Get Real: Add Heart to Your Email Newsletter

Bloom Your Online Relationships, Tip #5: Add Heart to Your Email Newsletter

This post is part of the 30-Day
Bloom Your Online Relationships Challenge!

If you’d like to play along, you can sign up here (don’t worry — it’s FREE). We’re all working through these small, powerful actions together and sharing our questions, learnings and experiences in a Facebook group. And we’d love to have you join us!

Give me your heart, make it real
or else forget about it.
~Rob Thomas & Itaal Shur


The sign-up strategy for my Pinch email newsletter did not go according to plan. And it was wonderful.

My Great Mistake

I made a well-thought out, much-considered, totally justified, and reasonable mistake: I asked for only an email address.

Experts say we’ll get way more subscribers if our email opt-in form has: 1) as few fields as possible and 2) doesn’t ask for anything personal or identifying. Brevity and privacy encourages signups, so They say.

That sounds sensible and fair, yeh? Give website visitors the simplicity and anonymity they want and we’ll gather as many subscribers as we can. Everybody wins. And if that means the emails we send them are impersonal? Then, well…at least we have a big list.

The First Try

So the first Pinch sign-up form asked for the absolute minimum: an email address. And the list grew faster than any list I’d ever had! It wasn’t a huge list, but it was big enough that I felt I’d done the right thing. Soooo exciting to watch the subscriber number climb! But then I wondered…

Do I even know 252 people? These can’t all be friends. Who the heck are these folks?

So I logged into MailChimp, looked at the list, and found hundreds of email addresses, a handful of smiling photos, and…nary a name. Alllllll those email addresses yet so few actual people. And it sucked.

People have email addresses,
but email addresses are NOT people.

Getting Real

I cringed at the thought of sending my weekly chunk o’ love to hundreds of strangers. That’s not what I wanted or intended and it’s totally not my style. So I went on a quest for real names.

Often a subscriber’s first name was in their email address and some subscribers I recognized by their photo. But equally often I needed to check Facebook or venture to a website to fetch a name from a byline or About page. Some names escaped me. Cryptics such as sexybunny1264@ don’t offer much of a trail to follow :-)

It took hours to update all the profiles and it was worth every minute. Not every subscriber was a friend but now everyone was familiar.

Soon after, the weekly issues of Pinch began with Hey <Your First Name > ! and that was great enough for awhile. But not for long. Because one day I realized there’s what your Momma & Daddy named you and then there’s what you like to be called.

Real  Real Names

On a whim, and on Facebook, I asked subscribers for their favorite nickname so their Pinch profile could be updated with their real real name. Based on a whole heap of happy comments—

  1. The next Pinch included an Update Your Profile link so readers could change their name themselves, encouraging them to make it any name they wanted, even a name they’ve never been called but would like to be, and
  2. A name field was added to the sign-up form on my website, but instead of the default “First Name” it says “Your favorite nickname”.

Most folks kept their given name…but the folks who didn’t? Holy wow.

Getting Really  Real

On Facebook I met people who never had a nickname but didn’t want to invent their own, so I had the unexpected pleasure of reading through their Facebook feeds and websites and gifting nicknames based on what I found there: Kitty. Share Bear. Bell.

I was asked (in private) to add names reserved for family and names people hadn’t been called since their parents died.

There are a bushel of darling names:
Sexy. Precious. Pookie (and Pooky). Snookems. Sweet Girl. Honeybunny. Morning Glory. Sunshine.

And literal pet names:
Songbird. Kitty. Monkey. Bunny.

There are names from the produce aisle:
Pumpkin. Pickles.

…and the bakery:
BonBon. Cupcake. Chocolate e’claire.

I met the Awesome Family:
Awesomepants, Nurse Awesome, and Your Radical Awesomeness.

…and a couple of deities:
the Goddess of Fabulousness and a Goddess Formerly Known as——

There are loving digs like Menace and Little Rascal, plus one name even Google can’t identify: Banachinesi.

And of course there are classics like SuzieQ, Kdizzle, and Friend.

Wow. :-)


I don’t watch my subscriber numbers anymore but I sure do keep an eye out for new nicknames.

It’s important to me, and apparently to them, to know what folks prefer to be called, what their friends and family call them. It’s enriching to see how they see themselves, whether they use the name their parents gave them, one they picked up along the way, or something they invented in the moment they signed up.

To know the name that connects them to others or sets them apart is a secret treasure.

It Begins As It Ends

The Pinch newsletter has always ended on what I’m leaving the week with and what I left behind. A tiny intimacy. A private truth. And now it begins the same way.

Can you imagine how good it feels to receive email addressed to you…the real you?

Hey Monkey!
Hey Cupcake!
Hey Your Radical Awesomeness!

Can you imagine how good it feels to send it? :-)




Your Wee Challenge

THINK: Do you know what you need to know about your subscribers to truly see them and make them feel seen? Do you know their names? Or where in the world they are?

THINK: Do you know what you need to know about your subscribers to serve them well and suit yourself? The nicknames are a delightful bit of whimsy and connection, but you may have a practical need…

For example: Do you speak around the country…or the globe? Wouldn’t it be great to know what state/country each of your readers lives in so you can send them a personalized note when you’ll be near?

Not sure what you need or what to think? Let it be an intuitive thing like the nicknames were for me. Keep your eyes and ears open for that one small thing of great fun or vast importance to you, your plan, and your peeps.

NOTE from Tea of Story Bistro: Once you’ve given it a think, come visit us on Facebook and share. What’s on your mind? Are the thoughts flowing or could your noggin use a loving nudge? No right or wrong answers here — we’re all just experimenting!

Image credit: Leyton Parker