When did email become so … dull?
I don’t mean emails you subscribed to from Hacker News, HBR or, Brain Pickings – those emails have more than an ounce of personality in them.
I mean: emails from HR, Finance, or IT – those emails that give a project update or announce something new.
When did it become acceptable to send boring, unimaginative emails to colleagues that become another burden in their inbox?
You may be working for a company that has rules and guidelines around what can and can’t be included in an email, but that doesn’t give you licence to suck the personality out of communications so they become grey, withered, and totally lacking in hope.
What if the emails you sent were something your colleagues looked forward to? And as they passed you in the corridor, they commented on how much they learned? Congratulated you on a job well done because you single-handedly saved them from reading yet another dull email they forgot about the second they hit delete?
If you’re giving a project update, announcing new initiative, or sending a quarterly business review, there’s more to getting the email right than simply explaining the facts.
Make the email an experience. Use principles from psychology to encourage the readers to take action when you need them to. Make it stick in their memory.
Using principles from branding and psychology, you can take your emails from:
Um .. what did he write about last week?
Thank £%!* goodness the five minutes I spent reading that email were a valuable use of my time.
Let’s dive in.
Principle #1: Deliver
If you use email software like DotMailer, Active Campaign or Hubspot it’s likely the security filters of your system recognise them as a threat and files them neatly in Spam.
The emails aren’t even seen by your audience – you’ve lost before you’ve even started.
Ask the readers to white list the email address you’ll use so emails are guaranteed to hit the Inbox – where they’re meant to be.
Click here for more on white listing instructions.
Principle #2: Messages
Email overwhelm may be a modern-day epidemic, but death-through-too-much-info-in-an-email shouldn’t be.
Whatever your update, remember this important principle:
Three messages, one action.
Your email will aim to deliver three main messages, and ask the reader to take one action only.
Too much info and the brain forgets. Too many action points and the brain feels overwhelmed or paralysed.
Help your colleagues to avoid forgetting or paralysis:
Three messages, one action.
Principle #3: Brain works
We buy on emotion and justify with logic – whether buying means paying for something with money, or agreeing to take action (like completing a survey or attending a meeting).
So when you want your readers to take action, appeal to their feelings and add data or facts as frosting on an otherwise glorious cake.
- Explain the benefits: What’s in it for them to take this action – will they feel differently, see a difference in their job, learn a new skill, acquire much-needed knowledge, or something else? What benefit will it bring to the company?
- Tell a story: What examples in the existing business (departments, people, projects) can you use to bring your message to life? Use employee experiences like testimonials. This works especially well when selling the concept of a new/ongoing project.
- Future project: How differently will your world look when the initiative is implemented? What’s likely to happen if the project isn’t supported?
Emotion (especially stories) beat data dumps any day of the week.
Principle #4: Image & Colour
If the emails you send are related to a single project or initiative (you’ll send multiple updates over a period of time), give the emails their own brand.
This makes the emails become instantly recognisable to the reader. And they’re slightly more entertaining to read than yet another email with black text on a white background with the standard corporate colours (eye roll).
Brand the emails by:
- Using the same banner image on each email
- Taking a colour from the banner image and using it for all words in bold, and a different colour for sub-headlines
- Use images to break up email flow (you’re writing an email, not a thesis). These can be graphs and charts, images from the business, or stock images (here’s a list of sites with free images)
This was an introduction to creating persuasive emails that get the job done (whether you want the reader to take an action, think differently or be informed).
Which principle are you already using?
What to do now?
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