Maximizing Internal Email Effectiveness: 7 Proven Techniques
— October 12th, 2023
Quick and convenient. Check. Widely accessible. Check. Asynchronous. Check. Inherently democratic. Check.
It feels like it’s been around forever, but email is still the most important tool in the IC professional’s kit. A well-composed, well-designed internal email feels professional, carries weight, and is a direct representation of the organization.
Whether you're just beginning your journey in the field of internal communications and seeking some valuable insights, or if you are already deep in the trenches and could use a moment to go back to basics, these rules and techniques serve as a helpful guide on how to craft a good email.
Whitepaper: The Strategic Role of Email in Employee Communication
The Importance of Internal Comms
Internal email communication serves as the lifeblood of information exchange among employees. To understand its significance, let’s look at two key aspects: the role of internal emails in organizations and some common pitfalls in their usage.
Understanding Internal Email Communication
Email is an integral part of the IC strategy yet so many organisations fail to use it effectively. In this section we will run through it's emails role and some common pitfalls.
The Role of Internal Emails in Organizations
According to the 2023 Gallagher State of the Sector report, email is still the most widely used internal communication channel. When used correctly and effectively, internal emails have the potential to facilitate seamless communication among employees, teams, and leadership. Email can bridge geographical gaps in today's globally dispersed workforce, ensuring all stakeholders stay informed and engaged. And by forming a written record of communication, email can prove extremely valuable for reference and documentation purposes.
Common Pitfalls in Internal Email Communication
Despite all this, internal email is not without its challenges. Miscommunication can occur due to vague or poorly written messages, leading to misunderstandings and productivity bottlenecks. Overuse of email can also overwhelm employees, causing information overload and hampering efficiency. Some might prefer an alternative channel, such as an employee app or even a good old-fashioned face-to-face meeting. And, of course, sensitive information can only be protected if email security is adequately maintained.
Here we will address the first challenge mentioned above - avoiding poorly composed emails - by providing you with seven golden rules.
Technique 1: Crafting Clear and Concise Subject Lines
Golden Rule: Grab the reader’s attention while being clear and concise.
The Significance of Subject Lines
Subject lines wield tremendous power within an organization, influencing whether an email is read promptly… or buried beneath the digital clutter. Your subject line is a sort of mini guide, signaling the email's content and importance while helping employees prioritize their inboxes.
This is your chance to set the tone for productive communication and ensure that messages are noticed, understood, and acted upon.
Tips for Writing Effective Subject Lines
Clarity: No room for ambiguity here - your words should accurately represent the content within the email.
Relevance: Ensure subject lines are relevant to the employee. Use keywords that resonate with their responsibilities or interests.
Urgency: If an email requires immediate attention, convey urgency (without resorting to clickbait-type tactics).
Actionable Language: Use action verbs or phrases to prompt the recipient's response or action.
Examples of Good vs. Poor Subject Lines
Good: "Team Meeting Agenda for Thursday, October 5”
Poor: "Important Meeting"
Good: “Christmas Party 2023 - RSVP Required by EOD"
Poor: “Final Reminder”
Good: "New Company Policies - Review Needed"
Technique 2: Using Proper Email Formatting
Golden Rule: Don’t bury the lead!
Design and structure your email in a way that makes it easy for employees to quickly understand the main takeaways.
The Impact of Email Formatting on Readability
Effective email formatting can significantly impact the readability and overall effectiveness of your content. In a world inundated with digital comms, a well-structured email actually stands out.
Best Practices for Email Formatting
- Design: A clean design is best. Avoid white or light-colored font on a dark background. Dark backgrounds are often associated with specific design aesthetics but are generally less user-friendly, especially for long-form text. Create a responsive email layout that adjusts to different screen sizes. Use single-column designs, scalable images, and legible fonts on mobile screens
- Paragraph Structure: Use short paragraphs and line breaks to create a visual separation between ideas. This prevents the email from looking cluttered and makes your content more digestible.
- Font and Text Size: Choose a legible font and an appropriate text size. Standard fonts like Arial or Helvetica are always a safe bet. Avoid excessive use of bold or italics, as that can be distracting.
- Whitespace: Allow for ample whitespace around text and between sections. This enhances visual clarity and prevents the email from looking crowded.
Visual Aids and Styling Considerations
Consider incorporating visual aids like charts, tables, or images where they complement the content and help the employee gain a deeper understanding. Vibrant high-definition images make your internal emails more visually appealing and engaging. Before incorporating any images or photographs into your emails, ensure you have the appropriate usage rights. Using images without the proper permissions can lead to copyright violations.
