This article is sponsored by PoliteMail.
Despite the proliferation of new communication platforms, most employees still use email as their go-to channel. Information overload, however, can lead employees to feeling overwhelmed, neglected, or not engaged due to the perception that corporate messages are irrelevant. How can you make your messaging stand out? Here are five data-backed internal email best practices to help you increase readership and drive meaningful engagement.
1. Write short, straightforward subject lines. The subject line either captures someone’s attention or gets ignored. When writing a subject line, keep it short and compelling and opt for simplicity over creativity. Because of how mobile devices and modern preview panels cut off subject lines, most people will only be able to see the first 42 characters (about five to seven words).
The best subject lines express time sensitivity and topics of interest, raise curiosity and are easily understood. Rather than use a creative subject line that says, “Thought we’d never ask? Now think again!” Use a more direct subject like “Engagement survey due today: In office or WFH?” A clear and concise subject line should provide the reader with the context of what’s to come in the email.
Tip: If there’s a deadline, include it in your subject line. If you want a response or action by a specific date, make that clear upfront. Include days or months in the subject line and keywords like reminder, update, action, new and now. Here are a few examples:
- “Action Required: Register by Friday”
- “Due Now: Submit Budgets by June 15”
- “Reminder: Survey Due — Your Feedback Matters!”
- “Update: Enrollment Opens Nov. 1”
2. Send to smaller segments and more targeted lists. One size never fits all. When you want a message to resonate with a large, diverse group of employees, consider segmenting recipients by location, roles, management level or departments. The language and angle can be tailored to different audiences, even if the message remains the same. Acknowledging how cultural, generational and educational variations may influence how and why employees engage with your internal communications can be helpful.
While segmented lists are not always easy to achieve — getting an accurate, up-to-date all-employee list is often challenging in itself — it’s a worthwhile project. By minimizing the number of generic or irrelevant emails people receive, you can increase readership, engagement and response rates, and reduce email overload.
3. Send from a recognized and respected email address. Sending organizational emails from a recognized and official email address builds trust, ensures credibility and increases the likelihood of recipients opening and engaging with emails.
Because most people have limited time and attention, they generally use two cognitive filters when navigating their inboxes: “Who is it from?” and “What is it about?” If you consistently broadcast a wide variety of email from a single shared mailbox, you’re likely conditioning your employees to ignore most of those messages.
Organizational messaging is most effective when it comes from two or three consistent sources. Employees tend to give 7% more attention to emails from individuals' names (typically executives or leaders) who are not the primary communicators. Executive, management and leadership messages, even if not written by the individual, receive more attention and readership when addressed from their name.
4. Send earlier in the week. When will your employees most likely open, read and respond to emails? Equipped with data, you can analyze which days and times have the highest engagement rates. You can also look for behavior patterns across different segments.
On average, around 39% of your audience will spot the email within an hour, 50% within two hours and the majority (about 87%) will have seen it within 24 hours. PoliteMail’s Internal Communications Benchmark Report, which analyzes over 3 billion internal emails sent to 14 million employees, reveals these timing recommendations:
- Mondays are the best day for gaining attention, readership and clicks — with Tuesdays being a close second. These rates decline over the week. Currently, Thursdays are the most popular broadcast day.
- Expect lower-than-average responses when you send email on Fridays.
- Email that reaches the inbox at the start of the workday yields the highest attention and readership.
- Email that reaches the inbox first thing in the afternoon produces the highest click rates.
Use scheduled sends to reach employees at the right time, wherever they are.
5. Use more words and less banners in the preview window. Using large company logos and banners at the top of an internal email is usually a waste of precious space. Most companies brand their email as if it were marketing material, but employees already know it’s internal communication by the sender address. You can achieve standardized formats with well-recognized company branding by using fonts, colors, layout and image styles, as well as footers, so that your key messages and action items are placed at the top of the email.
Our analysis of shorter messages that fit into the preview pane suggests that headlines matter significantly more than banner graphics when it comes to capturing employee attention. Surprisingly, mostly text outperforms mostly image preview content by 16% when measured by attention rate. Volume and novelty also play a factor, as image-heavy messages are sent 12 times more often than text-heavy messages.
Engaging Your Workforce With Email
By writing short, straightforward subject lines, including due dates and deadlines, sending to smaller, segmented lists and working on timing, you will optimize the impact of your emails. Use data and metrics to continually refine your email strategy and evolve to meet the changing needs of your organization. In a world where inboxes are stuffed full daily, yours can still stand out.
For more best practices and the data behind them, download PoliteMail’s free resource, "Ultimate Corporate Communications Internal Email Broadcast Best Practices Guide.”
Elevate your internal communications game with PoliteMail's webinar "Data-Backed Best Practices for Internal Emails" 25 January at noon CT
and dive further into top strategies from the 2023 Benchmark Report. Ready to take your emails to the next level? Register now
Michael DesRochers is the founder and managing director of PoliteMail Software, a provider of internal email measurement and analytics software the integrates with Microsoft Outlook and Exchange. Today, PoliteMail is used by 27% of the largest U.S. organizations to help increase employee engagement through email. Prior to founding PoliteMail, DesRochers spent 15 years as a CEO of a 75-person team of communication professionals.