The Metropolitan (London) police force were recently derided for publishing an internal document of instructions on what their officers and staff should consider when sending emails. This gave rise to much hilarity in daily papers, the suggestion being, it would appear, that officers should instinctively know such things.
Few would argue with the suggestion that email is a main method of communication nowadays, including internally, B2B and B2C. It seems odd, therefore, that many companies do not have an email policy. This, I would suggest, is dangerous.
You have email marketing software which will define the best way to address a customer yet do you ensure that other emails, perhaps invoices and such, use the same terms? Might your customer see variation as rather strange?
If you are considering publishing an email policy then the Met police example is a good basis. Not only that, it is a pretty fair outline for marketing emails.
To paraphrase the guidelines:
1/ A title that explains ‘simply and clearly’ what the email is about is essential.
You should also be honest in marketing emails.
2/ If there is a deadline then ensure that it is obvious from the start. Internal emails should have this in the subject line. If the email is for information then make this clear. If immediate response is required then let them know.
3/ Use everyday words and those that your target audience will understand, without being patronising. Avoid jargon at all costs.
I imagine I have to pay extra for adjectives.
4/ Start with an overview of the purpose of your email. Let them know not only what it is about but anything particular about it.
5/ The Met policy says you should ‘be as concise as possible.’
I’d go further; that should be your starting point, and then you should cut some more.
6/ Following on from 5/ above, if you need to convey a great deal of information then consider an attachment for internal communication or a link for email marketing.
7/ Sub-headings break up an email into easily understood parts. Consider having a list of contents.
8/ For internal emails, avoid including any previous ones in your text. If the information contained in them is important for your email, then précis them to include only the essential bits. To do otherwise is lazy.
9/ For internal emails, use the bcc box when emailing a large number of people in case the email is printed off.
10/ Check your email for mistakes before you send it.
Please, please follow this one. The occasional literal has to be accepted, but poor spelling, especially with universal spell-checks, grates.
This is where the Met policy ends. I’d add another, purely for internal emails.
11/ Is your email really the best means of transmitting the information? Might it be better to phone or actually meet the person?
It is no coincidence that most of the basic requirements of emails used in email marketing are not only applicable to internal communication but essential. It goes the other way as well.
The derision aimed at the policy was largely to fill space. I reckon that it might be worthwhile to pinch it.