6 Tips on Sending Effective Email During a Crisis

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With the emergence of the coronavirus (COVID-19), brands are being forced to quickly act and adapt to a situation that changes daily. Email is the most powerful channel to stay connected to your customers, so brands are turning to their email marketing teams to keep customers and prospects informed—and to build trust in times of uncertainty.

Is your inbox already filled with notifications about COVID-19? Ours are, too. With the influx of emails related to the topic, subscribers are growing skeptical of the messages they are receiving, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, we run the risk of alienating our communities by “marketing as usual” during trying times. 

Now more than ever, it is important that your email messages align with best practices and that your messages are error-free.

Whether you need to send messages about impact to events, inventory, services, or to simply say things are operating as usual, here are some hands-on tips you should follow to make sure the emails you send in times of a crisis are error-free and build trust in stressful times—even if your team needs to send them ad-hoc.

1. Validate Your Sender Name and Preview Text.

While it’s sensible that many of these messages are sent on behalf of a company’s leader, ensure the sending email address is properly authenticated and the sender name (or from name) also shows the association to your company. For example “John Jones (CEO, Company Name) <hello@companyname.com>”. In addition, you can use the preview text to help increase your open rates by leveraging this field to further reassure your audience this is a legitimate message from your organization.

Optimize your preview text and avoid the dreaded “if you are having problems with this email” or “click here to view online” text showing up in the inbox. Instead, use a descriptive preview text that supports your subject line and—as the name suggests—provides a preview of the content your subscribers will find in your email. With our Ultimate Guide to Preview Text Support you can get some guidance on how to optimize your preview text.

2. Avoid only using an image for your message.

Sending an email that’s made up entirely of images will prevent screen readers, or subscribers who have images turned off, from viewing your messages. The email user has come to understand that an email with mostly text is warranted for this type of message and many times we have seen plain text messages outperform heavily-formatted emails.

3. Avoid unnecessary calls-to-action.

If you include unnecessary calls-to-action or secondary messages, you risk diminishing the genuineness of your message. Do include a point of reference should they want to read more information or simply navigate to your website.

4. Be mindful of your segments.

Not everyone in your list may need to receive a notification about what your company is doing about the recent events. There is a lot of noise at the moment, so you want to make sure your message resonates and that it’s not just another message capitalizing on the current situation. For example: if you’re a retailer and some of your local stores are closing as a precautionary measure, make sure you’re segmenting your list by geolocation to ensure you’re only notifying the subscribers who’re impacted by this update.

5. Keep a close eye on your deliverability metrics.

With the increase in overall volume that is being sent out, we have started to see changes in email filtering as email clients are trying to process the incoming messages. Here are a few tips to help keep your deliverability strong:

  • Avoid high-volume sends that may stand out from your usual pattern. Consider breaking up these sends into smaller batches which can be sent over a few days. 
  • Now is not the time to send to your entire database, especially those users that have previously opted out of your program.
  • Leverage email campaigns with high engagement rates and send these announcement emails after those. This can help offset any lower engagement of these larger sends. Keep in mind that email clients look at the overall engagement of your messages in addition to your reputation as a sender and the integrity of your code and message.
  • Monitor your inbox placement and complaints very closely. Any increase in complaints could impact your chances of reaching your audiences beyond these one-off messages

6. Double-check your automated and triggered email.

When you’re creating new campaigns that are launching in the next few days, thinking about how your message might be perceived during a crisis comes naturally. Too often though, brands forget to take a close look at automated or triggered emails that might hit your audience during critical times. Take the time to take a close look at your existing nurturing emails, your transactional messages, and any other automated or triggered emails that a subscriber might receive. Put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes and ask yourself: Are there any subject lines that, under the light of recent developments, can come across as insensitive? Is there any email content—in both copy and imagery—that was effective last week but is inappropriate today?

Examples of brands that send thoughtful, empathetic emails in times of a crisis

If you’re looking for examples for how fellow email marketers master the challenge of writing and designing emails to stay connected to their subscribers during this global health crisis, check out this email collection from our friends at Really Good Emails.

More resources

Here are additional resources to help you adjust your email program during these trying times: