By Deanna Devey
Keeping your association’s electronic newsletter out of virtual trash bins is a constant challenge. Eager to rise above the din of cramped inboxes, the Utah Association of Realtors® recently focused on improving the quality of our weekly e-newsletter’s content. We started by shifting away from association-centric news and focused instead on providing Realtors® with local real estate stories, information, and tips.
With articles on common legal questions, mortgage rates, and local economic news, the new content of the UAR’s weekly newsletter, UAR Midweek, provides quality information that benefits Realtors® everyday business. As one member frankly put it, “No fluff, just facts!”
Judging from positive member feedback, an increase in member requests for permission to reprint articles, and a decline in opt-out requests, UAR’s “might-read” e-newsletter has become a “must-read.” Members are also becoming much more actively engaged with the newsletter. For instance, we’ve seen higher participation in articles that call for member response, and brokers have been using the “Legal Hotline Question of the Week” as a teaching tool in their sales meetings.
Sent to about 15,000 Realtor® members every week, each issue of UAR Midweek features five or six mini-articles as well as a calendar and links to various resources on the UAR Web site. Although the newsletter’s purpose is to reinforce what the UAR does as an association, the key to our success has been providing timely news on local issues that affect Realtors®, in addition to promoting our events and services.
So where do the stories come from? As the association’s communications director, I receive press releases from various real estate-related companies and organizations. Reports from Freddie Mac, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, Realty Trac, and the Federal Reserve often contain state- or city-specific data that can easily be localized. Relationships with local organizations are another great source for story ideas. For example, the Utah Trust Lands Administration often provides beneficial information about land auctions where Utah brokers can receive a 3 percent finder’s fees as well as information about development opportunities. We hope eventually to add more localized articles, such as Division of Real Estate news, Utah legislative briefs, and updates on state court decisions that affect Realtors®.
Not only has our e-mail newsletter helped us communicate better with members, it has also provided a revenue source for the association. Each issue features a prominent advertisement from a sponsor. The ads are sold as part of various convention sponsorship packages, and companies on a waiting list buy any extra space for $200 for four issues. Because the advertising is greatly limited, the guaranteed Midweek ads increase the value of the convention sponsorships.
When e-mail advertising first became feasible for us, we were concerned that our members would be upset because association e-mails had never contained advertisements. Now that advertising has been part of the newsletter for several years, there have been no objections. I attribute the positive member response to the fact that we have not allowed advertising to overwhelm the newsletter.
Although some associations might need to use ad revenues to support the cost of producing and distributing their newsletter, the costs associated with Midweek are nominal.
Each week the newsletter is produced in-house using an HTML template that initially was created using Adobe GoLive.
This HTML newsletter has provided the Utah Association of Realtors® with a valuable communications tool and has generated a number of loyal readers as well as advertising revenue. Our key to success has been using a clean, professional HTML format and including timely content that addresses our members’ self-interests. We hope that other associations will find information about this highly replicable model useful. To view a few editions of our e-newsletter, visit the Realtor® Association Resource Exchange at REALTOR.org /RARE.
Deanna Devey is the communications director of the Utah Association of Realtors®. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 800-594-8933.