Avoiding the dreaded email attachment

For a recent workshop on email, I planned to cover the familiar point that effective email newsletters drive traffic to one's website. Use the web to have people take action, make donations, or sign up for further organizing on your website. And “Click this link” not only opens the door to useful activity, it also helps avoid the dreaded email attachment.

Sending a mass email with a word document, PDF or other attachment has many interrelated negatives associated with it. It may clog the mail server, get you tagged as a spammer, run into anti-virus software at the recipient end, may require installed software the reader doesn't have, may be presumptuous about their willingness to open your document. For these kinds of reasons, email newsletter software (like Constant Contact) may let you store logos or other images for your newsletter and yet block or make it difficult to attach documents.

In this case, as my workshop partner Linda and I prepared, we realized that the network members invited to the training had way more flexibility in their email than in their websites. There would not be much point talking about web activism and avoiding email attachments with folks with static, hard-to-update websites. And many had a lot to say in their emails, and did regularly attach documents to make up for lack of access to their website.

If you find yourself in that situation, here are a series of workarounds to attaching documents that you may find useful. And in fact, they often have virtues in themselves by offering tagging and other social networking features to increase the reach and value of your message.

Google documents: Upload flyers and other short document to google and publish as a public google document. Easy, free, familiar.

Here are some other initially free, with premium options available, ways to store fliers, documents, slideshows and other materials. Some just provide the file repository. Others, like slideshare and issuu, aslo include a convenient on-line viewer for slideshows or other publications.




Of course, these generally assume that whatever the privacy level of the email news and list, the attachments you mass mail have public value. In some cases, you can add authorized viewers, though this adds to the labor of posting the document.

Another approach is Yousendit.com, a convenient site typically used for sharing large files with small groups. You can also inexpensively purchase a premium service that would allow you to share documents with larger groups.

Ultimately, the lowering the cost and complexity of migrating websites to content management systems such as drupal, joomla or plone will overtime reduce the need for solutions like this. More and more organizations do have the ability to post “read more” content on their website with little more difficulty than the original email. In the meantime, the next notch up from the other solutions here and an interim step toward a website upgrade could be to start an attached blog using standard blog site services such as blogger or wordpress. Have the read more information on the blog and leave the problems of the static main site for another day.

I'm sure there are many other good solutions to this problem, and would love to hear yours.


Good article. My colleagues

Good article. My colleagues don't always understand when I say attaching items is not a best practice when dealing with bulk email. Thanks for providing some more talking points.