Mass emails – Internal Communications best practices

‘Group emails’ that get sent around the business are often heavily relied upon, and yet so quickly written that they can be of very little use or value.

So I’m not discussing marketing emails or membership emails that get blasted out across the net, I’m just thinking about ‘distribution lists’, ‘group emails’ and mass internal email best practices.

Typewriter 01Some Observations

I notice that everyone in the company wants to email ‘the managers’ of the company. I notice not everyone really knows how to write a clear email, nor knows when to bother 300 managers with their ideas.

Emails often forget to introduce the concept they are dealing with (subject lines can be as random as ‘For Your Attention’ and ‘Further Details’).

The lack of detail is bolstered by attaching a Word or PowerPoint file – but again, that file often contains little introductory explanation and is often a dozen pages with very little information and / or context. In other words, it’s not been written with this particular audience in mind.

I notice it’s frequently unclear why a manager should care about the message, or if they need to take action.

It’s frustrating when people who think they know how to write emails, yet clearly don’t, some how manage to email 2000 people regarding ‘the new coffee cup policy’.

The Internal Communications department might:

  • Own and maintain distribution lists (groups of email addresses with relevant people included – e.g. The Board, the H&S Department, Senior Managers et cetera);
  • Send emails on behalf of named individuals;
  • Send emails on behalf of the company (and deal with responses);
  • Review and edit the content, considering the message and the language used.

I notice that even when the Internal Communications department step in to help cascade such emails things can still go wrong.

How often does the content author have to re-send a ‘just updated’ document for attaching to the email, 15 minutes after the email was sent? The poor Internal Comms team have to re-send the email, explaining that the original attachment should be deleted and that this one is the latest and correct version. How many managers care to double check such details? Will they even spot the original and then this second email in their over-flowing inboxes?

Best Practices

I feel that Internal Communications have to balance the quality of the content emailed out with the ‘need for speed’ that everyone over-focuses on. Spending another 12 minutes on reviewing and double checking the content shouldn’t damage the business, yet it often feels like if we don’t press ‘send’ now, the world will fall over.

The Internal Communications department could:

  • Have an easy-to-glance at schedule of email communications, to help avoid sending multiple messages to overloaded people;
  • Monitor mass email usage to see if it needs reducing;
  • Educate people so that they know long in advance that the Internal Communications department will ‘help‘ with email comms;
  • Aim to reduce the length of mass emails – shorter, succinct paragraphs;
  • Reduce the reliance on sending Word and PowerPoint files around (clogging up the network and people’s hard drives):
    • Send links to an intranet page (which may or may not have files for download),
    • Include full details in the email;
  • Clearly indicate (visually and with language) any actions required;
  • Format the email with plenty of paragraph breaks and whitespace;
  • Use headings to break up subjects;
  • State who the email has gone to (to reduce the urge to ‘forward’ the email on to colleagues);
  • Consider using a standard email format, that might include obvious headings like ‘Action’, ‘Deadline’, ‘Your Queries’, ‘Who to Contact’, ‘Sent To’ et cetera.

I’m not an expert in email comms – I tend to be succinct (possibly brusque) in my emails, so please help me out and leave your ideas in the comments below.

  1. You are so right. I also experience that most of the people do not care about to fill in the subject line with the appropriate and descriptive text. The most annoying is the “RE” in the subject field.

    At my company IT is responsible to update the distribution lists, however with some personnel changes in their department during the years they decided to update only some important lists. That wouldn’t be a problem but other lists are also exist – have not been updated for ages – but some of the colleagues, who are with the company from the beginning still use them.

    People have the opportunity to create their own distribution list, which could also cause problems if they forget to update them.

    The most disturbing at my company regarding mass mail usage is that many people cannot use it the appropriate way if the want to reply to such a mail. So it often happens that somebody send a mass mail then somebody wants to reply only to the sender but he/she include into the CC field the name of the distribution list, which covers all users. (I suppose the problem caused by the fact that the “Reply” and “Reply to all” button are next to each other.)

    I believe a it would worth creating a “mass mail guideline” (I don’t think about a policy) so that I archive several mails, which could help persuade my superiors to do so.

  2. I agree – this can often be the case in many large organisations. Mass email often seems to the be preferred channel for a lot of internal comms – i often heard the phrase ‘just get an email out about it’ and i always thought that there other ways to do it, especially if you’re trying to promote something internally or get everyone more engaged -try something different.

    So often someone would hit the reply to all button and give the whole company a laugh and being the person responsible for sending out the emails often meant people blamed you for any resend or error.

    There are so many other tools at our disposal now, and tools that encourage more two way communication in an open forum that could easily be explored to reduce the number of emails sent. I know my old IT team often complained about just how many emails were sent every day when people could pick up the phone!

    Policies/guidelines all sound like the way forward – having one central point and from one central email address can also help. If someone has a query and they don’t know where to go, they can always email that address that sends out all the notices!

  3. Thanks for stopping by Jenni, hope to see more of you around.

    P.S. I hope more people will link their comments to their Twitter profiles? What do you guys think?

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