The Icon Newsletter brings readers a monthly fix of conservation, entertaining and educating with the latest conservation feature stories, tips and more.
What was the goal?
Icon is always looking to introduce more people to conservation. Engagement has been an important strand of Icon’s 2017-2022 Strategy, which sets out Icon’s ambition to diversify those participating in conservation and expand our membership base.
In March 2020, the Icon Board of Trustees translated this strand into a tangible action: to launch a newsletter to introduce new audiences to the world of conservation through feature stories, conservation tips and more. This was to specifically target external audiences and complement, rather than replace, the already established Iconnect newsletter that Icon members benefit from.
What did we do?
Icon’s Communications Team immediately set about brainstorming ideas for the new product, discussing the desired format, style, tone of voice as well as the practical set up required for the launch.
Mailchimp emerged as the natural platform to manage and develop the newsletter due to its easy-to-use interface, free subscription and customisable templates. After a few rounds of development, we settled on a simple and modern style with Icon’s recognisable red and orange branding. We set up a sign-up page on our website, making it easy for people to opt in to receiving our mail.
Then came the fun part – sourcing content! As we know very well at Icon, there’s so much going on in the world of conservation, it’s sometimes hard to keep up! Content was therefore not a problem. In fact, we had more stories – projects from our members, things we’d heard or read, events to promote, updates from Icon staff – than we could share in our first issue.
The trickiest part was finding a suitable name for the newsletter. We did a brief stint under the name Conservation Conversations before settling on the more informative, does-what-it-says-on-the-tin title ‘The Icon Newsletter.’
As we know very well at Icon, there’s so much going on in the world of conservation, it’s sometimes hard to keep up!
What was the outcome?
The Icon Newsletter was launched in August. Our inaugural edition ‘Spread news, not germs’ focused on health and hygiene reflecting the big story of 2020 – Coronavirus.
To date we’ve sent out 7 issues, with topics ranging from botanical specimens to snow sledges through to the Sutton Hoo helmet. Each monthly issue includes
- Exclusive access to conservation and restoration projects
- Advice and tips from our expert conservators on how to look after your own possessions
- Event listings so you never miss out on the hottest talks and workshops in conservation
- Updates on what we’ve been reading to help you bring an end to endless scrolling
- And of course - unique offers and discounts
A regular feature of the newsletter is the conservation project of the month, which highlights the fascinating work of Icon Accredited members. So far we’ve highlighted the projects of Ian Watson ACR, Victoria Purewal ACR, Pieta Greaves ACR, Dr Alison Gilchrist ACR and Tessa Jackson ACR. We continue to welcome contributions from our ACR members to spotlight in a future issue. Email us with your suggestions!
Benchmarking our success is also import, as is learning what works in terms of catching the interest or our readers. We therefore make use of the analytics functions in Mailchimp and Google Analtyics.
Our subscribers have grown steadily from 100 for our first edition to 424 for our current and latest (Feb 2021). Analytics tell us that our newsletter is performing better than similar newsletters on average; we’re delighted by our open rate which regularly exceeds well over 50% (compared to an average peer performance of 28%). Our readers come largely from the UK, Europe and the US but even from as far afield as New Zealand.
What did we learn?
While it may seem like a simple process, launching a newsletter involves many different activities and varied skillsets, including:
- Creativity - designing the visual look of the newsletter and choosing catchy images and graphics.
- Organisation - keeping track of everything we want to include in next month’s issue.
- Communications – it’s not a business email so we went for a fun and informal tone of voice.
- Content development – we want to be the one newsletter you don’t delete without reading!
The project offered us the chance to draw on the expertise of everyone in the Communications Team which ultimately made the process a rewarding experience. We hope the fun and enjoyment that goes into each issue is reflected in the final product – it really is one of the best things we get to write here at Icon!
We hope the fun and enjoyment that goes into each issue is reflected in the final product – it really is one of the best things we get to write here at Icon!
Following the launch of our new website and membership database, we have inhouse capability to develop the look and feel of our newsletter even further. While Mailchimp has served us well as a platform, we’ll be transitioning to an internal system for developing and distributing future issues.
We’re always looking to improve the content of our newsletter too and we welcome readers’ ideas.