Before I launched Rep Cap, I worked at an email newsletter company. So when I tell you that I’ve overseen sends of millions of emails, I’m not exaggerating. So forgive me if I get a little … enthusiastic about amazing email newsletters.

I’ve also been hearing that email is supposed to be dead this whole time. And yet, with all the new platforms vying for our time and attention, sometimes it seems like our inboxes are the only place we can maintain a little control.

Amazing email newsletters deliver surprising insights. They sound like they were written by a person, not the Voice of a Brand.

I won’t lie and tell you those amazing email newsletters are easy or quick to make. Hung Lee spends 10 hours a week creating the magnificent Recruiting Brainfood.

I personally spend hours fussing over the weekly Managing Editor sends. (Those cheesy movie quotes don’t just type themselves!) My reward, though, is an open rate a full 20 percentage points higher than the industry average. The effort is worth it.

In this episode of Margins, we interviewed the people behind some of our favorite email newsletters.

Add us to your podcast feed and listen in!

Yes, Email Can Spark Joy

Ann Handley is the chief content officer at MarketingProfs and the creator of Total Annarchy, a twice-a-month newsletter about marketing, writing and whatever else Ann wants it to be.

Ann has decades of experience in marketing, and to her, the key to writing an amazing email newsletter is simple: bring some joy to the equation. It’s actually advice she believes extends throughout the marketing spectrum. Show that you’re enjoying your writing, whether it’s an email newsletter, a blog post or a video. “I’m not saying that you’ve got to delight yourself and not worry about anybody else,” she explains. But that sense of fun will ultimately be felt by the audience.

And it’s the audience that Ann always prioritizes. Too many marketers, she says, get caught chasing the next subscriber, as opposed to the ones they already have. She believes that serving your existing audience well is a proven method for growing your audience:

“If you’re serving those 1,000 people super well, what’s the point of 10,000 people? If those 1,000 people are clicking on your links, if they’re spending money with you, if they are referring you, what is the point of getting bigger just to get bigger?”

Email Puts You in Control

Liz Willits is senior content marketing specialist at AWeber, the platform Ann uses to send her newsletter. According to Liz, email is still the marketing channel with the highest ROI.

First, email has staying power. While social media can be fleeting, Liz points to Aweber research that shows people open emails for months after you send them.

The other big selling point of email is that it’s an owned channel. When you use a third-party platform like Facebook or Twitter, you’re reliant on a company’s algorithms, which can change at any moment. But if an email marketing platform does something you don’t like, you can simply change platforms. The list stays with you. To Liz, this control is essential for marketers:

“Facebook is like taking an Uber, but email is having your own car.”

Express Yourself

Hung Lee is the voice behind Recruiting Brainfood, an idiosyncratic mix of HR tech topics and Hung’s unfiltered commentary on the events of the day.

Hung never set out to create a newsletter that was explicitly political, but the mix quickly became a natural fit. “People enjoyed my commentary” on politics, he said. But he also believes that politics and world events cannot be separated even from a topic like recruiting. “If you look at some of the major political things that are happening in the world right now, a lot of that is linked with work,” he explains. “We need to care.”

Hung also emphasizes that part of the reason he can engage with these topics is the trust he builds with his audience. That trust and consent are key to the success of Recruiting Brainfood:

“Once you have someone who has consented for you to be in their inbox, they’ve trusted you with it. They suddenly pay attention to it. And suddenly you’re able to get much stronger engagement as a result of that consent being given.”

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