Email Best Practices During COVID-19
In this time of crisis, your staff is likely working overtime to communicate with and serve constituents. One of the best forms of outreach for communicating with new and familiar audiences is email. However, at a time when people may be receiving several Coronavirus updates to their inbox throughout the day, you need to take special care to ensure that your messages are read.
Here are several ways to ensure that your email makes it to your citizens' inbox.
Send When Relevant
During this time when things are evolving and your office needs to make timely announcements, the best time to send is as soon as possible. Although, when possible, it’s still best to send during business hours on weekdays.
Limit the List
Even though we’re in a crisis, spam rules still apply. When sending to a huge list of non-subscribers, you increase the likelihood of having your IP address being flagged as spam. To prevent this, limit your list size and avoid email blasts to more than 1,000 email addresses at a time.
With businesses and organizations frequently sending updates to their subscribers, there’s a concern that emails with subject lines including words like “Coronavirus” or “COVID-19” may be automatically sorted to spam folders. To save your email from being categorized as spam, avoid overused buzzwords in your subject line. Instead, reference your district or member so that the receiver knows the email is important and can easily distinguish it from the other messages littering their inbox.
Although it may seem natural to regularly check-in with your citizens, email is not the platform for that. With the high volume of COVID-19 emails that people are receiving every day, email should be reserved for important announcements. Rely on your other communication platforms, such as your social media accounts and your website, for more regular check-ins and reminders.
Use Preview Text
Always make sure that your email has preview text before sending. This gives your email another chance after the subject line to catch the reader’s eye before they automatically hit the delete button. Depending on the newsletter tool your office uses, the preview text may auto-populate. Regardless, make sure that this is on your list to double check before pressing the send button.
The shorter the email the better, especially when you’re communicating a timely and important message. However, if you need to convey several main points to your citizens and want to avoid sending multiple emails, break down your message into subheadings and bold, italicize, or otherwise highlight those titles (just like this blog does) to break down the email and make it easily skimmable.
Because email targets individual people, it’s one of your strongest communication methods in this time. That said, you should only be relying on this method of communication when there’s an actionable item that you want the recipient to take. For instance, reading an announcement, signing up for an event, or contacting your office for help.
Send to Subscribers
Even though you’re likely trying to contact as many people as possible in this time, don’t forget about your subscribers. If possible, your office should continue sending regular newsletters repurposed with Coronavirus-related content. Because you’ve already invested time into building these audiences, you don’t want to neglect these subscribers who are likely to be more engaged and responsive to your emails.
When in doubt, be as concise as possible. The likelihood that someone will scroll to the bottom of a 500-word email is low. Either give them reasons to keep scrolling, for instance pictures or bold headlines, or make the email as short as possible.
Don’t Overload Your Emails
While you should avoid sending too many emails, you don’t want to overload a single email with too many important things that will end up buried in blocks of text. Instead of thoroughly explaining every item in your email, link to other content when you can. When covering many topics, consider the email an overview that shows the reader what they need to know and connects them to the resources they may need.
Track Delivery and Engagement
If you want to know whether your email is making it to your constituents, check the analytics. Look at the number of delivered emails versus bounce backs and use this information to clean up your list. Check open rates to know whether your subject line made it past the spam filters and caught the eye of your recipients. Lastly, check how many people clicked links in your email to know how engaging the email was and improve future campaigns.
Don't just encourage your citizens to reach out to your office, but also encourage them to reach out to others and pass your message along. Include a call to action at the beginning or end of your email with a link to forward the email or share it on social media.
Although a good, old-fashioned letterhead will do the trick for formal announcements, you may want to created a new email header image for COVID-19 emails. Not only will this catch the reader’s eye, but it will also serve as a consistent thread between your emails relating to this subject and just another way to make a positive impression on your citizens.
When in doubt about any of the components of your email, such as the subject line or header image, try an A/B test. An A/B test easily allows you to test the success of your email on a smaller list before larger distribution. Learn more about A/B testing.