Almost every business has a moment when they need to reach their customers on a broad scale with a statement, instructions or a reassuring message during a critical time. Producing these emails are challenging because there is often not a lot of time to spend on crafting these messages and getting them out the door. We’ve seen and helped our clients deliver countless numbers of these types of messages in our years as a high volume email sender. Here are some tips we have for you to help you prepare the next time you need to send a message like this to your customers: 

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and decide if a communication is necessary

Before sending a message, be clear on if your business is doing something critical enough to warrant a message or if the way your customers engage with your brand will be fundamentally interrupted. Twitter is active these days with complaints from consumers about a barrage of unnecessary emails due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. If a customer ordered a dog toy from you eight years ago, you probably don’t need to notify that customer of how you are responding to a global pandemic. If that customer was caught up in a data breach, though, a communication is relevant and required. If you do decide that your crisis is worthy of an email send, then you need to activate quickly to address your customers’ concerns, give them advice and guidance on how to navigate the situation and reassure them on how your company is prepared.

Nailing the content is important

If you’ve decided a message to your customers is needed, here are our tips on producing content that will be seen as valuable: 

  • Be clear on why the recipient is receiving the message, so they aren’t confused and have proper context. 
  • Use a simple and clear subject line. This is not the time to be clever, but keep it straightforward and friendly. 
  • Keep the tone calm, helpful and empathetic. 
  • If there will be a disruption to what the business typically delivers, then it’s important to notify your customers about what parts of the business are impacted. I.e. Store closings/limited hours, limited support hours, inability to deliver on typical deliveries, product shortages, etc.
  • Keep the communication brief, so your customers can absorb the content quickly.
  • Lean on text vs. images. This is not the time to show creativity, a logo and simple imagery is enough. This needs to look like a letter and non-promotional.
  • Be very specific with instructions if the customer needs to take an action. 
  • Link to any additional resources that may contain more information for the customer. You don’t have to put all the content in the email itself. 
  • Share where and how customers will be notified of future updates. I.e. “We will send an email daily notifying you of the resolution” or “More frequent updates can be found on our Twitter profile.” 
  • Even though this is a transactional message, if your customers don’t want future updates, give them an opportunity to opt down from communications on this topic. 
  • Be specific about the sender. Reference the name and role of the executive that this is from in the signature. This should read like a letter, so make it clear who is behind this message to bring it to a human level. 

Tips on reducing your impact to deliverability

Since these communications often have to go to a large audience, the impact to your deliverability can be vast if you don’t follow good practices during the chaos. Here are some tips to reduce the harmful effect of large sends:

  • If you have the ability to segment your list, then lead with more engaged subscribers before sending to less engaged subscribers to reduce spam foldering. 
  • If you are able to, send out a big send over days to avoid drastically changing volume on a given day; mailbox providers don’t like large unexpected jumps in volume. If you aren’t able to do this, then lead with the engaged senders and throttle over several hours if you can. Share a link to the web-hosted version of your email on social media so everyone has access in real-time as the sends are en route. 
  • Run your email through a spam checker tool to see if your content may cause some problems for you once you hit send. 
  • In general, if you follow good list hygiene by removing inactive and invalid email addresses, you should get good results.

After hitting send, understand impact to your recipients in real-time

If you are throttling the message, keep a close watch on how your initial waves are performing using deliverability analytics monitoring. Open a real-time dialog with your social media and support teams, so they can share if they are receiving feedback from customers. You can update the message if you see there is a problem. Look at analytics post-send and check in frequently to understand reach and efficacy (ex: open rate, click rate, responses). If your emails have a “no reply” message in place, you should consider updating this now. Allow your customers to respond from the email, so that a person can help them if they need it. In general, we think “no reply” messages are unfriendly and close off a communications medium that could be really valuable to your customers. 

While crisis communications are stressful to produce, you can make a huge difference in how your company is perceived by sending valuable and relevant information during a tough time. We hope these tips help you when the periodic and inevitable critical moment hits.

~ Laura