Customization for Notification Emails

Added by popular request: a new way of modifying the notification and confirmation messages RSVPMaker sends when someone submits the form for an event.

The default is still that a notification goes to the event organizer (or whatever email address or addresses you supplied) saying something like “RSVP YES for The Big Event on May 1” and the attendee gets a version that says “Confirming RSVP YES for The Big Event on May 1.” By default, the confirmation message also includes a button people can click to update their RSVP.

Now, if you want to use “Registration” rather than RSVP in the subject line, or you want to leave off the “Update RSVP” button (some people have told me they don’t want to make it too easy for people to back out), you can make those changes. (See also: How to Change the RSVP Now! Button.)

The notifications editor opens up possibilities for adding personality to these transactional messages. It also simplifies the process of localization, since “RSVP” is not universally understood across languages and cultures.

Sample form, showing customized subject line
Confirmation message with a customized headline

The information you record here should be generic enough to apply to all your events. You still get the option to add a per-event confirmation message, which will be included as long as your template includes the [rsvpmessage] placeholder (one of several documented on the page for the template editor). By default, the confirmation message is just “Thank you!” but I’ve also used RSVPMaker to register people for webinars where that message includes detailed instructions for accessing the online event. For a terrestrial event, it might be driving directions.

The Notification Templates screen is distinct from the Email Template screen, which you use to define one or more templates for the layout of your HTML email, for example to specify a background color. Notification messages use the default template defined on that screen.

While RSVPMaker is intended to be useful out of the box, I continue to look for ways to let you make it your own.

P.S. for Developers

If you create extensions to RSVPMaker, there are filters and actions you can tap to extend this feature as well.

The default array of variables used for these templates is defined like this:

You can add to it with a filter like

Your filter would be passed an array and return your modified version with additional entries in the same format.

The sample forms use data pulled from a simple key / value array, where entries look like

The filter for that is ‘rsvpmaker_notification_sample_data’.

Finally, there is a ‘rsvpmaker_notification_templates_doc’ action you can use to add to the documentation at the bottom of the page.

As part of my WordPress for Toastmasters project, I plan to use this same template utility for confirmation and reminder messages for specific meeting roles.

How to Promote Events with MailChimp + RSVPMaker

Here is how you can promote events through a MailChimp email list and get people to register or RSVP, while driving more traffic to your website in the process. MailChimp support arrived in RSVPMaker with version 4.0 and makes it easier to craft broadcast email messages that incorporate RSVPMaker events and other WordPress content.

You begin by composing the content of your event using the standard WordPress editor. I will use the example of a July 20th webinar I’m planning.

Composing an event
Composing an event

Below the content editing area, you will complete a series of event options such as the date and time. Here, I’m asking for people to register so I’ve checked the Collect RSVPs checkbox.

Event options
Event options

Because this event is a webinar, I’ve created a detailed confirmation message that includes the links people will need to follow to attend. You can see a little of it on the screen above, but I composed it by clicking on the Hangouts Setup link and following the prompts to set up an HTML message like the one shown below. (See more about support for Google Hangouts on Air).

I’ve also set the website to send a reminder message to attendees two hours before the event.

webinar-reminders
Confirmation and reminder messages

I also customized the signup form, mostly to simplify it by eliminating options like the blanks for adding guests (which make more sense in the context of an offline event).

I also specified that I would like an “Add me to your email list” checkbox to appear on the signup form. This will allow people who aren’t already on my email list to join it at the same time that they complete the RSVP form.

In other words, I hope to build my email list at the same time that I am registering people for the event.

Setting up the form
Setting up the form

Once I am happy with the event I have created, I can create a draft of a broadcast email message based on that event.

A Send Invitation link now appears on the listing of events. There is also a Content for Email screen you can use to select content to be included in an email broadcast (which also allows you to import blog posts or listings of posts).

Send Invite link
Send Invite link

Imported content is loaded into the WordPress editor, now being used to compose email content. The default title includes the title of the event, along with the date. The email message does not necessarily have to include the verbatim content of your event, but you can use this as a starting point for your invitation email. The imported event includes the RSVP Now! button to encourage people to respond.

Imported content also includes a placeholder (the “INTRO” text) for you to add an introductory message.

Composing an email based on the event post.
Composing an email based on the event post.

Once you are happy with the content of your email broadcast, you can preview it on your website. It will be displayed in a special template specific to events. You can customize the HTML to be used in the template from within WordPress to add elements such as a logo or change the default background color.