Refrain from overly colorful or fussy email templates that may hinder readability. It’s tempting to “jazz your email up.” Ignore that temptation! Make your email a “must-read” through compelling subject lines, useful and interesting information, storytelling, and the option to respond with comments. The style should remain simple and professional at all times.
Technique 3: Personalizing Your Emails
Golden rule: make the personalization meaningful to the recipient.
In other words, go beyond simply including the recipient's name in the email. Effective personalization should demonstrate a genuine understanding of the recipient's job title, preferences, or interests.
Building Rapport through Personalization
Personalization plays an important role in building rapport, fostering a sense of belonging, and, ultimately, strengthening employee engagement. In our Inside IC Global Survey, 99% of 700+ internal communicators said they use email to communicate with their workforce.
However, only 28% said they personalize any element of their messaging. Big opportunity missed! Tailoring internal emails to individuals' preferences and needs not only enhances the overall employee experience but also contributes to a more cohesive, motivated workforce.
Strategies for Personalizing Emails
Customized Content: Build email content that aligns with employees' roles, interests, and responsibilities. Recognize achievements, acknowledge milestones, and highlight relevant news or updates specific to their department or team.
Using Recipient Names: Addressing employees by their first names adds a personal touch to emails. It’san easy way of making employees feel seen and valued.
Segmentation: Divide the employee audience into segments based on job function or location criteria. This allows for tailored messaging that resonates with each cohort’s unique perspective.
Feedback Integration: Incorporate feedback and suggestions from employees into your emails. Acknowledge their input and demonstrate that it has been heard, appreciated, and acted upon.
Balancing Professionalism and Personalization
While personalization is essential, it must be balanced with professionalism. Maintain a respectful tone and adhere to company guidelines and communication standards. Avoid over-familiarity or divulging sensitive information. Striking the right balance ensures that personalization enhances, rather than detracts from, the professionalism of internal emails
Technique 4: Prioritizing Information and Calls to Action
Golden rule: “Think - “As an employee, what do I most want to know?!”
Employees shouldn’t have to scroll or search the email's content for the most important information.
Organizing Content for Clarity
This section could really be summarized in one line - use your common sense! Organize your content under logical headings, maintain a clear information hierarchy, and employ proper formatting.
This clarity helps employees absorb the message without confusion. You must empathize with the employee's perspective, always asking yourself, “What information is crucial for me to know and which details have the greatest influence on my job and duties?”
Effective Use of Bullet Points and Lists
Instead of dense paragraphs, break down complex information into easy-to-scan lists. Bullet points draw attention to key points, making them ideal for summarizing action items, important details, or steps to follow.
Encouraging Actionable Responses
To foster engagement in internal emails:
- Ensure that your messages encourage actionable responses.
- Use action-oriented language to clearly articulate the desired response or next steps, whether it'sproviding feedback, attending a meeting, or completing a task.
- Include contact information so employees can easily reach out with any questions or concerns.
By making it easy for employees to respond and participate, you can drive more meaningful interactions within your organization.
Technique 5: Managing Email Length
Golden Rule: Be selective and be firm - you are the editor!
The Perils of a Lengthy Internal Email
As the saying goes, too many chefs spoil the broth. Long, convoluted internal newsletters can make an employee switch off. Excessive content, irrelevant details, and a lack of focus can overwhelm recipients, leading to decreased engagement, misinterpretation, and email fatigue.
While contributions from around the company are welcome, you and IC colleagues must be clear that it is YOUR newsletter. The responsibility for what gets sent out ultimately rests with you. You want a perfectly curated and tightly edited newsletter, and not, to continue the culinary theme, a dog’s dinner!
Techniques for Keeping Emails Short and Focused
Adopt techniques that prioritize brevity and clarity.
- Start with a Clear Purpose. Begin your email with a concise statement of its objective and the “main news item”. Clearly state what the recipient needs to know or do.
- Trim Unnecessary Details: Remove superfluous information or content that doesn't directly contribute to this objective.
- Highlight Action Items: Use bold or different colored font to emphasize action items or deadlines. This draws attention to critical tasks.
- Guest or AI-Generated Content: When using content that you have not actually written yourself, make sure to revise, refine, and proofread each sentence carefully. The email or newsletter should be consistent in tone and style from start to finish. Short, simple sentences are best.
