How to send email newsletters most easily?
July 8, 2011 7:12 AM   Subscribe

What's the easiest way to create and send an email newsletter that includes links to an archived version of the same newsletter? Difficulty: no HTML skills and the email-marketing service I'm using doesn't support exporting pdfs.

OK, here's what I want to do. Please help a not-too-tech-savvy gal figure out the best way to make it happen!

I want to create a simple email newsletter that goes out to a list of about ~150-175 or so people every month. I would like the newsletter that people receive in their email to be short, with teaser paragraphs about each story followed by "click here for more." Clicking on the link would take readers to the full-length version of the newsletter or story on my organization's website. We'd also like to have past issues of the newsletter posted there.

Thanks to this thread (and another related one I can't find right now), I settled on using icontact for this project. But now I'm running into several problems: most importantly, they don't provide a way to export the content you create with them as a pdf., and they don't allow you to upload newsletters to their service that have been created in an external program like Publisher.

I want to use a email-marketing service rather than just sending out the newsletters from Outlook for two reasons: one, I think my recipient list is too big for Outlook to handle it as a distribution list, and two, I don't want to deal with subscribe/unsubscribe requests.

I have a budget of zero dollars for this, so paid services are out. Also, my boss (this is all for work) will be taking over newsletter duties when I leave and wants the easiest solution possible. Neither one of us has any HTML ability.

Please help! There must be a good solution, but I keep getting flummoxed.

Many many thanks....
posted by aka burlap to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: One way that comes to mind is to set up a blog. Post the full content there--either put each article in its own blog entry, or each newsletter, and link to the blog in your e-mail blast. Obviously you'll need to structure your e-mail messages differently depending on whether each article gets its own entry or each newsletter.

You can set up a free blog easily at, or elsewhere. And you can install a self-hosted blog on your company's website, probably without too much trouble.

This is not the easy one-step "write the newsletter, click a button, and have it go out to all the places it should wind up automagically" scenario. I'm sure that is possible, but perhaps not for free and (from what I can tell) not with icontact.
posted by adamrice at 7:33 AM on July 8, 2011

Best answer: Have you checked out MailChimp? It has an RSS feed of your campaigns, and you could link to that on your website. Then if you click on any of the entries in the RSS, it takes you to the newsletter you've clicked on.

MailChimp is pretty much dead easy to use, so I'd set up a free account and poke around if you've not already. The other "usual suspect" as you've seen is Constant Contact, but I've used both and prefer Mail Chimp.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:43 AM on July 8, 2011

Response by poster: Oh, I should add--we already have a large website, and would like to post the old/current newsletters there. There's a content management system that allows you to post in html or in a more user-friendly interface, and allows you to upload documents.

Don't think there's anyone who will be able to devote time to updating a blog regularly, but good idea.

Yeah, originally I started with MailChimp, but the boss nixed it b/c he didn't want the silly name to be attached to our stuff. It's a conservative environment here. :-) I don't think you can take the MailChimp branding off if you're on a free account.

Thanks for the suggestions, guys! Keep em coming!
posted by aka burlap at 7:47 AM on July 8, 2011

So, the articles exist (or will exist) on your existing website? Is there any reason you can't copy each of your teaser paragraphs for each story, make them one individual story on your website, and let that be a copy of the newsletter? Then you could just add links to those posts as the previous newsletter.

I'm afraid you're not going to find the good solution you're looking for with the budget you're working with. Honestly, if this is marketing and it's turning into actual sales, having a $0 budget is sort of counterproductive. If it's not turning into sales, why bother?
posted by ndfine at 7:47 AM on July 8, 2011

Response by poster: It's a higher ed organization, not a company, so we don't really traffic in "sales" per se (at least, not in my corner of things).
posted by aka burlap at 7:51 AM on July 8, 2011

Best answer: CampaignMonitor has a gallery of free HTML email templates. You could use them to send emails to up to 500 subscribers for $15/month, or use their templates someplace else.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:16 PM on July 8, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, all. In case anyone else is trying to do something similar, here's what we ended up doing:

1. Make full-length version of newsletter using user-friendly (i.e., you don't have to create any code directly) templates in icontact (free for fewer than 500 subscribers)
2. Switch to HTML view in icontact to see the automatically-created code
3. Copy/paste that HTML code into Notepad, save it with a .pdf extension, then use Acrobat to open the Notepad file and convert it to a PDF file
4. upload the PDF of the long-version newsletter onto our website
5. Go back to icontact, make a short, teaser-only version of the newsletter.
6. Insert "click here to read more" links that point people to the long version on our website
7. Send out the short version to subscribers via icontact.

Whew. Still working out some small kinks, but that pretty much seems to work. Thanks everyone for your suggestions!
posted by aka burlap at 2:20 PM on July 9, 2011

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