Read summaries of previous ASBPE-DC events

The numbers tell the story
Find out how to use Excel to analyze corporate financial data with these tips from ASBPE's first-ever webinar.

I hate you, don't leave me:
Do's and don'ts in the editorial/PR relationship

Editors and public relations pros exchanged tips on how to best deal with one another at a panel presentation jointly sponsored by ASBPE's D.C. chapter and the Public Relations Society of America.

Change agents: Trade pubs making a difference
Four panelists summarized their case studies from the ASBPE book Journalism That Matters, which details the reporting behind high-impact articles from B2B publications.

Speaking her mind
Deborah Howell, Ombudsman for the Washington Post, explains how she handles reader complaints.

e-Newsletters that work
Done right, e-newsletters are highly effective; done wrong, they're an irritant to your readers. Here's how to make yours one of the good ones.

Standing up for what's right
Most business-to-business publications report the news. A few become catalysts for change in the industries they cover.

Steal this magazine!
That's literally what people are doing with startup HSToday.The editors' goal: Make the content so good readers can't keep their hands off it.

Are interest groups blurring media lines?
D.C. ASBPE cohosts event examining ethical considerations arising from growth of interest-group media.

Meeting recap: e-Newsletters that work

You get one shot with an e-newsletter. If readers don't like the first one, they'll never open another.

by Christopher M. Wright

This is the view of John Butterfield, editorial director for Hanley Wood e-Media, who took part in a D.C. ASBPE panel presentation May 11, 2006, in Washington, D.C. The other panelists were Mike Frost, senior manager of online content and production, and Margaret Clark, manager of workplace law content, both from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Not all organizations approach e-newsletters the same way, Butterfield said. Some use them as an exclusive source of news that readers cannot obtain anywhere else. Others, like Hanley Wood, use them to drive traffic to websites or print publications. Butterfield has also seen editors take the middle route: alerting readers to news found elsewhere, accompanied by the editor's take on recent industry developments.

In Butterfield's case, Hanley Wood has several magazines and extensive websites with tens of thousands of pages and hundreds of constantly refreshing news items. His e-newsletters have no original content, serving instead to alert and link readers to top stories elsewhere in the manner of a newspaper "World Briefs" column. The emphasis is on news that readers can use to run their businesses more efficiently or profitably, or stay on top of what the competition is doing. Readers have the option to print a digest. Butterfield also includes some limited industry statistics and tells readers that Hanley Wood has a lot more industry research available for sale.

SHRM also endeavors to drive traffic to its website, Frost said. E-newsletters have replaced print versions and generate revenue from advertising. Frost sells 15 ad spots among eight different e-newsletters. These are fixed placements, not web-style cost-per-impression ads that disappear after a certain number of impressions is reached.

SHRM's e-newsletters continue to evolve, Clark said. She has retreated from running long articles and full abstracts, choosing instead to leverage other content. Items are more teaser-like now without being coy, the equivalent of a full lead paragraph. Because readers often print them out, SHRM's e-newsletters still contain nuggets of useful information, such as lists of requirements found in new laws. Her e-newsletters run about 1,500 words in length. She gets the most click-throughs to the website from a weekly news quiz, links to link pages (e.g., workplace smoking sites), and regulatory deadline calendars.

SHRM uses a web-based third-party newsletter solution (GetActive --; see also Sparklist --, a turnkey product covering subscriptions, uploading, and content management. Frost likes having a vendor look after technology issues so he can concentrate on content. He sends out about 1.5 million e-newsletters a month for which GetActive charges around $10,000.

Third-party solutions have other benefits as well. They are good for managing relationships with organization members and can replace listservs, one audience participant said. For Frost, GetActive has opened up new possibilities for advertising because it can segment readers by state or other descriptor. Organizations can send basically the same newsletter to different states leading with local news and carrying ads from local law firms, for example.

How do you know if your e-newsletter is working for you? To Butterfield, the most important metrics are the click-through rate and the open rate. He wants to know how many times readers click on links to go to articles and how many readers open the newsletter in the first place. The latter is more important to him because ads are not seen unless the newsletter is opened. Invisible one-pixel graphics call the server to send an image, enabling the system to count how many recipients open their newsletters. There is no way to tell whether recipients open a pure text newsletter, Butterfield said.

The renewal rate is important to SHRM. If readers request the newsletter, it is significant how many decide not to renew their subscriptions. Still other metrics are found in reports from the third-party vendor, including unsubscribes, forwards, and delivery failures in absolute numbers and percentage terms.

The panel also warned editors that the CAN-SPAM Act might apply to e-newsletters, especially ones that contain advertising.

Providing a meaningful point of contact to respond to delete requests is one requirement of the law. Frost is not set up to administer his list of over 200,000 names himself and relies on the third-party vendor to do so. He also advised reviewing your organization's privacy statement to determine whether anyone is being contacted in violation of your stated policies.

Butterfield advised editors to go beyond an auto-unsubscribe link in the text. The best approach is to have readers opt-in, not opt-out, he said. That way, nobody gets email unless they request it.

Other tips from the panel:
  • Spam filters are making it more difficult to get unsolicited newsletters through to potential readers.
  • Boost circulation by advertising the newsletter in other association publications, linking to a click-to-subscribe page from articles in the website, distributing flyers at conferences, and including a forward-to-a-friend link with a click-to-subscribe button in the newsletter itself .
  • Consider alternatives such as podcasts and RSS feeds.
  • Readers can get fatigued if too many departments send out a constant barrage of newsletters. Consider establishing a news desk or other coordinator, using the coordination features in the third-party solution, or sending departmental news alerts referring readers to an integrated upcoming newsletter for more detail.
Wright is a D.C. ASBPE Board Member and freelance writer specializing in business and technology topics for national and international clients.For more about Wright, visit

ASBPE DC Officers


Katy Tomasulo, Managing Editor
Pro Sales
Tools of the Trade
Hanley Wood Magazines
One Thomas Circle NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 736-3303
ktomasulo AT

Board Members

Robert Freedman, Senior Editor
Realtor Magazine
National Association of Realtors
500 New Jersey Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20001-2020
(202) 383-1012
Fax: (202) 383-1231
rfreedman AT

Jeanne W. LaBella, Vice President, Publishing
American Public Power Association
2301 M Street NW
Washington, DC 20037-1484
(202) 467-2948
jlabella AT

Steven Roll, Senior State Tax Law Editor
State Tax Report
BNA Tax Management Inc.
1801 S. Bell Street
Arlington, Virginia 22202
(703) 341-5926
b2beditor AT

Michelle Vanderhoff, Editor & Project Manager
American Physical Therapy Association
1111 N. Fairfax Street
Alexandria VA 22314-1488
(703) 706-3191
michellevanderhoff AT