AI Email Render-ation Sensation: How rasa.io Makes Emails Look Great - Part II

AI email render-ation sensation, part II

Email can be tricky. The emails you create that look fabulous in your email generation software might not always translate when they are actually delivered. Why is that? The answer is that there are countless email platforms and countless devices, and between those two factors, the combinations are endless.

In the first part of our series we explored coding superior email designs that will render properly, and look good, across all email clients and devices. In this part of our series we will explore how we treat images and then conclude with a very important part of email design: testing.

Images in rasa.io emails - Imgix

Careful consideration of email image treatment is another important part of making our emails look great here at rasa.io. One of the tools we use is an image processing service called Imgix, which helps us format and crop images inside of our newsbriefs.  

As we gather news articles for our newsbriefs, we are storing the images in an Amazon S3 bucket (cloud storage) and then giving Imgix access to that bucket. We can than enhance and crop our image by passing query parameters (filters for image processing) to the end of our images hosted URL.  

In the example below, we have the original image on the left and two examples of cropping using query parameters. Imgix gives us the ability to recognize faces in an image and that is denoted by the “fit=face” query param.

However, as you can also see in the example below, it does not work perfectly all of the time. A setting we later discovered was Imgix’s entropy setting. The idea here is that the most “interesting” part of an image will be the areas of high contrast. By setting “crop=entropy” we can now crop to the most “significant” part of an image. Imgix is a great tool that we use in every newsbrief.

email rendering using imgix for image cropping at rasa.io

Figure 2: Imgix image cropping examples

 

Testing rasa.io email design - Email On Acid

Another great tool we use is Email On Acid (EOA). We use EOA to test the responsive layout and look of our emails across multiple email clients. EOA gives us the ability to quickly view what our email will look like on over 80 email clients.

Viewing our designs over multiple email clients is important because, as I mentioned earlier, the top 3 email clients which are iPad, iPhone, and Gmail are included in EOA’s test summary (Figure 3). Also, there are several versions of Outlook that are included in EOA’s test summary.  Outlook can be troublesome when trying to get an email layout rendering properly. By utilizing EOA’s email client test summary we can ensure that our clients will receive a great looking newsbrief.

Figure 3: Email on Acid Test Summary

 

Summing up our email rendering series

In summary, in part one of our series, we briefly discussed how we build responsive email designs by using a combination of inky and jinja templating languages. We also mentioned some of the techniques we use for image cropping to the most “significant part” of an image. Lastly, we covered the comprehensive test summary offered by Email on Acid.

Why is this important? At rasa.io our core purpose is to better inform the world. One way of informing the world is through our daily newsbrief. The reason we exist is to help people engage with relevant information more frequently. That’s why.

Are you ready to take your association emailing to the next level and leverage artificial intelligence to generate content that your users want to read? Are you ready to give your brand a boost? Contact the experts at rasa.io today.


AI Email Render-ation Sensation: How rasa.io Makes Emails Look Great - Part I

AI email render-ation sensation

At rasa.io we send a lot of email newsbriefs; in fact we send millions of email newsbriefs per month. And an important part of what we do is to help associations, and other organizations, engage with their members more frequently via their AI-curated email newsletters. So, it is important to build and deliver emails that will look great on a user’s phone as well as their desktop.

This blog is the first of a two-part series that will explore: first, the importance around coding superior email designs that will render - which is a fancy word for display - properly and look good for all email clients - which is a fancy term for email systems. The second part part of the series will focus more specifically on image rendering and then conclude with a way to test your designs across multiple email clients.

How people consume their email content

Currently, mobile email clients represent about 54% of all email opens according to Litmus email analytics. iPhone, Gmail and iPad are among the top 3 email clients. Gmail’s 75% of their 900 million users access email via their mobile device. With this in mind, it is important to build an email template that will work across multiple email clients and devices. (For a less technical approach to optimizing your association newsletter, read our blog on 15 ways to give your association news a boost!)

Email template language

At rasa.io, we use several tools to help us build responsive and beautiful email designs. To start with, we use an email templating language called Inky.

Inky provides a responsive grid layout and several out of the box components, and it allows developers to write a small amount of code and that gets compiled to a much larger chunk of code. This is important because the larger chunk of code will help with compatibility across email clients.

