Corporate communications have become emails, emails and more emails. Anyone working in a 21st-century organization of any size confronts the daily grind of sifting through multiple messages a day from their employer. And let’s face it — some we read closely, some we just skim, and some we pretty much ignore.
So, what exactly triggers that split-second decision on which emails we pay attention to and which ones we don’t? If you’re like me, it’s largely based on who the communication comes from and what’s written in the subject line.
This isn’t to suggest the actual content or guts of a message aren’t also critical, but often the battle is won in those two message fields viewers see before they even get to the body copy. Lose them there and it doesn’t matter how poetic the rest of your communication may be.
For corporate communicators, this means keeping an awareness and strategic mindset every time you’re writing or supporting wide-scale, or ‘broadcast,’ emails to employees. You need to determine whose name (or title) should appear in the ‘From’ box and how to properly phrase that brief but all-important subject line. Failing to execute on either one can mean the difference between your message getting opened and read or slammed with the delete key.
First Impressions Count for all Corporate Communications
What makes internal corporate communications via email tricky is that there aren’t many hard-and-fast rules about who the sender should be and how a subject line should read. One can’t say every notice to employees regarding benefits should come from your head of human resources, but at certain times it makes sense. Company performance news? Maybe your CEO is the source on some occasions and your CFO, or CMO, on others. While most firms have a set of policies and procedures governing routine employee communications, unique circumstances may dictate different levels of authority being used to focus attention on your broadcast messages.
Let’s look at an example: benefits
If you’re kicking off your company’s annual benefits enrollment period, you may want the initial message to come from your Chief Human Resources Officer. Lend important communications the weight of office, or title, they deserve. You only start enrollments once a year, and chances are there are crucial changes to your benefits plan that employees need to know. Follow-up messages, however, such as reminders, key dates, and plan details, might better come from a generic ‘Benefits’ or ‘Annual Enrollment’ email account.
Be careful not to overuse senior execs as the source of corporate emails just to boost the share of eyeballs clicking on them. Employees will figure out pretty quickly when they’re being baited into opening a message with a top official’s title and will be skeptical the next time they see the name. Win over your audience with an appropriate source for your communications each and every time. Never take employees for granted.
Changing the Subject
In my years composing hundreds of broadcast emails on a wide array of topics, the one thing I tried to avoid was a ho-hum subject line. You don’t have a lot of real estate to work with, but be creative. Be witty. Be clever. Make them unique. Even for routine communications, add specifics so they stand out. Make them a call for action, if possible, or add a teaser. For example, instead of …
SUBJECT: Building fire-drill.
SUBJECT: Springfield Center Fire-Drill, March 26 — Are you ready?
You’ve specified where the fire-drill will happen (assuming you have more than one facility), you’ve highlighted the date, and more importantly, you’ve piqued employee interest by teasing whether they know correct fire-drill procedures. Here’s another…
SUBJECT: First quarter results
Ugh. Far better would be…
SUBJECT: How You Contributed to Our Record First Quarter (and What’s Coming in Q2!)
Win Them Over
As with most forms of corporate communications, composing effective employee emails is more art than science. It’s easy to ensure your message gets delivered to everyone at the firm. You can tick the boxes and be sure to include all key points in the body copy. You can incorporate slick visuals, links to powerful digital content and supporting micro-sites. But it’s all for naught if no one opens your message.