Are you subscribed to a regular or daily roundup email of some kind? Office Snapshots has been a favorite of mine since before we moved offices, for example.
One of our clients, YRC Worldwide, is a North American authority on shipping and is in the position to lead awareness of news coverage and recent industry developments. They started a daily news briefing email and it took off. The only problem was that the emails were cumbersome to build.
Extending the marketing stack with a daily roundup email
This blog post is about managing and distributing content for a (mostly email) newsfeed. It’s also about extending the marketing stack and enabling the parts of an organization where marketing isn’t the only purpose, with the hopes of engaging with audiences who don’t think of the interaction as marketing. And, because it’s written by me, this blog post will dive into the workflow and purpose of each technical component, and you’ll get another look at how to work with the emfluence Marketing Platform API.
But first, some back story. Before we built this system, a member of our client YRCW team was manually building one or several News Bulletin emails every day. The emails were easily scannable roundups of goings-on within the shipping industry. They were quick snapshots, distributed among various audiences each day. But though they were quick to read, the emails were a process to create. It would involve compiling the content into a personal index, ensuring that no content was re-used across multiple days per audience, formatting the content, creating the email with the right recipients and other details, ensuring that the content inserted right into the email, proofing and refining the formatting after testing, and then finally deploying. As you can imagine, it was a complex process and with at least one going out each day, you wouldn’t blame someone for making the occasional categorization or formatting mistake. Forget about inserting share links for each individual item.
The answer was to use a real content management system and automate the building of the emails so that a human could focus on quality content (and move on to other important work each day). So we built a solution into YRCW’s website CMS and used the emfluence Marking Platform API for distribution.
Ready to see how it works? Here we go!
Central to this solution is web-based content. And the unit of content isn’t actually an email, it’s an item in the roundup. YRCW’s website CMS happens to be WordPress, which makes this kind of content management a snap. The CMS aspect is a new content type with item title, short summary, source attribution, categorization and audience assignment. Importantly, the audience assignment is a data structure that includes emfluence Marketing Platform list ID – but the human who manages content only needs to know the names of the audiences. As an added bonus of using WordPress, we have an RSS feed of the content for YRCW’s internal team.
PUBLISH IN AGGREGATE
As the content is being added to the CMS, the content manager is able to jump back and forward to an aggregate preview page in the WordPress admin area. The preview page uses the same HTML templating that will be used for the emails. We’re using a well-tested set of coded templates to uniformly transform the content into inbox-ready HTML. We’re adding email-safe social share links for each item. And we’re selecting some CTAs to display at intervals throughout the email.
The preview page automatically pulls in items marked with today’s date, which means that items can be outlined and dated a few days ahead. The aggregated preview makes it easy to see if there’s too much or too little content for the entire day’s roundup, and some automated validation will point out any eventual issues.
DISTRIBUTE WITH A BUTTON
When the emails for all audiences look right, the content manager can deploy all the emails with a single button click. Behind the scenes, this is a multi-step process:
- First, we check that emails haven’t already been scheduled for today. It would be awkward if emails were sent repeatedly for whatever reason!
- Next, we copy a draft email that we keep setup in the platform. The draft has some details already selected, like sender name and design template. We inject our templated content into the body slot of the email, set the recipient list ID, and save as a new email that’s ready to send.
- Then we schedule the send for an hour out. We could send it immediately, but we find it useful to complete the next step first.
- Lastly, we send full immediate proofs to a few key stakeholders.
- I’m a fan of audit trails, so just for reference we send a short summary email to stakeholders (including our own team) that identifies which emails were scheduled. If there are any broken steps in the process and emails cannot not be distributed, we note where and why. If the emfluence Marketing Platform API returns error messages, we use those in the email. Recipients of the audit emails are able to establish inbox rules based on subject line, so that only error messages stay in their inbox while the rest of the audit trail is easily accessible in a folder somewhere else.
Some platform-side aspects of this solution have not been discussed here. Like any email marketing campaign, there must be a way to subscribe and unsubscribe. YRCW already had those features of the emfluence Marketing Platform customized, so there was no new work needed for this project. The same applied to domain verification. The draft email that we copy for each deployment was fairly quick to set up, though it’s worth remembering that the draft must remain as-is for as long as we want this solution to work.
One of the really nice things about distributing through a marketing automation platform like emfluence’s is that you’ve got great engagement reporting. An important aspect of this is that we are using (audience) sending lists that are specific to this solution. So we can filter reporting by sending list to get metrics pretty easily.
Want to build a marketing integration like this yourself or need help customizing a daily roundup email? Contact me and I can provide code samples!