For example, in the image below, the image on the left is the precompiled Inky and Jinja syntax, (we’ll come back to Jinja); and on the right is the same bit of code but compiled to its full HTML form. The reason for this is that some email clients do not support modern web html elements such as <div> tags. On the contrary, <table> tags are guaranteed to work across most email clients. From a developer’s perspective, maintaining the bit of code on the left is preferable to the one on the right.

rasa.io artificial intelligence email rendering code example

Inky / Jinja to compiled code example

The Inky grid

Inky’s grid layout gives us the ability to separate and carve out parts of the email. The grid is primarily composed of rows and column components. Rows define horizontal sections of the email and columns carve up the row into side-by-side sections. Inky uses a 12-column grid and column sizes can be controlled via sizing classes. Once again, these inky components will eventually get compiled to a much larger chunk of code and that is what goes out to the email client.

+ Jinja

Let us briefly go back to the image above. All the bits of code inside the curly brackets {} are Jinja. Jinja is a python templating language. It allows us to create variables, insert conditional logic and to iterate through lists such as a newsbrief.

In the example above, we have a basic for-loop that will iterate through each item in the recommendations list. Through each iteration we typically expose attributes such as a recommendations title, description, source, or image, if one is available for the given blog, article, news story, or journal publication. Several of our emails contain images and it is important that we show images that are nicely cropped and formatted.

An email render-ation sensation part II

Next week, in the second installment of this blog series, we will first discuss image rendering. We will then conclude with how to test your code and designs across multiple email clients.

Are you ready to take your association emailing to the next level and leverage artificial intelligence to generate content that your users want to read? Are you ready to give your brand a boost? Contact the experts at rasa.io today.


rasa.io ai personalized association newsletter

15 Ways to Take Your Association Newsletter to the Next Level: AI, Personalization, Automation, Content and Email Best Practices

Your association newsletter: 15 ways to give your news a boost

Your organization’s email newsletter is an incredibly valuable way to consistently engage your members and show them how you are staying ahead of the important topics and news in your industry. It also provides you the opportunity to associate your organization’s brand with the cutting-edge information in your space.

rasa.io highlighted blog ai generated association newsletter

Most organizations, however, are not taking full advantage of this useful communication tool. In this piece, we will explore 15 ways that you can take your email newsletter to the next level. First, we will identify ways in which you can leverage new technologies to make your email newsletter more sophisticated and, at the same time, less of a drain on your internal resources - or, in other words, save time.

The second section of ideas around taking your association newsletter to the next level will outline ways in which you can maximize your newsletter real estate.

Finally, our list will conclude with ensuring you are leveraging the fundamentals of email engagement for your association newsletter.

Pro tech tips for taking your association’s newsletter to the next level: personalization, automation, and artificial intelligence

1 Personalizing your news content

We all are beginning to understand the power of personalization. In this day in age, one-size-fits-all communication essentially equates to one-size-fits-none engagement practices. According to market intelligence company Aberdeen: “Personalized email messages improve click-through rates by an average of 14% and conversions by 10%.” And it’s no different for association newsletters.

Hand-segmenting your list based on member interests, occupations, and interaction activities is one way to begin personalizing to increase engagement. You can send several different versions of your association’s email newsletter based upon the historical data you have collected on your members. There are various email tools that have been designed for this kind of hand-segmentation.

personalized email statistic regarding association newsletter engagement

Image source: Mailigen.com

The practice of hand-segmenting email newsletters has its downsides, however. For one, hand-parsing excel docs and hand curating several different versions of an email is extremely challenging and time consuming. Second, the member data that you have might be stale. Finally, even if the member data you have is current, people don’t always accurately self-report their interests. For example, I might say that I am a marketer interested in reading about branding, but in reality, I might actually be clicking on articles that focus on digital and SEO. How would you ever be able to keep timely tabs on my interests if I self-reported my top interest as ‘branding’?  

That’s where automation comes in.

2 Automating the association newsletter process

We all share one commonly scarce resource: time. Automating your email newsletter process can be one way that you save your staff’s time. Automation generates results because you can engage with a new level of frequency without having to spend more time or more money.

