Melania Lili Kárpáti, the Theatre's Programme Manager, is trying to keep in touch with this community in the online space, and she shares her experiences of using MailChimp to send newsletters.

The above brief summary of MU Theatre's activities shows that it is very diverse in both content and target group, with plenty to communicate about itself. As a theatre, a community and educational workshop, they are always launching new events, collaborations and projects, which you can join on a continuous basis. They also have a presence on social media platforms, but a monthly newsletter makes it easier for them to bring together all the priority news that their target group is more likely to be interested in. The newsletter acts as a kind of summary, a testimonial, which they can deliver more directly to their audience.

So a newsletter sender was needed...

The role of the newsletter in MU life: community building and exclusive offers

At MU, it has been noticed that there is an enthusiastic "hard core" of people who turn up at various events, participate in projects, whether as volunteers or partners, and who are the ones who subscribe to the newsletter as the most committed members of the community. Although they reach out to the Theatre through their other platforms, it is also through the newsletter that they express their support and their connection to MU and their community. So, although the newsletter is not the most popular and most visited communication platform - it is, in order, Facebook, followed by Instagram and then the website - it is a very important platform for the MU's core audience/community.

Therefore, MU's communication plan now looks to use the newsletter to strengthen their supporter base: information is published here first in chronological order, so subscribers are the first to know about a programme or opportunity that will only appear later on their other platforms. In terms of content, the newsletter can include monthly programme recommendations, lecture and programme recommendations (which allows subscribers to get tickets earlier, for example), distribution of calls for internships/volunteering/community projects, lectures. Sometimes they also share forms for information gathering, community building, surveys, or even a selection of thematic material, their own articles and interviews with artists.

What is the free version of MailChimp good for?

The MU Theatre currently has 210 newsletter subscribers - quite a large number for a regular audience, but the number of recipients is still well within the free service range when using MailChimp. As the most engaged are the current target group for the newsletter, such a pool is growing more slowly - so the recipient limit associated with the free version of the service may be sufficient for a while yet. This is also true as the Theatre currently sometimes sends up to 2 emails to the full list of recipients - they have not yet had to change categories with the provider.

MailChimp distinguishes between packages based on the number of contacts and the amount of mail sent. There is a free plan and three types of paid plans that work with a monthly subscription. The bigger (and more expensive) the package, the more extra services you can get. In March 2023, the popular operator made a major change to its pricing structure, which we wrote about here, but of course it's always worth checking the current terms and conditions on the operator's website.

Even the free version is, in any case, user-friendly, easy to use and does not require much skill - but it has all the advantages of a newsletter sender over spamming from gmail. (If you want to know why you shouldn't send large volumes of email from gmail, read our article.) In MU's words, it's "ideal for those looking for a basic, entry-level newsletter sending platform." And in case of stuckness, they have found a solution in various YouTube videos, given that MailChimp is one of the best known mailing platforms with a lot of free videos available online. In fact, in the free version, only one user can have administrator access - in practice, this means that a single email address can be used to edit and send out an organisation's newsletter.

Automatic links - such as connecting a payment interface or a petition module, or perhaps generating a Facebook lead - are also not included in MU's newsletter for the time being, but of course the newsletter template can include buttons with linkable captions.

MU's external links usually lead to their social media page, their website or the Interticket ticketing platform, or to some extra content (e.g. video, music). The only disadvantage is that these external links require special attention in the newsletter, as it is not always clear that there is a link behind the content, so at the user level it is not guaranteed that the reader will click on the image/title.

Database maintenance

The Theatre, as mentioned above, sends out a maximum of two newsletters per month to its mailing list of 210 recipients, as is the current practice, and so once or twice a month, usually before sending the newsletter, the database is checked and spam subscribers are manually deleted. The system does not fully filter, usually 20 unsubscriptions per month have to be manually performed due to non-existent or incorrect email addresses. For the MU, this is a manageable amount of extra work for the current list of recipients, but for a list of 1000 or more, it would become quite problematic...

But it is safe to say that even if you use a free newsletter sender, you will be notified if your mail bounces or goes to spam, so you can control the updating of your database. The user interface is easy to use with the popular drag and drop method, and you can also try a free version for a not very large list of recipients. And the built-in templates help you give your content a more exciting look than a regular email, and you can also add in your organisational branding.

We also encourage you to use MU Theatre's experience to find the right package for your organisational communications for your future newsletters!

To read the rest of the article series with first-hand experiences, check them out below!

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