you have permission to use them and avoid giving these addresses to other organizations for any type of promotions. Any s that go out should only go out regarding your organization unless you have specifically requested permission to use the address for other purposes. If an is sent from you without gaining the permission of the recipients, you run the risk of being reported as a SPAMMER and could ultimately have your s blocked. For most organizations, the addresses will only be used to communicate information about that organization. So once the addresses have been collected be sure you keep them updated by providing your members a way to modify their information. service providers allow recipients to update their information at the bottom of every . Another option could be having your database ACS as an example integrate with the service provider. The ACS Technologies partnership with Constant Contact allows for even greater mass communication abilities. This partnership allows ACS clients to pull info from their database and pass it directly to Constant Contact. This provides an easy way for clients to populate an list within Constant Contact. 5

7 T I P What options do I have with ACS Technologies? You currently have abilities within ACS or you can use Constant Contact, which integrates with ACS, as your service provider. Use Local SMTP: This option within ACS is designed to send a small amount of . It may be used as a mass tool, but it is not recommended to be used for s with more than 250 addresses per mailing. This option also does not allow for tracking and reporting if that is important for what you are communicating. Constant Contact Constant Contact will change the way you interact with your visitors and members. To learn more about this option please visit acstechnologies.com/products/groupreach. Constant Contact: ACS has partnered with Constant Contact, an easy, effective, and highly affordable way to get your messages out. Constant Contact simplifies the process of creating mass campaigns, surveys, and other communications. With easily customized design templates, real-time response tracking, and features designed to help you grow your audience the right way, Constant Contact will change the way you interact with your visitors and members. To learn more about this option please visit acstechnologies.com/products/groupreach. Copy to the Local Client: With this option, contact info will be placed in the BCC field of your local editor. It opens a new message in Microsoft Outlook with all of the addresses in BCC. So, for small messages, this gives you the control of Outlook with a local host. 6

8 How do I decide what method will work best for me? Here are some questions for you to ponder. How many and how often? How many s will you be sending? If you regularly send out s to groups and want to be able to track who has received or opened an , Constant Contact would be the best choice. It is an inexpensive option and allows you flexibility in designing and tracking addresses and individual s. If you do not send s to large groups with any frequency, you may want to continue with the SMTP option within ACS. How many people? Think about the s you are currently sending and what other communications could be sent via . For instance, do you send s to committee or class members? Do you send newsletters out regularly to your congregation? Do you follow up with visitors through ? Do you promote campaigns and events with s? If you do, Constant Contact would be the product to use. If you are not currently doing mass s but would like to save money on postage and increase interaction with your members and visitors, you may want to start sending minimum quantities using the SMTP option to get your feet wet. How will you integrate the addresses? If possible, pick a broadcast tool such as Constant Contact that works with the database you already have or that offers strong data integration options. The integration with ACS allows you to send data directly from ACS into a new or existing Constant Contact list. 7

9 How fancy do you want your s to look? Will you send simple text s, or highly formatted enewsletters or appeals? If your preference is the latter, do you need a tool that provides high quality packaged templates, or will you want to use your own custom template? These tools vary considerably in their support for these kinds of needs. The greater your desire to send professional, easy to create s, the more you should lean towards Constant Contact. Do you need very sophisticated functionality? If you are planning substantial campaigns that require message testing, creative different internal approvals, or highly detailed segmentation, put these features at the top of your list. Do you need to see who received the s, opened them, forwarded them, etc.? If you want to do any or all of these functions, your best resource for mass s would be to take advantage of the ACS Technologies and Constant Contact partnership. Do you want or need to conduct or Web site surveys? Do you currently conduct or would you be interested in conducting member surveys? What time is best for VBS during the day or in the evening? Want to get a feel for which topics most interest your youth ministry? Are you interested in conducting polls on your Web site? When you do a survey or poll, would it be beneficial to have the results tabulated in graphical and detailed views automatically? If all of these would be of interest then the ACS Technologies and Constant Contact partnership is your ideal solution. For more information on Constant Contact or to sign up for this service, please visit acstechnologies.com/products/groupreach. 8

10 About ACS Technologies ACS Technologies is a leading provider of information management solutions for churches, schools, and other faith-based organizations. Founded in 1978, ACS Technologies serves over 50,000 organizations worldwide. From church management software to forms and supplies to professional Web sites, Web applications, and consulting, we offer products and services that meet our clients varied needs. Since 1978, ACS Technologies has developed outstanding software products designed specifically for faith-based organizations, focusing on the special needs you address every day. We ve designed our products to work together, integrating them to increase efficiency and reduce redundancies for your benefit. Our mission is simple, and our vision is focused we empower our clients with specially designed software solutions. Contact Information ACS Technologies 180 Dunbarton Drive Florence, SC acstechnologies.com 2009 ACS Technologies. All rights reserved. Prior consent must be given on any redistribution or reproduction of the content text, graphics, and design in this whitepaper. 9

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