10 Tips For Creating Email Messages With A Message

In my previous Email Insider, I explored how brands are using email to stake out positions on current events and reiterate their political, social and cultural values.
These can be effective ways to build more connections with your readers, but they can be risky, too. Below are things to think about before you follow suit:
1. Is email your primary delivery channel? Or, does it amplify the same message delivered elsewhere, such as a speech, social media post, video, press release or postal letter? If email is the primary channel, you must ensure it says exactly what you intend, because it will set the tone for all other communications.
2. Who signs the email? If a message covers politics, news, company values or other issues, it should come from your top leadership to be credible -- not from your corporate communications or public relations staff, and not from customer service.
If, however, you are heading off bad news, you might be more credible to have a statement come from the highest-ranking person who oversees that department.
3. Which from/sender name to use? Keep your sending address the same to avoid deliverability or filtering issues. But modify the friendly "from" name to avoid appearing promotional. Use a name that your subscribers would recognize and would coordinate with your subject line.
4. Timing? If you're "newsjacking" current events (like Lyft's message pledging a $1 million ACLU donation after Trump's immigration ban), you must act fast or miss the window of opportunity. But don't rush the process just to capitalize on a breaking story.  
Set up a rapid-response workflow and approval process now that covers special messages, including apology emails. It reduces production time and margin for error.
5. Message format: simple or elaborate? If you're in doubt, need to move fast or want to focus solely on the message, send a simple letter. If you have time, add video links, images and any other assets to back up your message.
6. Tone? In my first column, I cited one company that used humor effectively in its mild protest against anti-immigrant actions, tying it to its brand image and audience (devoted dog owners).
Your tone should match the gravity of your statement. Humor can work if it aligns with your culture and image, but the more general your brand and audience, the milder your message should be.
7. What's your intent? Are you trying to build your image as a corporate citizen? Try to talk your ecommerce people out of adding a promotion if it doesn't fit in with your comments or announcement.
If you're a small company that sells topical T-shirts, though, an event (International Women's Day for example) could be a prime sales or revenue opportunity. Find a way to make the promotion ring true with your other content.
8. Are you prepared for the consequences? Going public could spark a subscriber/customer exodus no matter how mildly you frame your position. Provide for this in your rapid-response framework (No. 4 above) and let your PR, HR and customer service departments know what's happening. Prepare responses to share with customer-facing departments ahead of time.
9. What's your subject line? Unless edgy humor is part of your branding, a cutesy or creative subject line generally doesn't work if you're responding to a crisis or criticizing public policy. You might not have time to test. So, be personal, human and straightforward: "A message from our founders on our immigration policy."
10. Broadcast versus segmented? You probably don't have data on your subscribers' political or social attitudes, so targeting on those characteristics might not make sense. Personalization can be thorny, too, unless you're confident you have reliable data.
Consider sending only to your high-value subscribers -- regular buyers, loyalty-club or premium members, etc.--– or to people whose purchases or interests match your statement's subject.
Have you done any socially conscious email messaging? Please share your experiences below.
Until next time, take it up a notch!
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