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How I Did It: E-Newsletters to Build Influence

Posted By Betsy Wiesendanger, Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Betsy Wiesendanger

When you talk about influence and capacity-building – two of the primary aims of the Global Business School Network – a modest e-newsletter can go a long way.

I work for the Chazen Institute of International Business at Columbia Business School. We’re an academic center within the school that, among other things, supports research with cross-border implications and makes that research useful to businesspeople. I was hired 2 ½ years ago to revamp the Chazen Web Journal, an e-newsletter produced by students that carried write-ups of on-campus speakers and student study tours.

We relaunched the newsletter as Chazen Global Insights, and made several important changes. We began treating the business school, and the whole Columbia campus, as our "beat,” reporting on scholarly work and conferences that might be of interest to our readers. (Example: a conference on sovereign wealth funds with Al Gore as a keynote speaker.) Second, we redefined our audience. Previously, the newsletter was sent to people who had attended our programs, and to students and faculty. As part of the relaunch, we got a lot more aggressive about adding to our list. A work-study student compiled e-mail addresses of policy makers and researchers at think tanks and other universities across the world; a sample newsletter along with a personal note from our institute director went to each of these addresses. Very few of the recipients opted out. And finally, we hired seasoned journalists to write the articles, which made the newsletter read more like a sophisticated news source.

Now, two years later, our metrics tell the story. We have a list of 23,000 subscribers, and have maintained the same open and click-through rates, which translates into a lot more people reading our articles.

But perhaps more importantly, the newsletter has become the cornerstone of a coordinated communications strategy. We’re now customizing our content to suit specific audiences. For example, at an upcoming on-campus China business conference, I’ll assemble a special print edition containing our most popular China-related stories to distribute to attendees. And, to maximize the publicity value of a recent panel discussion we sponsored, I’m producing an eight-page edited transcript in both hard copy and PDF. The transcript will make a great handout for, for example, alumnae attending our upcoming reunion weekend.

E-newsletters are labor-intensive to produce, to be sure. But they can be an effective way to make your influence felt.

I invite you to take a look at some our stories; they’re archived at http://www4.gsb.columbia.edu/chazen/globalinsights. I hope this sparks some ideas.

 A sample of the newsletter is available for download below.

 

Guest Blogger Betsy Wiesendanger is the Editor and Communications Manager at The Chazen Institute of International Business at Columbia Business School, New York, NY.

 

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