This spring I am head coach for my son’s baseball team. One of my many responsibilities is to send emails updating parents about such issues as policies, snack bar duties and the schedule.
Recently, a parent came up to me at a game, introduced himself and said, “I’ve been involved in my kids’ sports for a very long time and I have to tell you: Yours are the most helpful, on-point emails I have ever received.”
The communicator inside me did a happy dance while I politely smiled and thanked him. I didn’t tell him what I do for a living, but I did wonder: What am I doing to make him feel so good about the emails?
The bottom line is that every time I create an email, I apply three principles: focus on the customer, emphasize action and get the timing right. And when I leave the baseball field and return to my desk, I use those same principles to write emails to employees. Here’s how:
Focus on the customer
My customers for baseball team emails are obviously parents. Because I’m a parent too, it’s easy for me to put myself in customers’ shoes and write content that resonates:
- What they need to know
- What they need to do
- Where to go if they have questions
Not surprisingly, employees care about the same things as my team parents. When I write internal emails for clients, I always make sure to deliver essential information and leave out unnecessary, unhelpful content.
Frequently, I need parents to take a small action such as RSVPing to a game, signing up for a volunteer slot, or making sure their son wears the right jersey to a game. These requests for action are called out in the email, usually in a section clearly labeled “what you need to do.”
Employees aren’t reading emails anymore; they are only scanning. I follow the same methodology and use visual cues such as bold text and bullets to help action steps jump off the page for employees.
Time it just right
The final trick to getting my baseball emails to stand out is timing. I try to give parents enough time to plan, but not enough time to forget about the email. I also try to send emails over the weekend, so they don’t get buried in the barrage of work and school emails that arrive in their inboxes during the week.
For employees, I take the time to understand the typical cadence of communication in my clients’ organizations. For example, are there regular emails, digests or newsletters, that go out at the same time each week? Are there reports that have to be submitted by the end of each week? Once I have a clear picture of communication and priorities for employees, I recommend a delivery time when the email will feel relevant but will not get lost in the shuffle or be ignored due to competing demands.
If you follow these principles when writing emails for employees in your organization, I bet you will start seeing the compliments come in. You can even do a happy dance if you want.