Unlocking the Secret Power of Letters
How to master one of the more powerful instruments in your publication toolkit
Today, we’re adding a new series of articles to The Story, highlighting features and tools on Medium that both readers and writers can use to get more out of their experience. Call this Episode One, which focuses on one of my personal favorite tools on the platform that, when deployed well, can be one of the more powerful tools for a publication owner.
Letters are stories that are emailed out to followers of a publication in addition to being posted and are an excellent way to grab the attention of your dedicated readers and bring them back to your publication to read, respond, and engage with your stories.
Stories, delivered straight to your inbox
Once you have selected “Letters” in your publication’s dropdown menu, writing one works exactly like writing a story. You have access to all the same formatting and styling as you would a normal post (except embeds — those don’t play nicely with email), but with one key delivery difference: Once you publish a story, in addition to going up in your publication and distributing across Medium’s network to your followers, it goes directly to your followers’ inboxes, formatted to look great in their email.
From your emailed letter, followers can read and click any links you provide. Recommendation and response options are also at the end of the letter, just as they would be for a story on Medium, and will send your readers to your Medium story directly after they click.
Letters are not a one-way street. Your followers can email you back through letters: All replies will be sent to the email address listed as the public contact for your publication.
Emails, now with more interactivity
I don’t know about you, but stale and static newsletters are the bane of my existence.
Not so with letters.
A well-crafted letter employs many of the tactics of successful stories: It draws readers in and invites them to jump into the conversation.
Letters are an excellent way to remind readers about what’s been going on lately in your publication, rounding up some of your best recent stories. They also excel as ways to offer new and compelling questions or information that drive readers to dive back into your publication and share their own thoughts with you and your followers.
The Coffeelicious makes great use of letters by highlighting the best submissions from their monthly writing prompts. By focusing on a specific initiative within the publication, The Coffeelicious not only highlights people who participated in the previous writing prompts and celebrates their work; it draws more attention to the ongoing project, helping them get more readers and writers for future months’ prompts.
Think outside the email — and the story
Don’t be constrained by your notion of what an email or a Medium story “should” be when you think about letters.
- Send out really important stories you know your followers won’t want to miss.
- Recap lots of posts that have been recently published, sort of like your own personal publication digest.
- Go deeper into specific stories or a set of stories, both within your publication, within all of Medium, or really, anywhere online.
- Catch your followers’ attention and bring them back with the specific aim of getting them to do more than just read by encouraging them to also respond to something you’ve said or asked.
- Ensure that even if your letter is caught in an email filter or accidentally archived, what you’ve written will also be available in your followers’ home streams on Medium for when they come back to read and will live alongside all your other stories within your publication.
Share your success stories
We’ve shown off some publications that are doing great things with letters — now it’s your turn to tell us about some letters you’ve either sent or received. Take a screenshot and include it in your response, and let us know what makes those letters awesome.