With regard to newsletters: Instead of scouring the internet for the latest, important industry news and hand-curating your association’s email newsletter, you can have stories from relevant and authoritative news outlets automatically pull into your emails in order to support an auto-send process.

While many of us have considered automating the email newsletter process, one of the reasons many associations hold back is because they do not want to sacrifice the margin of personalization and relevance they gain from hand-segmentation.

3 Optimizing with artificial intelligence

So how do you get personalization and automation in one, plus the added benefit of continually evolving intelligence for your association newsletter? Why, AI, of course.

Email services now exist that allow you to compile a list of credible news sources - on top of those that include your organization's own events, blogs, news, journals, and articles - and have that content auto-populate into individualized emails.

AI can be leveraged to then scan the content of the hundreds upon hundreds of articles that come in from those sources and choose the specific stories that get pushed to each user’s email, as determined by their behavior, preferences, and AI insights gathered from other similar users. Imagine sending a unique email to every single one of your members, based upon just-in-time insights on their reading behaviors.

Maximizing your association newsletter real estate

Now that we have covered ideas around leveraging innovative technology and automation for your newsletter, we are going to share best practices for optimizing your email real estate.

4 Including links to your subscribe and / or membership renewal pages

At rasa.io, many times we get the questions from our clients and prospects along the lines of: “Why do we need to include a ‘subscribe’ link if people are already receiving our email? Doesn’t that mean they are already subscribed?” Well, the short answer is, yes, they are already subscribed, but it is best practice to include a subscribe link, and here’s why:

If you are sending out engaging content, chances are, your members and subscribers will be forwarding around your emails. When those outside users consume the forwarded content from your email, providing them easy access to a subscribe link will allow them to join your list with just one or two clicks.

benefits of including a subscribe link in your association newsletter
Depending on your email newsletter structure or strategy, however, you might not want to allow non-member users to automatically opt into your newsletter send list. This is of course understandable depending upon your organization’s processes. In this case, you can direct them to a membership page or to another landing page that will allow you to collect their information for whatever purposes you choose going forward.

5 Making social profile info easily available

Whether it be in your footer, or in your header, or via some other strategic placement in your email newsletter, you should always include links to your association's social profile pages. This will allow users to easily click out and view the most up-to-date components of your online presence via your social pages. And if they have not already, it provides the an easy avenue from which to follow or like your various pages.

social profile images in footer of an association newsletter

6 Using calls-to-action for important events

Every good marketer knows you always need a good CTA. That’s how you know you’ve done your job and made progress to your ultimate goal, whatever that goal may be. In most cases, when it comes to digital marketing and communications, you want one, clearly defined CTA in order to progress your audience member down a clearly defined path.

For email newsletters though, CTA strategy is a bit different. You want to inform your members, readers, or subscribers about the latest news and updates in your industry, in a (largely) unbiased way.

It is still beneficial, however, to leverage your newsletter communications in order to separately promote your association’s current goals. You can use some of your real estate in order to encourage members to sign up for your upcoming webinar, register for your conference, or renew their membership, for some examples.

7 Infusing other interesting and important messaging

Along the lines of calls to action, you can also leverage your association newsletter real estate in order to infuse other newsworthy and important messages. Many of our clients infuse daily lead text, as we at rasa.io like to call it, at the top of their newsletters in order to share their own editorial alongside the latest industry news.

You can use this editorial space to feature progress toward major goals, new hire information, board meeting updates, a highlight on a superstar member or volunteer, and the list goes on.

8 Highlighting your organization’s key content

Creating quality content can be difficult. Creating a lot of quality content is even harder. That is one of the reasons that we at rasa.io recommend aggregating your organization’s own content with other relevant industry news within the space in order to alleviate some of the pressure off of you to curate your newsletter. Adding in outside content makes it so you can send a content-rich newsletter without needing all of the content within the email to be your own.  

When your organization does put out a quality blog, podcast, news or journal article, however, you want to ensure that piece is highlighted within your association email newsletter. We recommend allowing some featured real estate in the email - a highlighted or boxed visual treatment, for example - in order to make it very apparent when your organization publishes something new.  

We find that when our clients infuse their own content into a visually-highlighted space, it gets greater engagement than it otherwise would with the same visual treatment as the rest of the stories. (Watch our webinar on other tips and tricks for promoting your organization’s content!)

