My kids tease me because I have the habit of falling into using exclamation points at the end of my sentences. It started when I was managing social media for a local non-profit organization. I was genuinely excited each week as I sat down to draft posts. I loved our audience. I loved our mission. And I loved our activities. But I'm not a total goober, I do try to curtail my use of exclamation points in business communications. At the same time my texts and snapchats are full of them.
I was thinking about this habit when I was working on a client's email newsletter campaign. I recently set them up with several pieces of artwork and a template to follow for a series of emails related to an upcoming event. I created the first email as an example of style (that email by the way had over 49% open rate). The team sent out their first few emails but they were a mess. I thought my guidelines were clear (keep the headlines short, one message per email, flush left text, upper and lower case text, no italic or boldface, two clear font choices, limited colors, etc.) but they weren't clear enough. (Or, more realistically, they were focused on other things and didn't stop and take time to think about what they were doing.)
My client jokingly called me asking "What happened to the simple graphics and emails you developed?" Together we came up with a plan. Her team would develop the content for the emails and establish a send date and time. When they had the content nailed down they would notify me and I would refine the email in time for them to release it on schedule.
The first newsletter I stepped back in on was no exception to what I had seen. It had two lines of copy before (before!) the header graphic. One line was typed in large all capital letters. One line was in boldface type with a hyper link. A three line headline partially set in italic type competed for attention with the graphic and call to action. And two additional calls to action had been added to the text. And everywhere (everywhere!) there were exclamation points.
This feels very obvious to me but the process of creating any communication piece is about establishing a visual hierarchy. A visual hierarchy arranges elements in a way that implies importance and communicates a message. It is about making intentional decisions that direct your audience to look at and what you want them to and lead them to take action.
We had a good starting point. My client's established media schedule outlined the main message for each email. And the call to action for all of the newsletters is the same—to get the recipient to register for the event. And the graphics were designed. All I had to do was go in and make sure that every line of copy, every link, every piece of artwork supported the email's message and call to action.
I went to work on the newsletter. I stripped away the italic, boldface, capitalized and colored type. I reset the long headline in smaller type. I reworded the copy to match our supporting print pieces. (See my next post regarding message consistency.) And slowly a professional newsletter emerged again. The message and intent was the same but now it communicated that message clearly.
The old maxim "Keep it simple stupid" is a good beginning. This isn't rocket science.
Keep it simple. Keep it focused. And ask your audience to take action. You've got this!