If you see changes you want to make, click Revise to go back to the editor. I also typically send a preview version of the email to myself before submitting it to MailChimp.

When you are ready to send your broadcast, check the MailChimp list checkbox, confirm that you have the right list selected, and click Send Now.

Previewing and preparing to send the email.
Previewing and preparing to send the email.

I’ve actually used related techniques to send email broadcasts and regularly scheduled event roundup newsletters to various communities for several years. That approach has also been standardized as part of this latest RSVPMaker release.

As you can see, I’m planning a July 20 webinar to showcase these features and gather feedback on how to make them better. Try it, and let me know what you think.

RSVPMaker 4.0 Adds Integrated Mailer with MailChimp Support

You can now use RSVPMaker to send email invitations to events, as well as other messages relevant to the community you have built around your website. If you want to send messages to a large list, you can use RSVPMaker’s integration with the MailChimp broadcast email service. Independently, RSVPMaker will allow you to send messages to members of your website (for community-based sites that provide user accounts to members), to people who have signed up for an event, or to past attendees at events.

send-invitations
Send Invitation option on menu

In addition to sending single messages, you can schedule a newsletter such as a roundup of upcoming events and recent blog posts to be sent out on a daily or weekly basis.

The new options appear on the RSVP Mailer menu, immediately below RSVP Events. By default, the ability to create and send messages is restricted to the administrator only, although you can grant permission other user types on the settings screen.

RSVPMaker has actually included features designed to work with MailChimp for years, such as encoding on the RSVP Now! button that is replaced with the recipient’s email address when a message is sent. Previously, I provided support for sending MailChimp emails through a separate plugin, ChimpBlast, which I made great use of but few others seemed to appreciate. The RSVP Mailer feature of RSVPMaker is a new, improved version of that functionality. It’s also been updated for version 3.0 of the MailChimp API (with the help of a PHP class wrapper by Drew McLellan – thank you!), whereas ChimpBlast was several versions behind.

While ChimpBlast was lagging, RSVPMaker itself had added several email-related features related to confirmation messages and reminders. I have also been hearing from more people who run membership websites who would like to be able to email the members of their organization without necessarily relying on a service such as MailChimp. So adding a more full-fledged mailer only made sense.

You can create an event invitation from the RSVP Events screen by selecting “Send Invitation” from the menu that appears when you hover your event over the title. Alternatively, you can pick an event from the “Content for Email” screen. Imported content will be loaded into the editor, with a placeholder for an introductory message you can add.

send-invitations-edit
Editing the draft of an email event invitation

Other options include importing the headline and excerpt / content from a recent blog post to serve as the basis for an email broadcast. Or you can import a listing of recent posts.

Editing an email roundup of recent blog posts.
Editing an email roundup of recent blog posts.

Once you have edited your email draft to your liking, you can preview it on the website and send it to a MailChimp list, user list, or attendee list. The controls for sending messages only appear when this page is viewed by a user authorized to send messages.

send-email-ui
Previewing and approving messages on the website.

To create an email newsletter that works with the RSVP Mailer, I would use a series of shortcodes. Of these, rsvpmaker_upcoming is the familiar tag used to display a calendar and events listing on your website, and you can use the popup editor to modify the settings. Two additions are rsvpmaker_recent_blog_posts, which will display blog posts from the past week (if there are any) and rsvpmaker_looking_ahead, which displays linked headlines of events beyond the period covered in the full events listing.

[rsvpmaker_recent_blog_posts]

[rsvpmaker_upcoming calendar=”0″ posts_per_page=”10″ type=”” one=”0″ hideauthor=”0″ past=”0″ no_events=”No events currently listed” nav=”bottom”]

[rsvpmaker_looking_ahead title=”Looking Ahead”]

The options for setting a schedule for distribution of a newsletter or other scheduled broadcast are at the bottom of the RSVP Mailer editing screen. Once you have turned on this feature and specified which list you want to send to, you will also be given the opportunity to add an Editor’s Note for a specific edition of the newsletter. This is a good way to call attention to a specific event, or a specific blog post, or to add a personal message.

Options for scheduling email.
Options for scheduling email.

The resulting newsletter looks like this:

A sample newsletter driven by RSVPMaker.
A sample newsletter driven by RSVPMaker.

The Email Template screen is where you can set options such as the background color to be used with your emails and CSS parameters for HTML tags and classes. These will be added inline to your HTML content when the message is generated, since email clients don’t otherwise reliably process stylesheets in the head of a document.