Providing Additional Resources When Necessary
Provide Links for More Information: For further information or additional resources, include links to documents, websites, or intranet pages that allow the employee to gain a deeper understanding. This keeps the email short while offering employees access to more extensive materials. But use your judgment here - don’t add links arbitrarily.
Technique 6: Timing and Scheduling
Golden rule: Be consistent.
Maintain a regular and predictable schedule for your e-newsletters. Whether weekly, fortnightly, or monthly, consistency helps employees anticipate and look forward to your content.
Considerations for Email Timing
Day of the Week: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are better days for e-newsletter delivery. Mondays can be hectic as people catch up on emails from the weekend, while Fridays often see reduced email engagement as people finish early or mentally enter the weekend before it’sactually begun.
Time of Day: Aim to send emails mid-morning or mid-afternoon hours. Avoid sending during the evening time or on weekends when employees want to wind down from work.
Avoid Key Holidays: Be mindful of significant holidays and events that may affect email open rates. It's often best to avoid sending emails during these times.
Testing: Conduct A/B testing to determine the optimal timing for your specific audiences. Send the same emails at different times or days and analyze the open and click-through rates to identify the best-performing schedule.
Time Zone Consideration: If you have a geographically diverse workforce, segment your mailing list and send newsletters at times that align with recipients' time zones.
Monitoring Engagement: Continuously monitor and analyze open rates, click-through rates, and unsubscribe rates. Adjust your timing and scheduling based on these insights to optimize your emails over time. Regularly reviewing and adapting your strategy based on performance data is key to achieving the best results.
Special Announcements: We recently asked IC expert and bestselling author David Grossman for the best piece of advice he ever gave a CEO. He stressed the importance of honesty and transparency and then added, “Employees want to know what we know, when we know it.” When we know it. If there is an important piece of news or a big company announcement to be made, then there is no time like the present.
Tools for Scheduling Emails
Scheduling a send allows you to email your chosen audience at a time of your choosing. It allows you to send at an optimal time for your readers, especially if you're sending to employees in different time zones. You might presume an email marketing platform is an affordable alternative to a dedicated internal comms platform when it comes to scheduling your sends, but Internal Comms expert Joanna Hall explains why this is not the case.
Avoiding Overload and Burnout
Email overload and burnout are genuine concerns. Be mindful of the volume and frequency of emails you send, especially after hours or on weekends. Encourage a culture of asynchronous communication, where only some messages require an immediate response.
Technique 7: Embracing Email Etiquette
Golden rule: Triple-check your email before you send. If in doubt, don’t hit send!
The Role of Etiquette in Internal Emails
Proper email etiquette ensures that messages are received respectfully and reduces the potential for misunderstandings or disharmony.
Employee Email Etiquette - Do's and Dont's
- Be Professional: Always maintain a professional tone and language in your emails, regardless of the recipient.
- Mind your Language: From the subject line to the sign-off, make sure there is no scope for confusion, misinterpretation, or offense to be caused.
- Respond Timely: Reply to emails within a reasonable timeframe to demonstrate respect for employees' time and contributions.
- Proofread: Check for typos and errors. An approval system should include a second proofread by an IC colleague.
- Use All Caps: Writing in all capital letters is akin to shouting and should be avoided.
- Overuse Emojis: While occasional use is acceptable, excessive emojis can appear messy and somewhat juvenile.
- Use Emotional Language: Steer clear of emotionally charged language; maintain a calm, respectful tone.
Recap of 8 Proven Techniques
Now that we have discussed the seven golden rules and sharpened your email skills, there is one more important point to add. Adaptation and evolution based on employee feedback are absolutely paramount in internal email communications. Feedback provides a roadmap for refining email content, structure, and timing. By actively listening to employees, organizations can tailor their communication strategies to ensure that emails and newsletters are not only informative but also engaging and impactful. This iterative process of improvement strengthens the comms process and reflects an organization's willingness to change and grow.
The Transformational Impact of Effective Internal Emails
Effective internal emails are not mere digital missives but catalysts for organizational transformation. As comms leader Rachel Miller says, “The purpose of internal communication isn’t telling people what to do; it’s to create a shared understanding and meaning. Only then can employees align themselves to a company’s purpose.” Created with intention and executed professionally, email can enhance and prove engagement levels in a way no other channel can match.
Encouragement to Implement These Techniques
So start with a clean template and use these techniques to produce some email magic! By doing so, you can unlock the full potential of internal emails as a vital driver of success and cohesion in your workplace.