Case study: Newsletter Médecins Sans Frontières -Doctors without Borders

newsletter msf

The Log Community newsletter is a professional project commissioned by Médecins Sans Frontières -aka MSF or Doctors Without Borders.

Médecins Sans Frontières is an independent medical assistance nonprofit divided in a few clusters. They hired me to build a strategy to communicate better with their logisticians community and moderate their social media.
The logisticians are the people who work with doctors to make a project steady going. Generally they are or they go on the field worldwide.

Newsletters are used as tools to apply the strategy of emailing campaigns. If you are more interested by the campaign strategy, please see the MSF emailing campaign case study.

Design process

Choosing to backward build thanks to the strategy defined, the design had to be thought through.

close up rough mockup

Name and purpose

Log Community was chosen. As far as the purpose was involved it was to communicate better with their logisticians community.

Colors

The only color asked mandatory was red. Though it was never really obvious what specific red or what to use it for, the color spector included the shades of red that are inside the MSF logo. No corporate identity and style guide existed apart from the use of the logo depending on the country. I had then a spector of red that included:

red shades

Main color red offers little movement as to go with another color.

bw

White background goes well with grey and black for block inking.

Complementary Colors

complementary colors

Analogous Colors

analogous colors

Split Complementary Colors

split complementary colors

Green goes well with the official MSF logo red shades; they are vivid and complementary. It gives a very clean and peaceful feel.

As a part of the same entity, they complement each other, as logisticians are for the medical team.

green shades

Fonts

fonts

As the target audience was defined at first as the logisticians on the field, and due to what resulted from meetings with them, I went with 3 specific fonts: Helvetica, Palatino Linotype and Happy Fox.

Happy Fox helped emphasis the informal approach.
Helvetica family was on the contrary helpful with more official matters.
Palatino Linotype was used as a tool, for blockquotes.

However, when you build a newsletter, you can't only use a certain type of font. You have to prepare documents as if your audience didn't used any of the font you chose. This is why, more were added as alternatives. People generally have on their computers: Arial, sans-serif, 'Book Antiqua', serif .

Video or no video?

video msf eup

Sometimes video was included. Yet those on the field had poor internet connection and very limited access. Knowing video takes a lot of resources, I had to cut short.

Maintaining an image link and providing a link to a video they could see in another time in Youtube service was a good solution. Also, a lot of people opened the newsletter only in text so I had to make sure the links worked well.

Languages

MSF OCP cluster uses French and English as both communication tools. It occured that the basic knowledge of those two languages was obligatory to ask for a logistics promotion. It was then in the logisticians best interests to include them in each newsletter.

Service

Mailchimp was used at the time by the marketing and general communication teams. In addition to be a great tool that I know how to use, it was a way to integrate the other teams that I was working with from time to time.

Each detail has its importance. And it's the addition of them that make a team and a product better.

Periodicity and Content Iteracy

Backward building strategy lead to produce a newsletter 2 times a week at first and then weekly.

calendar

Most of the humanitarian nonprofits do a monthly newsletter to message their external audience.

My audience was different, it was an internal one and I had to be remembered to make the end results more effective. A number of A/B tests were driven in 6 months to finally turned a wishing product to an actionable wishing, working and needed one.

Finally a monthly calendar mockup content was made from that experience:

    Each Friday

  • Week 1: Radiocommunication, maps or focus.
  • Week 2: Interviews or new team mates, community.
  • Week 3: Technical subject, new technologies, innovation, renewable energies, books, process, trainings
  • Week 4: Technical subject, new technologies, innovation, renewable energies, books, process, trainings.
  • If week 5: Interviews or new team mates, community.

Code Process

Mailchimp was the tool of choice concerning service and code.
Even if Mailchimp options and settings were used, specific code was infused and deployed in them. Finally, tests and procedures were the same as in the responsive newsletter example.

Retrospective

I solved the initial problems and developped a growing success in 1 year.
1300/1600 logiticians were involved and about 40% rate of newsletter opening. Tools and code was properly implemented, tests were accurate.
An active community grew and though some tensions, good bilateral actions were taken thanks to the strategy I putted in place and my involvement.