Email headaches? Try automation.

6 minute read

Upland Admin

How much time do you spend on work email each day?

The average person’s answer to that question is 4.1 hours each day. Of course, if your actual job is to send email, this number is probably a bit higher.

After all, you’re not just agonizing over the right way to reply to that email. People tasked with sending daily email newsletters must tackle content curation, newsletter assembly, email deployment, testing, optimization, reporting, AND replying to awkward emails.

The time it takes to manually assemble newsletters is just one of the many email headaches publishers face. Fortunately, it’s also one of the many pains that can be soothed with a good ol’ heaping pile of email automation. We’ve identified some of the toughest challenges posed by newsletters, along with ways that email automation can help.

Newsletter content curation is tedious.

Newsletters are the best tool digital publishers have for connecting audiences with content directly. Publishers use email to recommend content audiences might be interested in already, or even to pique their interest in content they might have never thought to look for. Either way, the time it takes to gather that content could be spent better elsewhere.

Automated content curation can return time to your day by getting your email content together for you. If you have an ESP that integrates with your CMS, you can tag content for easy inclusion (or exclusion) in your newsletters. That way, newsletter editors can curate content without having to leave the comfort of WordPress, Drupal, or whatever CMS you use.

Manual newsletter assembly leads to errors.

Still, for many people, the headache of email content curation pales in comparison to the frustration of putting that content in the email.

If you’re running into issues assembling your newsletters, you’re not alone:

“There’s so much on the production side where things seemingly mysteriously go wrong — anything from a template breaking so people can’t read the emails on their phones, a stray quote that breaks it, an image that’s the wrong size, links that have been changed…”

The surgical, Jenga-like process is enough to make the most seasoned email developer pull their hair out, let alone the journalists often forced to assemble their own newsletters. From Digiday:

“‘Here we are as journalists, not primarily equipped to handle coding,’ said Andrew Jack, head of curated content at the FT. ‘We’re much more accustomed to using words. So you might be cutting and pasting from a document, and suddenly it’s a horrible train crash with all sorts of fonts and colors.’”

Manually assembling email requires knowledge of email’s eccentricities, as well as workarounds for its limitations. Email automation allows you to populate content automatically (whether through RSS feeds or direct CMS integration) into premade templates, reducing the chance of formatting errors for emailers of all skill levels.

After all, even email experts can make mistakes, especially if you’re going back and forth checking your email for 4.1 hours every day.

The newsletter editorial workflow can be confusing.

Newsletters are in, which means a publisher’s newsletter editor is the new important person in the room. But just who is this person? Or people?

For some publishers, newsletter editorial roles are clearly defined. For others, the rise of newsletters have led to a rise in organizational challenges. Who edits? Who has final say? What’s the process for getting there in the first place? How do you perform your role in the newsletter process without stepping on each other?

Email automation can clear some of this confusion too. If you set up automated newsletter assembly, you can also automate your newsletter approval and deployment process as well. With PostUp’s customizable editorial workflow, publishers can create an approval process that best fits their business, email team, and responsibilities. You can read more about it in our new automation solution guide for publishers.

Newsletter optimization is time-consuming and tricky.

At the core of an optimized email program is consistent email testing. A well-executed A/B test can give you the audience insights necessary to improve on the next email you send, or in some cases, the email you’re currently sending.

Some ESPs allow you to A/B test newsletter variables with a small portion of your list, then send the winning version to the remainder of your list. For instance, you could test two subject lines, each with 10 percent of your list, then send the winning version to the other 80 percent of your email audience. That way, your emails achieve peak performance.

Of course, you don’t always have time to conduct tests. And for publishers, time is especially precious; by the time you can test content, you’ve already got more content to send.

With automated email testing, you can test different versions of your email with a segment of your list, then sit back as your ESP deploys the winning version automatically. PostUp’s automated newsletter optimization even allows you to maximize content performance by A/B testing your lead article, then sending out the most engaging piece of content.

Increased newsletter engagement is nice, but if you offer paid subscriptions or other premium products, ultimately your goal is to convert those engaged audiences into paying audiences. That can create another headache.

Your email isn’t driving as many conversions as you would hope.

Getting the email address is critical to the conversion process. The email address gives you a direct connection to your audience, while email newsletters nurture that audience by connecting them with your content. But just how do you bring home more conversions?

It’s become a common refrain: for publishers to succeed, they must start thinking like marketers. And there’s no better channel for driving ROI than email marketing. Sure, newsletter subscribers tend to be more likely to convert into paying subscribers, but you can nudge even more subscribers over the line with targeted marketing emails.

Fortunately, you can automate those kinds of emails too. By sending automated welcome messaging, re-engagement email campaigns, and other drip campaigns, you can engage in full lifecycle marketing and get the most out of your direct connection to the audience.

There isn’t enough time in the day to use email to its full potential.

The largest digital publishers send dozens of email newsletters, each newsletter an additional chance to engage their audience. With automation, even publishers with leaner teams can broaden their newsletter offerings.

Brands like Apartment Therapy media have used automation to take their newsletter assembly time down from an hour to just 5 minutes. After you automate your first newsletter, you can repeat the process to send additional newsletters with almost zero additional effort.

It’s a win-win: you can save time AND scale your newsletter program. That means more time for you to work on content, analysis, and replying to those awkward work emails.

Experiencing any of the symptoms on this list? Skip the aspirin and get our latest Automation Solution Guide for Publishers to see if automation is right for you.