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How to start a conversation with your readers

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Hi there,
I hope you’re having a great week! Today, I wanted to zoom in on something at the core of newsletter writing: having conversations. 
Email can spark a genuine back and forth that is unique in its intimacy and positivity. And the more I speak to creators, the more apparent it becomes just how much they appreciate this dynamic.
There are several reasons for this, and we’re seeing more and more examples of writers being really innovative in how they’re creating the space for these conversations. I hope this issue will leave you with some fun ideas and inspiration, as well as a clear understanding of why it’s so great to nurture these exchanges in the first place. 
Remind me, why is this important?
Can do! There are so many benefits to speaking one-on-one with your readers. Time for a list:
  • Improve your newsletter. One of the biggest factors that contributes to being a success with email is knowing what value you bring to your readers. And the best way to know what they want out of your newsletter is to actually talk to them about it. What do they want more of? What do they want less of? Find out! 
  • Make people feel at home. Not everybody will respond to your outreach attempts. So it’s important to appreciate the people who do. When a writer takes the time to respond and engage with their readers, they’ll feel heard and included, and are more likely to come back to your newsletter for the next issue. Of course, that’s good for engagement metrics, but it’s also important for cultivating a sense of community around your work. 
  • Grow your list. The extra benefit of engaging your community members is that they’ll be more likely to talk about your newsletter elsewhere, bringing in new potential readers and spreading the word. 
  • Source knowledge and ideas for future issues. Chances are you’ll have readers who know things about your subject area that you don’t. Maybe they’re from a different geographical location than you, or maybe they’re thinking about the topic from a different angle. Diversity of experience enriches and improves all things — including newsletters. And you might just come up with a new topic idea while you’re in the middle of a conversation with a reader. This happens to me pretty much every week. 
Ok, enough convincing, now for some examples of people doing this in interesting ways.
In a stroke of serendipity, I received an email in my inbox last week from journalist Colleen Hagerty. She had recently subscribed to this newsletter and replied to my welcome email, which was a great opportunity for me to dive into her newsletter, which she recently moved over to Revue. And I found some great stuff.
My World’s On Fire works both as an excellent accompaniment to Colleen’s disaster reporting, and as a form of outreach to her community — from readers to journalists to subject-matter experts. 
Something this newsletter does particularly well is foster a feedback loop with Twitter. Colleen posts a question on her timeline (which she can then display in the newsletter itself), and received replies, which she can also discuss and showcase in the newsletter too:
Colleen Hagerty
Calling all fire, hurricane & disaster experts! I want to do a newsletter addressing misconceptions you often see in coverage/conversations around these events as we head into high seasons. If any come to mind, my DMs are open!
Kevin Blanchard // DRR Dynamics
WOW, ok... so many:

- #NoNaturalDisasters obvs.
- Gender isn't just about women. 'Masculine' stereotypes = additional vulnerabilities for men & boys.
- 1 in 100 yr event doesn't mean that.
- 'Community resilience' as a term is v. problematic

OK, needs to be multiple tweets
That’s a fantastic use of the Tweet card feature in Revue. But the part that really caught my attention was the callout to the audience to fill in a short survey in order to join a virtual movie club with others in this community:
I love this as an innovative way not only to spark conversation with readers, but between readers as well. A movie club also encourages recurring engagement rather than a one-off reply. Hats off to Colleen for this great idea, and I’m very much looking forward to hearing how it plays out!
I had the privilege of speaking with Caroline Criado Perez last week about her newsletter Invisible Women (if you missed the interview, you can find it here). She spoke wonderfully about her lovely, engaged readers, and focused on how they afforded her a safe space to talk without fear of hostility.
Caroline’s work and activism focuses on all the ways our world is built for men, and the myriad repercussions of that. Her newsletter audience is full of supportive people who have first-hand experience of gender inequality, and who share their stories with Caroline. Here’s an excerpt from her most recent issue:
The responses I get after every edition are always so wonderful. So many of you so kindly get in touch just to tell me how much you enjoy the newsletter and obviously these emails always make my day. Others get in touch to share traumas they have experienced that relate to something I have written about that week, and knowing the newsletter has made you feel less alone, or has made you realise that what happened to you wasn’t your fault, never fails to humble me. Still others get in touch to share their expertise on a topic, or to share examples of gender data gaps they have come across, or to share papers and articles they think I will find interesting – which I always do!
In fact, Caroline was getting so much feedback that she realized her newsletter isn’t just a community — it’s a movement. And she wanted to create more ways for her readers to speak to one another as well as to make it easer for them to communicate directly with her. This week, she announced a paid membership to her newsletter which will help support her work, and foster the movement that she started:
This community-building will take various forms, from twitter spaces, to occasional book reviews (and maybe discussions!), to extra monthly newsletter round-ups, along with opportunities to ask me questions and advice. 
I love the idea of building something with a newsletter audience, rather than just for them — and Caroline has absolutely hit the sweet spot.
I feel like I come back to the Brew a lot in this newsletter, but they make a lot of things look awfully easy, and I often feel it’s worth breaking down the thought that goes into particular features in case it’s useful to you.
The recently-launched Sunday Edition newsletter has been experimenting with reader-engagement ideas. Something that’s caught my eye these last few weeks is a spot where readers can send in their questions about what work-life will look like in 2021, and Morning Brew’s Head of People Ops Kate Noel answers.
The format itself is not new — agony aunt-type features have been running in publications literally for centuries — but newsletters offer a great format for streamlining the idea:
Readers can click the hyperlink on ’reader-submitted questions’ to find a simple survey powered by Typeform (but you could also use Google Forms for this). They can type in their question and their name, then send their response to the Morning Brew team. I love that the form is integrated seamlessly into the feature itself within the newsletter, so you can open a new tab to fill it in then get right back to reading.
Then there’s a deceptively obvious thing to point out: this provides extra value to readers who engage with the newsletter by giving them a direct line to a staff member, and an answer to a question that’s been eating them up. It’s a wonderful cycle of mutual benefits.
Talk to me
As ever, the above examples are only a few ideas for audience outreach. If you’ve seen another great example of audience engagement recently, or if you’re cooking up a fun idea for community engagement yourself, I’d love to hear about it. 
And if you leave this issue with one takeaway, I want it to be this: reply to your readers. It’s always worth taking the time, and the benefits are huge. 
Now, onto updates.
Updates from Revue this week
We’re extremely excited to welcome Eric Holthaus, meteorologist and climate journalist, to Revue. Today marks the launch of his new network of local weather services, and it’s got a nifty name: Tomorrow.
Want to know what the weather will be like in your city tomorrow? Check Tomorrow — and get a forecast from esteemed meteorologists working in your area, along with a news story, a poem, a meme, a short video, or a call to action.
Sara Fischer shared the news for Axios:
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Have a great week,
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Anna from Twitter
Anna from Twitter @revue

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