Portland News Magazine

Helpful feedback on weekly emails

July 28th, 2013 by John David Smith

We ASKED for it and we got it!  Thanks to the inspiration of Melissa Mead, who has been faithfully producing the weekly email for the Portland Shambhala Center for the last 5 years, we included the following notice in our Weekly Announcements email last week:

What have we done wrong?

What do you think of this weekly events email now?  It has been changed to meet changing times, both in the sangha and in all of Shambhala.  Some of you have said you like it.  We’re hoping to hear from people who *don’t* like it.  We need to know what we’ve left out that should be here, what we should leave out, even what order we should be putting things in.  Do we experiment, make regular, trim more, expand?  Thank you for letting us know.  We’re the pub-team (alas, only swimming in ghostly electronic ink, not stouts and ales), Jason, Melissa, Nancy, John.  Email us here.

Here’s a sampling of the responses and some thoughts about where this leads for the pub-team.

Put the quote at the top!

  • “Personally, I kind of liked seeing the quote of the day at the top of the email.”
  • “Like the more practical stuff on top like you now have it.”
  • “I miss the “quote of the week” front and center rather than at the bottom of the page…always read it first before the business news, as important as that is!”
  • “Looks great!   I’d like to see the SMR or CTR quote at top.   Sometimes I only have a few seconds to minutes to glance at the newsletter … But I always have time for a dose of SMR or CTR.”

Our plan: put the quote at the top!  (Easy to do, and it makes sense on several levels.)

More detail, please

  • “I believe that tonight, Tues., would be a dharma talk if the 2nd and 4th format  continues. If there isn’t a talk I would like to know that, and if there is a talk I liked knowing who was speaking and what the topic was.”

Our plan: actually we’ve been working on this, but all the pieces aren’t quite in place yet.  The idea is to have speakers and their titles for these less formal talks appear in a calendar, on our Facebook page, and in the weekly email.

Increase the font size

  • “The only negative comment I can make is that the print is smaller than before.  Perhaps it’s my aging eyes, but it now seems like “work” to read it.”
  • “…. Also us older folks LIKE bigger print & images….”

Our plan: try to make the font bigger, experimenting with our emailing programs to find out why it seems so small.  (We’ve been working at that but seems like we have to keep at it.)  Meanwhile, some of us have discovered that on Windows we can change the appearance of the font by holding the control key and rolling the mouse wheel – that increases or decreases the size of the font on the screen.  It’s worth checking out on your machine – for Shambhala Center emails and maybe for other situations.

More Images

  • “I always enjoyed seeing the beautifully selected image and the quote that went with it. I know there’s still a quote at the bottom of the page but it looks like an afterthought now. It’s about visual style.”
  • “This is in response to your “What have we done wrong?” site.  I probably would not say “wrong” but I was very disappointed that you seem to have done away with the beautiful announcements for workshops.  Artistic, appealing and good explanations about classes.  What happened??  Anyway, I am one of the ones that is not thrilled about this new wordy format.  I am bored without the visuals, vision and feeling that went into describing what courses Shambhala had to offer.”

Our plan: add back more images as we get “the bones” of the new message structure stabilized.  (We were always going to enrich the mail messages visually, but are going to do it incrementally, in part depending on recruiting more help with this part of the production process.)


  • “By the way, I cannot access “email us here” under the “What have we done wrong?” paragraph.  Nothing happens.  How ironic.”
  • “Either way, there will ALWAYS be complainers, don’t lose heart! :-)”
  • “Appreciate your efforts designing the new format of the weekly newsletter.”
  • “Thanks for asking for feedback on the new weekly newsletter. I think all of the information is there, but I do find it hard to read… and therefore hard to find information. It might be that it’s because it feels squeezed into 2 narrow columns, like a newspaper.”
  • “Is it lack of time, lack of money, lack of personnel? Or do you still have the old format and I just can’t find it?  I am an Artist and your beautiful photos, pictures and graphics in your announcements gave me inspiration.”

Our plan: avoid “mailto” links without the underlying email address (instead we’ll use something like “stay in touch by writing us at pub-team (at) Portland (dot) Shambhala (dot) org”).   Also we’ll keep working at it and keep asking for feedback.  For example, one generous person wrote a long message about quotes, beautiful images, and (ultimately) access to our programs and classes.  Those comments about access have led to a much broader discussion about our resources for producing publicity, about the function of our regular messages, and about access.

And, finally, what we need from (some of ) you

We need your help especially if you can give a little time on a regular basis for selecting images, gathering quotes, producing email messages and program flyers, and other communications or publicity tasks.  If you are interested, drop us a line or get in touch with our volunteer coordinator at hello (at) Portland (dot) Shambhala (dot) org.