Workflow Options: MailChimp, Newsletters, and PDF Attachments, Part Two

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MailChimp, Newsletters, and PDF Attachments, Part Two

In part one, I began a response to a few of the many questions I receive from Cru staff about How to Manage MailChimp, Newsletters, and PDF Files. I recommend reading part one for a background on why I suggest the following possible workflows. The key points from that article were:

  • Clear the hidden formatting instructions after pasting text into MailChimp from some other source.
  • Send mobile-friendly emailed newsletters.
  • Limit clicks in your eNewsletter. Most of what you want people to read should be right there in the email body, not as multiple links in MailChimp or as a PDF attachment in a regular email.

Think Differently

Remember how your letter will be viewed. If you love the look and design of your paper letter…. be pleased with that, but don’t try necessarily to recreate it exactly for your friends who’ll be reading through email or on mobile devices. Unfortunately, you can’t just do one process for all modes of sending your newsletter; you’ll need to be willing to create several versions, which will take time. What will you gain for all this effort? You’ll know who is reading and what content is popular through MailChimp’s reports.

Keep these recommendations in mind:

  • Keep photos compressed for printing and also so you don’t fill up your MailChimp media library. (Read Watch out for Photo Sizes: A Tutorial). The size limit for MailChimp’s file manager is 10 MB, so don’t fill it up with large images.
  • If you’ll need a PDF file, it’s very easy and quick to create it from your word processor’s software. It’s awkward to start with a MailChimp eNewsletter and try to create a PDF from it.
  • When designing an email version of your letter, remember that half of your readers are using mobile devices. It’s best to have 1 or 2 photos in a one-column layout with at most three paragraphs of text. This email may not look like the original paper letter.
  • In general, if your paper letter is one page long with at most two photos, then go ahead and include everything in your MailChimp eNewsletter.
  • If a smaller MailChimp eNewsletter cuts out a lot of what you want to say, then I would recommend…
    • more frequent and shorter letters. Stick to one topic.
    • if you don’t like that, still do a shorter MailChimp letter and include a link to the rest of your story on a blog. (See notes about multiple touch points with your ministry partners.)
  • Create an interesting subject line for your eNewsletter (not “Our May letter”). Be specific to encourage your ministry partner to stop and read. If they don’t read right then, statistics show they’re less likely to read your email later, even if they have good intentions to.

Personally, we send paper letters to all financial ministry partners and an eMail version to many of our prayer partners if we have their eAddress. We send additional content through MailChimp automatically from our blog or as brief, time-sensitive email letters.

So What about PDF Files?

Remember a PDF file is similar to making a photocopy of your prayer letter. Only create a PDF if you need to email it to someone who needs to print your letter. You may be on an overseas assignment and have a friend back home who will print and mail your letters locally. For us, our church prints a dozen copies for the foyer for church members to pick up, so I send a PDF file to them.

I realize there’s exceptions to the following outlines. Let’s say you have a dozen folks who don’t want (or can’t receive) MailChimp emails. The simplest thing to do is to send them paper letters. These might also be people you’ve been sending a PDF attachment to. Be kind to them and let them choose if they want a paper letter or an email with a PDF attachment. If they’re reading the PDF file on a large screen, they may not mind receiving these.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to choose from one of these workflows…

The Don’t-Complicate-My-Life Workflow

Use within TntMPD and MPDx, or within TntMPD, to send your newsletter and recipient list directly to them for printing and mailing. Done. No emails. However, Chalkline offers Chalkmail to send and track email newsletters for you, so you might like this option; you wouldn’t have to learn MailChimp.

The Most Common eNewsletter Workflow

  1. Compress photos.
  2. Start with your favorite word processor to create your paper prayer letter.
  3. If needed, also save as a PDF.
  4. Cut and paste content from the paper letter into your MailChimp letter.
  5. I recommend removing your address, phone number, and email address. See Don’t Post Your Email Address on the Internet (or in MailChimp).
  6. Clear formatting from your word processor and re-create formatting within MailChimp’s editor.
  7. Upload photos.
  8. Schedule or send your MailChimp eNewsletter.
  9. Next time: Replicate this email when you’re ready to send your next letter, replacing text and photos. Optionally, you could create a newsletter template that you re-use.

I-Want-to-Keep-My-PDF-File Workflow

I really don’t recommend this, but I’m giving you a break here. This will be a simple workflow to test your PDF file attachment. If people are opening and reading your PDF file, then it works for you, but then again, it may not work for your friends.

