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Trending: I hear people say they don’t read eNewsletters any more, but this past week has proved just the opposite

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I’ve been so busy this past year that when Schroder PR Account Manager Sarah Funderburk would ask me every few months how the firm was going to celebrate its 10th anniversary, I’d just shrug my shoulders, shake my head and gaze back into my computer.

Lucky for me, I’m not in charge of anniversaries.

One afternoon a few weeks ago, I was wondering why Sarah kept asking me questions about an upcoming presentation as I was trying to get out the office door. Suddenly, my wife and our firm’s editorial director Jan Schroder walked in while the other teammates grabbed champagne and cupcakes. And it wasn’t even Friday!

“We just couldn’t let you go any longer without celebrating our 10th anniversary,” Sarah said. I grabbed a camera and snapped a group photo in our Rhodes Hall office.

Top: Bailee, Jan, Chris and Cara; Bottom: Sarah and Intern Brittany

Top: Bailee, Jan, Chris and Cara; Bottom: Sarah and Intern Brittany

It reminded me of a 1999 anniversary when my young Atlanta Intown newspaper team celebrated its fifth anniversary party. Then it was Jan who arranged the surprise party, including a visit from my Mom, sister and cousin from Augusta. Good thing Jan didn’t wait for the newspaper’s 10th anniversary as I left and started this PR firm three years later. (Atlanta Intown celebrates its 20th next year.)

So last week, just before we pressed “send” on the latest issue of Clear Messages, our PR firm’s company eNewsletter that included our champagne and cupcake team photo, I suggested we change the subject line to reflect our milestone. “Clear Messages:” it read. “Schroder PR celebrates 10th anniversary.”

A few minutes after we sent that email to exactly 2,195 folks – many of whom I threw in at the last minute out of my address book and from whom I hadn’t heard anything in years – my own email inbox began to fill up. Before the week was out, I had received 157 emails with personal congratulatory notes. Neighbors stopped me on the street, callers mentioned it at the beginning of phone calls and prospects even brought it up in the middle of new sales presentations. My surprise party continued all week long!

We counsel clients each week about how personal to reveal themselves in their social media campaigns. Many are uncomfortable promoting personal milestones, preferring instead to focus on business trends and announcements.

At Schroder PR, we’re as guilty as other professionals of becoming so enamored of modern social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter that we sometimes neglect the simple beauty of an eNewsletter. We could have thrown a larger party, or mailed a printed announcement card, or even just posted a note on a social media page. But an eNewsletter allows colleagues to press “Reply” and send us a personal note and to relate a story of their own. And we can track who opens them and if they click through to our website.

I received emails from high school classmates, college roommates, clients, competitors, former bosses from my 1980s days at The Greenville News – even one from Wendy Binns, the current owner of Atlanta INtown, whom I hired out of college years ago.

When I was in the newspaper business, our firms could deliver a paper to your door, but we never knew if you opened it up and read anything in it. Our only data came when we did major market telephone surveys after the fact. Today, with eNewsletters, we can monitor and report specific numerical data in real time. For example, this edition of Clear Messages was opened by 590 recipients, for an open rate of 31%, which is 16% above the industry average, our electronic reporting tells us. We also know 93 of our recipients clicked through to read more at our firm’s website. I’m still waiting for a few particular friends to open it – you know who you are and, thanks to our email delivery monitoring, so do I!

In 2013, PR professionals are blessed with an ever-growing array of communication platforms through which to promote our clients and our causes. In the coming years, we’ll be helping clients use communication vehicles that are not even invented yet.

I’ll be curious to see how our team decides to promote itself for our 20th anniversary in 2023. Who could have guessed 10 years ago that a platform such as Twitter, which forces us to compress our comments into 140 characters, would be so popular today.

No matter what we end up doing, one element in our campaign will be the eNewsletter and it will still warm our hearts when you press reply and let us know in a few words – or characters – that you still care.

– Chris Schroder, Schroder PR

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