9 Leveraging promotional opportunities

Deciding whether or not to include paid advertisements in your newsbrief is one that is multi-faceted. You have to consider: the size of your audience; your engagement rates; if there are advertisers who would be advertising industry-appropriate goods and services; if you have a vendor or someone internally that can sell the ads; and the list goes on.

If you do decide to include paid ads, the obvious benefit is monetization of your email. Another benefit is exposing your members to vendors and products that they would not otherwise have been aware of.

Even if you make the decision to steer away from paid advertisements, you can still leverage advertising space for internal promotions.

rasa.io highlighted promotions in an association newsletter

You can use a graphic designer to create engaging promotional images that advertise web pages you want to drive traffic to; upcoming educational events; and even external educational resources that you feel are appropriate for your community.

10 Incorporating “evergreen” content

It makes sense to primarily include the latest, breaking news in your association's newsletter. However, sometimes there might be a piece that is relevant to your subscribers that might have been published months - or even years - ago.

If you are interested in having historic, relevant content pull in from journals or other reputable online publications, like the Harvard Business Review or the New England Journal of Medicine for some examples, you can include those sources in your list of content feeds as well. You can also leverage artificial intelligence in order to only bring in an evergreen piece when it is particularly relevant to an individual member.

Optimizing the fundamentals of your association email newsletter communication

So we’ve hit on tech tips and email newsletter real estate optimization. Finally, we are going to cover the fundamentals of email communication. We will delve into what our data - and the data of some other big players in the space - points to when it comes to optimal subject lines; send time(s); send day(s); preview text; and send frequency.

11 Optimizing your subject line

Why is subject line so important? Without an effective subject line, the content within your association newsletter has little chance of being consumed. Below are 5 ways to help you craft effective subject lines, along with some examples:

  • Numerical lists of tips, tricks, value propositions - like 7 Reasons to Embrace Artificial Intelligence or 8 Great AI Tools.
  • Recent news headlines or relevant announcements - oftentimes what we use at rasa.io. When we use AI to choose the most relevant subject line for each individual reader, we bring personalization to the next level and significantly increase the chances that the email will be opened. Plus, we can then depend on the content specialists who have written any of those given news headlines to write something enticing.
  • Personalization tags - like Top industry headlines for Erica. People are up to 50% more likely to open an email when the subject line is personalized with one of their individualized attributes.
  • Intriguing questions are a great way to pique a reader’s interests. Some examples: Wonder how to stay ahead of association marketing? And: Having trouble retaining your members?
  • Action oriented language and commands implying deadlines and scarcity also drive open rates. For example: Register by August 1 in order to take full advantage.

12 Choosing send day

Choosing the day(s) of the week on which to send your association newsletter is a decision that profoundly impacts overall email engagement. (That is, if you don’t send your digest out every day in order to maximize engagement, and we will talk about the more in the Send Frequency section.)

As the Mailchimp graph below demonstrates, Tuesdays and Thursdays tend to be optimal send days, followed by Mondays and Wednesdays, followed by Friday, and, in dead last, are weekend days.

mailchimp best send day for association newsletters
Image source: Mailchimp

13 Considering your newsletter send time

Email send time is also a critical engagement determiner. It is a common misconception that if you send on a good day, a member will just open the email newsletter at their convenience - but it doesn’t quite work that way. The truth is that an email is 5 times more likely to be opened within an hour of its send time, so you need to consider hour of the day as well as the time zone(s) of residence of the majority of your members, clients, and subscribers.

According to the chart below, put together by CoSchedule.com, the top four send times are 10am, 8pm, 2pm, and 6am. Confirming that - for better or worse - people go to bed as well as wake up with their inboxes!

coschedule best send time for association newsletters

14 Deciding on send frequency

You can send your newsbrief daily, two or three times per week, once a week, twice a month, or however often you like. We oftentimes recommend sending daily or multiple times per week so that our rasa.io Artificial Intelligence can best learn about each individual reader’s preferences.

Sending multiple days per week also increases maximizes your unique weekly engagement rates. In other words, you maximize the chances that you will reach each of the members of your audience on any given day, because as much data as there is on optimal send days, the fact of the matter is that every individual’s schedule and read-day preferences are different. (However if your industry is extremely niche, it might be best to send less frequently if there is not as much daily news published for your particular industry.)

