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Marketability eBulletin

Welcome to our latest fortnightly eBulletin, posted here on 19 January 2021. In this issue:

Our top 10 articles in 2020, as chosen by you

I’ve been reviewing our top articles of a year of eBulletins for long enough to spot patterns. Examples of real campaigns, epic fails, quirky stories, and really quick tips have always taken most of the top spots. Some things don’t change.

We also know that plenty of engagement happens without showing up in the metrics. Not all articles include links. The Tip of the Week rarely does, but we know it’s popular. Our 22 December issue included three personal tips from people we’d worked with, with no need to click through. We really value the emails we get commenting on eBulletin items or sharing your own examples. And we notice, too, how many eBulletins are opened and clicked on even when you’re out of the office.

I love reviewing metrics and find them fascinating. But they’re only ever part of the story and we should be alert to feedback that comes in from all quarters to help us to see a wider picture.

In 2020, we tried to be upbeat and helpful, and to avoid some of the embarrassing fails sent by multiple companies over the year (see our joint 9= post below). Our open rates were a constant 40-47%, our click rates between 16-20% (of total delivered), and our click to open rates around 40% too (ie 40% of people who opened, rather than of the total).

Here are the top 10 articles, in descending order, starting with a tie at #9. The % given is of unique subscribers of total mailed. Looking at these items again I can see why they were popular. If you missed them first time round, do explore them now!

9= The best and the worst of email marketing during a crisis (12 May, 6.2%). Seven types of emails in response to Covid-19. This was one of several posts during the year which didn’t necessarily secure impressive stats, but did generate a series of personal emails from subscribers sharing their stories.

9= 3 high-impact marketing strategies you’re probably overlooking
(Hubspot) (27 October, 6.2%). By this stage of the year we really needed more productivity in our lives.

8. Using Zoom? Watch out for this
(14 April, 7.5%) Linked to The Guardian article on ‘zoombombing’, just as we were all learning to adapt our face to face meetings using Zoom.

7. UCL’s statistics dashboard is much more fun than it sounds, and authors love it (21 January, 7.9%) Kathy Atkinson got in touch to tell us about this, prompted by reading our review of the most read articles in 2019 which included 3 on author resources. Perhaps no surprise to see this one in 2020’s top 10!

6. Coronavirus quiz email, someone thought this was a good idea (4 February, 8.4%) Thanks to Michelle Zappa at Eurospan for alerting me to this one. More personal emails arrived in our inbox with more good and bad examples, some simply too awful to share.

5. How do you make the most of attending virtual conferences? (27 October, 8.7%). The first of two appearances in our top 10 for Scholarly Kitchen. A great post.

4. and 3. How do your customers feel right now? Here’s how (24 November)
This single article accounted for two of our most popular links of the year, reflecting subscribers in academic and schools publishing respectively. An academic and a teacher share their experiences of still being at work.
‘I’m angry, I’m frightened’, article in the Tes (8.8%)
The fear now gripping universities, article in The Guardian (9.4%)

2. Boris Johnson and the revenge of the school librarian (1 September, 9.7%)
This linked to a photo of Boris in the Tes, giving a speech in a school with a backdrop of bookshelves. Someone had a lot of fun arranging those books before the film crew arrived …

1. When an academic is asked to describe their research in layman’s terms (24 November, 9.9%). A Scholarly Kitchen post showing a spoof TV interview with an academic takes our top spot this year. A worthy winner.


Nine months on, 6 things we’ve learned about training on Zoom

I hope we go back to face to face training one day. We live enough of our lives on screen to welcome breaks from it, and sitting in a room together is definitely more relaxing. No bandwidth issues or random disappearances, and it’s easier for everyone to take part in discussions.

Meanwhile, though, I’m genuinely enjoying running training sessions on Zoom. And from feedback from participants, here are a few things I think we’ve learned.


  1. The optimum length per session is 2-3 hours. We tried one hour sessions but I think everyone felt that they were ending just as discussions were warming up. With 2 x 3 hour sessions a week or two apart, and practical work set in between, we can cover the content of a full day course.
  2. It’s better for everyone to have sound on throughout. Received wisdom says that to avoid everyone talking over each other people should raise their hands, or use the chat function. But when it’s a small group it’s no more of a problem than it would be in a training room, and imposing rules just hampers natural discussion. I WANT people to chip in as and when they have something to say, including when I’m presenting slides.
  3. Discussing real challenges and issues at the start really helps. I try to make it clear that what we’ll do in the session will be really practical, and that discussion and questions are welcome. We do this in a training room too, but it’s so much more important to establish a rapport across the group at the start on Zoom.
  4. Breakout rooms really work. But you need to know exactly what the task is. That way you can almost forget you’re meeting on screen and get stuck in.
  5. Pre-course ‘homework’ is better than trying to respond to a task on screen. It’s harder concentrating on Zoom anyway, so taking a chunk of the practical tasks offline just makes sense.
  6. It’s even more essential to keep to time. Screen-time is tiring, and many of us have back to back meetings. You need to feel confident that timings are under control to enjoy the session.

If you’ve been thinking about setting up in-company marketing training, why not get in touch? Email me on We’re currently taking bookings for March and April.


Are you a robot? Can you prove you’re not?

Thanks to The Scholarly Kitchen for this one too! How often do you fail to ‘correctly’ read the indistinct characters of a CAPTCHA robot check? If this drives you nuts, or even if it doesn’t, here’s a clever sketch from comedian Stevie Martin.


On The Marketability Grapevine on Facebook

  • If words and their etymology fascinate you, you’ll enjoy OUP’s latest blog post about new entries to the Oxford English Dictionary.
  • Read something that hit the spot in this eBulletin? Click through and like the item or add a comment on Facebook
  • Watch the Wall for postings of new jobs, or feel free to add to them.

Visit The Marketability Grapevine.


Tip of the week: Get in quick if you’d like a 2021 desk calendar

Our little desk calendars came of age in 2021 as we produced one for the 18th year running, but with a much-reduced print run. If your desk is missing a little something this year let me know. We have precisely six calendars ready to go to good homes – just email me your address (sorry, UK subscribers only due to prohibitive overseas postage).





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