  • Same as steps 1 to 3.
  • Create a short and compelling MailChimp letter with a link to your PDF file which will have the rest of your content.
  • Check your MailChimp statistics for the next several months of sending your eNewsletters.
    • Are people clicking on the PDF link?
    • Are any of your ministry partners opening and/or clicking from within a mobile device?

Just because someone clicks on your PDF file doesn’t mean they’re reading it. If they’re using a mobile device, it’s likely they’re not reading the tiny text, scrolling horizontally and vertically. Maybe they are, but you can give them a much more enjoyable experience through MailChimp.

The Blog eNewsletter Workflow

You will need to create a RSS-Feed MailChimp letter just once that will automatically send an email when you publish a blog post. Your next steps each time you wish to send a prayer letter are then:

  • Same as steps 1 and 2 and maybe 3.
  • Re-create prayer letter as a blog post. (I don’t recommend simply having a page on your ministry site with links to PDF files of your prayer letters.)
  • Sit back and relax while MailChimp automatically sends an email of your post / prayer letter.


  • It’s good to have multiple touch points with your ministry partners, such as, more personal prayer requests in a secret Facebook group, a quick photo from your summer project through MailChimp Snap (I’m thinking about trying this out for Cru15), and other ideas.  (This sounds like a good future blog post.)
  • If you want to be a social media ninja, the paper letter and the eNewsletter will actually have slightly different approaches to your story instead of being exactly the same content, but we didn’t consider that option for this post. I don’t have time to do this myself and I suspect you won’t either.
  • Again, my recommendation is to send a PDF only to those who need to print your letter. In case you must have a PDF file for some reason, I found this information for you:
    • Save a MailChimp campaign as a PDF file using your browser. This is actually a very easy way to create a PDF file from your MailChimp letter, but it won’t look exactly as you’d like it.
    • You could link in your MailChimp letter to a PDF file stored elsewhere, even in MailChimp’s file manager. (See Host Files in MailChimp.)

8 thoughts on “Workflow Options: MailChimp, Newsletters, and PDF Attachments, Part Two

    1. You’re welcome, Terry… it took tons of time to write these two posts, too, but I think people were really needing something like this series, so I’m glad I had a chance to finally publish something.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I think the link to the Mailchimp page on how to create a pdf is no longer valid. That is probably the most frustrating thing about Mailchimp….in order to print hard copies it is almost required to re-create the entire campaign all over again. There ought to be a way to create a pdf from the mailchimp campaign since the work has already been done.


      1. Thanks for the follow up questions.
        Every time we write our newsletter we also need to make it available to some who do not use email to receive their news, and others who want to print out a hard copy (i.e. churches). Printing the Mailchimp campaign usually means printing all sorts of extra information, like buttons and links which obviously are meaningless on a piece of paper, plus headers and footers which waste ink and paper. We usually end up re-creating the document in Word or Publisher in order to create a pdf version. I spent 3 hours yesterday trying to get an acceptable pdf from our last campaign and was mostly successful (I’d say a B-), but it should not be that difficult.


        1. Bryan,

          Here’s what I would do.

          When your MailChimp comes to your inbox (I hope you’re sending yourself a copy), you will see “view in your browser” in the upper right. Click on that.

          Now you are in a browser, viewing your email. Copy and paste the body of the MailChimp email into Word, avoiding all those extras. Do any tweaks and then export as a PDF which you can then send out through regular email.

          Unless I misunderstand, this whole process, including sending, will take you less than 15 minutes.


  2. MailChimp no longer will permit a .pdf file to be uploaded and stored in the MailChimp library. So I inserted in the MailChimp e-mail a link to the .pdf file which is hosted on our website (the .pdf has a URL). HERE’S MY PROBLEM: The .pdf is a fillable version (can be filled out by someone reading it at their computer). Although the .pdf loads and displays perfectly on the website, it doesn’t load or display properly when the link from the MailChimp e-mail is used. Instead, it displays with marginal metadata and it also can’t be filled in. Does anyone have experience with this particular problem??? THANKS for any assistance!!!


    1. One idea is to switch to Google Forms instead of using a PDF. Google Forms will also analyze the results. That is, if you have a field, like “city” or “state,” Google Forms tells you the number of responses per unique answer.


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