15 Crafting appropriate preview, or pre-header, text

Many mail clients these days incorporate preview text into their interfaces these days. What is preview text, you ask? It is the snippet of content that appears after the subject of an email, before you even open it to see what is inside. And it’s critical you take advantage of this extra real estate that some email clients allot.   

pre header preview text examples for associations newsletters

If you do not craft your own custom preview text, then it will normally just default to the first sentence or so of the email. Many email send services allow you to customize your preview text. At rasa.io, we recommend customization, as it allows you another chance to intrigue your reader and encourage them to open your email.

Conclusion

So there you have it! 15 ways to bring your association’s newsletter to the next level, covering everything from innovative, personalizing and time saving technologies to the content within your newsletter to email send best practices.

If you have questions about taking your association’s newsletter to the next level, the experts at rasa.io are here to help. Contact us today for a quote and to receive more information.


associations talking about rasa.io ai in order to listen to their members

The Secret to Member Engagement: Part III

Want to know the secret to member engagement?

The key to member engagement is listening to your members. On the importance of listening, author Doug Larson once said: "Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd have preferred to talk."

In the first part of our series, we explored the importance of listening to your members in order to leverage their feedback for maximum engagement. In the second part of our series, we explored 7 applicable tactics for listening. In this third and final part of our series, we will explore how you can listen to members at scale and automatically implement their feedback in real time.

Listening to members at scale with AI-powered software

You know the old saying: actions speak louder than words. Here’s an example of that in real life. A year ago, a member checked off four different interests on a form you sent out. However, for the last several months, unbeknownst to you, they’ve been primarily reading articles about a completely different topic.

Here’s another one: Your team made an assumption based on survey data and board discussions that older members are concerned only with management issues. However, in reality, many of them are focused on “upskilling.” They need to learn about a certain new technology so they can remain relevant and employed. Again, you had no idea.

You would know about their interests if you could observe what they’re doing—if you could “listen” to their behavior. Well, now you can.

Automated, AI-powered newsletter technology

New tools make this type of listening easier. Software powered by AI, like rasa.io, observes and tracks online behavior. It “listens” and learns about a member’s interests by tracking the links they click, and refines what it sends in future emails based on what it learns.

Personalized listening and communication is the purpose of rasa.io and the reason why our organization exists. But unlike the other listening methods described above, rasa.io is practically hands-off. Each daily newsbrief email is tailored for the individual subscriber according to their interests and done 100% automatically by the AI.

rasa.io’s AI “brain” personalizes content for each daily newsbrief from a list of news sources, plus you can add your own content too. Because members soon realize the relevancy of their daily newsbrief, they’re more likely to open those emails and, therefore, see your content too.

If your organization isn’t able to produce enough content on your own, providing a curated selection of content based on a member’s interest is undoubtedly one of the most valuable membership benefits you can provide.

What you can learn from listening to members

Listening to members—by using one of the seven methods described above or by using AI-powered software—provides valuable information. But with rasa.io, this data is provided in real-time. You can spot emerging interests and issues immediately instead of hearing about them eight months later on a survey.

You can also gain insight by tracking topic trends overall or by membership segment. You can put this new information to work when making decisions about:

  •       Online or in-person educational programs
  •       Content strategy for digital or print
  •       Board and committee meeting agendas

In many associations, the membership value curve is skewed. Only a minority of members can afford to go to events or spend time volunteering. They’re the ones who have traditionally experienced the most membership value. But many members don’t have the budget or time to get that same value. With a personalized daily newsbrief, everyone has a fair shot at experiencing the value of membership—and your association continually learns how to provide even more value to them.

Listening to members with rasa.io

By now we have outlined the importance of listening to members, but we all know that we share one, limiting constraint: time. rasa.io AI-powered tools allow you to automatically adapt the content in your newsletters to individual member preferences, without having to lift a finger. Contact rasa.io today to learn how you can listen to your members in real time in order to meet their ever-evolving needs.


use artificial intelligence and the rasa.io dashboard to promote your content

So You’ve Published a Blog - Now What? Promote Your Content Effectively!

