Power of the Written Word

I blog. I develop electronically-delivered training. I created a social media network with a team of missionaries–more than 25 years ago.  So naturally, my preferred newsletter style is: PAPER.

Bait and switch: This blog post is actually about email newsletters.

This came to me after receiving one or two dozen “Privacy Policy Updates” from companies recently. I decided to write a humorous email newsletter to my partners to let them know that *I* had updated *my* privacy policies. I wonder how many of them read it?!

What struck me as I wrote this email newsletter, however, was that four of my email newsletter recipients do not receive my paper newsletter. This is a bad sign for me, because I am not very consistent at sending email newsletters. I used to be, but got out of the habit during a really crazy period about 4 years ago, and my email newsletters since then have been sporadic.

Ideally, I would be systematic about the email newsletter, sending it every month at the same time as the paper newsletter. But in practice I find that is not true.

Of the 90 people who get my email update, only 15 are financial partners, and only 4 of those 15 do not get the newsletter on paper. So for me, the email newsletter is a low value communication device.

By the way, I am not even hinting that what I do is a best practice! I know many missionaries who only send email newsletters. But for me, paper is best.

The point of this post is “information”–how TntConnect helps me stay on top of my complex partnership team. In a quick export I was able to get a snapshot of all of my email newsletter recipients.

Here’s what I did:

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  1. Press the Newsletter Tools Helper button and select the Email tab
  2. Select Group Actions | Export Current Group
  3. Select these fields to export:
    1. File As
    2. Newsletter Media Preference
    3. Twelve Month Total (to see which people are financial partners)

The export box shows the newsletter preference in words…

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…but when it goes to Excel it appears in code:

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In an upcoming blog post I will be sharing more about the newsletter preferences and how they work, but an email newsletter list contains only three preferences:

  • +P+E | “Paper and Email”
  • +E-P | “Email (preferred) with Paper Backup”
  • +E | “Email only”

As a ministry axiom, my partnership efforts are focused on those who financially support my work, so when I exported my list, the first thing I did was sort by Column C (Twelve Month Total) so I could see how I am communicating with my financial partners.

Unlike the example list above, on my personal list as I said I only have 4 partners who are not receiving paper. I decided to re-add them to my paper newsletter list to ensure consistent communications… at least until I get my email newsletter more systematic.


Communicating with our partners is so significant that the last major overhaul of the TntConnect online help changed the entire structure to be focused on “what you do as a TNT user”. There is an entire section just to Communicating: Newsletters and Mail Merge. (Previously the help manual had been indexed feature-by-feature.)

You can read more about Managing Newsletters here.

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My Puzzling Newsletter

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Sliding Tile Puzzles like the above always drive me crazy. I don’t have the logic skills to manage them well. But I find myself using a lot of logic when I play with TntConnect’s astoundingly powerful Lookup tools. Sometimes I have made super-complex lookups by using a combination of adding and taking away until I get just the right result.

Last week I was preparing our annual family update, which is different from our monthly newsletter, and I had to do a bit of this Lookup puzzelry to make it work.

The monthly newsletter is easy because I can use the Newsletter Tools Helper to find my list of newsletters, then I merge and go.

But the annual family letter is more problematic because of some nuances. I have multiple groups I send it to:

  • Everyone who gets my paper newsletter
  • Relatives and friends who get only this letter but not the monthly letter
  • Neighbors and co-workers who get this letter but not mailed
  • People who get a PDF via email

I manage this complexity using a special set of Saved Groups specifically for the newsletter.

I start by looking up my regular newsletter list:

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…returning this Current Lookup:

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Then I Lookup | By Group to add the non-newsletter recipients (called “Christmas Letter” in this example):

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I have two other exclusive saved groups related to this newsletter:

  1. “Local Delivery” because I am going to print but not mail them (I don’t want their envelopes mixed in with the mailed ones)
  2. “Email Christmas Letter” because they will not receive a printed copy.

In my own database I have six “newsletters” saved groups reflecting different ways people get the family update (Canada, email, paper, local delivery, expanded family version, and co-workers in the office).

“Are you all okay?”

Two weeks ago I called a ministry partner in Houston. She’s an elderly woman who lives alone, and her daughter, I know, lives in Chicago. “I’m concerned about you,” I said. “Are you okay?”

She thanked me for calling and assured me she was fine. Her street was a river, but her front steps were dry. She felt very fortunate.

That was two weeks ago. Monday this week I texted my wife and asked her, “Are you all okay?”

I’m a pretty lousy husband. While my family was sleeping in the closet as Hurricane Irma blew over our house, I was on an international trip in Africa. Except for being without power for about 48 hours, and having a lot tree debris to cleanup, they were fine. She told me our neighborhood turned out like an anthill that was just kicked over–people we almost never out of doors emerged to see who lost a tree (or didn’t). Neighbors helping neighbors clean up. Won’t last long, but it’s great to see.

I appreciate that TntConnect helps me reach out to my partners and show compassion during a weather crisis like these–events that often affect a widespread area, and because of that I cannot know how my partners have fared unless I ask them. (Tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes; sad we need a reason, but showing we care… shows we care.)

The best way to connect, of course, is just to call. Email or text is okay, I suppose. But a real phone call says a lot.

I use TNT to help me do this by using the Lookups to help me identify the contacts I could call. For example, last month I looked up all partners in Texas using Lookup | By State. Sometimes Lookup | By City works if that’s what I need.

One of my partners just moved to Texas a couple of months ago; I wasn’t sure where the town was, so I used the Google Maps button in TNT to discern that they lived outside Dallas, not Houston. But I contacted them anyway because a new address & new home were a good reason to call. And I started the call simply by asking, “Has Hurricane Harvey affected you at all?”

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I don’t have ulterior motives with these calls. Every opportunity to reach out to a partner is a good one. Our partners love to hear from us, and most missionaries (like me) use the microphone portion of their smart”phone” far less than we should.

Speaking of that, How are you? If you were in an area impacted by Harvey or Irma–or wildfires in the West–I hope you have seen an outpouring of bonhomie from relatives, friends, neighbors, or even complete strangers.