You’ve Got Mail!

By Jacqueline Towers      @Jackie_Twrs


I’m reading BBC news at 10 AM on a Monday morning at work, and I glance over at my Gmail tab to see that I have a new email. Obviously it’s an email back from the job I applied to yesterday. Success! Let’s give our 2 weeks notice, book a trip to Costa Rica, and go frolicking through the jungle with a bunch of toucans.

Wait, it’s just the McGill Alumni monthly newsletter. I forgot to mark it as promotional.

The real test of a perfectly crafted newsletter is this split second of anticipation. The arrival of a newsletter in one’s inbox is either greeted with indifference and disgust or with enough curiosity to give it a 15 second scan. Some newsletters I give more than a 15 second scan, and some newsletters are even an integral part of my week.

Each Sunday afternoon I pull up my Sunday Inspiration newsletter from The Muse, my favourite job search and career advice tool. If I didn’t get my weekly fix of curated goodness about how to make my job feel less dull, I’d be pretty disappointed.

Let’s take a look at the subject matter of newsletters from McGill and The Muse.

McGill Newsletter Content

The Muse Content

Indigenous rights, cancer research and even being Madonna’s piano player are far more important than me looking for a more fulfilling job or 5 ways to negotiate a measly salary increase. Even so, the headlines are written in a way that makes me want to know more.

No Spoilers Please!

The wording in each of the 3 McGill Newsletter blurbs is far from clear and concise, and yet the reader doesn’t feel a pull click on Read More to get clarity on the story.

“Played a key role” is a phrase that belongs in a jumbled corporate-speak resume, not in copy describing something as important as First Nations’ rights. “Touring the world with Madonna” completely gives away the story of how Ric’key’s musical career has panned out. The year that Phil Gold and Samuel Freedman made their cancer discovery is important, but what matters is its continued use for 50 years and how many lives it has saved; there’s no reason to start the text with the date.

The amazing contributions of McGill faculty and alumni never cease to amaze me, but this newsletter gives me the same feeling as reading through one of those magazines you pick up at the movie theater to leaf through before the movie starts because you’re too bored to watch the fun facts about celebrities on the screen.

The Muse takes subject matter that could be horrifically dull and makes it catchy and intriguing. I can think of thousands of things I’d rather do than improve my resume, but if it only takes one minute and is also a game, I’m sold. The title of each article sets the expectation of what the reader will gain through reading more without giving away the story, and the subsections (Work Hard, Live Smart) make me feel like a perfectly well-rounded person just through looking at them.

Every Newsletter has an Objective

Some credit has to be given to the McGill newsletter since they’re targeting everyone who ever graduated from McGill as an audience, but this doesn’t justify the lack of a clear call to action here:

McGill Calls to Action

Links to social media pages and a donations landing page in addition to the events calendar would be a huge benefit.

The Muse has a young professional target audience, and therefore a much easier job customizing calls to action.

The Muse calls to action

The 4 text boxes perfectly summarize why the Muse exists. Find a new job and personalized coaching? Sign me up! The Muse newsletter shuttles the reader right into fulfilling its business goals, while the McGill Alumni newsletter closes with ambiguous, cluttered text.

If we took a holiday from story spoiling and unclear writing in newsletters, it would be so nice!



Meg Ryan Photo Credit:

5 thoughts on “You’ve Got Mail!

  1. Brilliant! Loved every little bit. You’re so creative and I enjoy your posts every single time.
    Please start a blog so I can read it EVERY DAY! The You’ve Got Mail reference was spot on. The comparison is very clear and relatable. We all have alumni/school/meh newsletters that we still keep because the info is valuable and “just cause”.
    Reminder: please start blogginnng!


  2. Wendy

    Jacky – I’ve eaten the sandwich and drank the kool-aid: I’m a fan. Plus, any blog post that ends with an 80’s Madonna lyric is aces in my book. Great job. And yes, please start a blog so that we can all read about your adventures with toucans in Costa-Rica.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amy M

    Great blog! Love the title (and the movie obviously). I love how u made a comparison between a good and a not so good newsletter. The personal touch at the beginning made the blog very relatable, we’ve all experienced the momentary excitement of receiving a new email and the disappointment when it turns out to be another newsletter. Great job!


  4. Robyn Clarke

    I agree with all above. You’ve got a great tone that people respond to. Great use of images, headlines and breaking up the writing as well. I’d write more, but I have to go check out this cool Muse e-newsletter I just heard about….


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