Our Recent Content Promotion Webinar

At rasa.io, we are passionate about helping our clients and partners effectively promote the content that they publish, in a timely fashion. One of the ways that we help them do that is by auto-feeding their blogs, news articles, and journal content into their members’ personalized, AI-driven rasa.io newsbriefs. We also know, however, that there is a lot more to content promotion than just sharing it via newsletter or newsbrief.

We wanted to educate our clients and the rest of our community about all of the ways that you can publicize, promote, and share content. So we recently hosted a webinar on how to leverage the digital tools at your disposal in order to maximize the reach of your blogs, news articles, and journal publications.

Watch the Video on How to Effectively Promote Your Content

 

Disseminate Your Association’s Content Using Automated Artificial Intelligence

Are you tired of hand-segmenting emails? Are you ready to be confident that the content you have worked so hard on is actually getting seen? Contact rasa.io today and learn about how we can help you use AI and automation to put your important content in front of your members, in a personalized way.


Biz New Orleans customer case study - success with rasa.io artificial intelligence

Biz New Orleans & rasa.io: A Customer Case Study Celebrating Success

At rasa.io, one of our seven core values is to Celebrate Success: we celebrate our accomplishments and the steps that lead to those accomplishments. And just what does success mean to us at rasa.io? Our core purpose is To Better Inform The World, and that’s just what we try to do, every day.

rasa.io & Biz New Orleans

In the spirit of celebrating success and better informing the world, we are excited to publish a customer case study demonstrating the success of one of our earlier newsbrief partners, a New Orleans favorite: Biz New Orleans. The publisher, a premier producer of original New Orleans business, politics, and entertainment news, came to rasa.io because they wanted to increase subscriber engagement by way of supplementing their own content with relevant, aggregated, daily local and national news.

The rasa.io Artificial Intelligence engine is able to analyze Biz New Orleans subscriber inputs and leverage deep learning in order to deliver daily newsbrief email outputs individualized to each reader. What that AI technology then cultivates is increased engagement with the Biz New Orleans community. Subscribers are also able to associate the Biz New Orleans brand with additional, authoritative news content.

From Todd Matherne of Biz New Orleans

And just how impactful are these increases in engagement? That’s where rasa.io Celebrating Success comes in!

Todd Matherne, CEO of Renaissance Publishing and Head of Biz New Orleans said in best: “rasa.io has been able to develop a newsbrief that sees much higher than average open and click through rates. With a weekly unique open rate of 47% and a weekly click through rate of close to 10%, we are able to easily attract advertisers, as well as drive traffic to our website, by featuring our own content amongst relevant daily, national and New Orleans business news. We strive to deliver content our readers want and rasa.io has allowed us to increase our depth of content with AI technology. We are very excited about the results of this partnership. We look forward to continuing to grow our ad revenue and increase our content visibility with rasa.io.”

Read the full Biz New Orleans Case Study.

Measured success to celebrate

While the most significant impact of the implementation of the rasa.io newsbrief has been the increased engagement of the Biz New Orleans subscribership, that is not the only Biz New Orleans success we can celebrate. The “Morning Biz,” as the daily email newsbrief is named, has benefitted the publisher in other ways as well.

For one, the newsbrief is yet another means of driving traffic to the bizneworleans.com website. The daily newsbrief features their content amongst the other informative and relevant articles, and as a result, Biz New Orleans content is the top 3 clicked on source amongst the 68 news outlets included in the newsbrief.

Biz New Orleans is also able to attract advertisers by promoting those 47% open rates and 10% click through rates Matherne mentioned above. What’s more, is that when the AI is at work, (that is, when we know more about a given user’s interests), open and click through rates are even higher. Because these engagement rates far exceed typical email engagement rates, the publisher can leverage this weekly delivery data to bring in promotional dollars.

rasa.io and your community

We are really happy to be able to enjoy the success of the rasa.io - Biz New Orleans partnership. We hope that you enjoy reading our case study story of success.

Are you interested in increasing your community engagement like Biz New Orleans? rasa.io Artificial Intelligence can leverage your content and other relevant industry news in order to deliver daily, individualized email news to your subscriber base. Learn more about our newsbrief product by signing up for a quick demo. We would love for your story to be our next Celebrate(d) Success.