What structure should you use for email communication to your staff?

Over the years, I have noticed a few ways that are commonly used for official communication to staff:

1. The email with a few summarized sentences followed by a link to an employee portal where the updates are being published in the site.

Example of such email: “Please be informed that new terms have been added into the customer disclosure clause found in the service agreement of the acceptance offer. Kindly click on the Memo 123 dated DD /MM/ YY for more info [direct link to the article].

2. The email is sent also with a few summarized sentences or intro but the actual communication is in a pdf document.

3. Info graphics whereby information is presented in graphics in an image format file. Or the entire contents of the email, is in a graphical form- this is most commonly found in emails from the CEO or the top management to all staff.

Disadvantages of sending emails in attachments, one liners (with a link pointing to the portal) and graphics

Please check with your company’s policy and compliance- perhaps they are sending emails in that manner because of company guidelines. 

This comes from my experience in being a staff and receiving emails in those format. Here are what I felt are the disadvantages:

1. Few liners, followed by a link to the main portal

The objective of such email is to always get employees to refer to the intranet or information portal for the complete information. However, judging from experience of my staff…. most of them do not read such emails because they did not know it is important. You see, they often gets directed to a portal whereby important changes are not being highlighted.

Eventually, I was tasked to go through these official emails (which were already being send to all staff), to digest and to inform my staff in my department of the important changes. This happened after we had a few complaints whereby some of the staff were not aware of the changes because they failed to digest the information in the portal.

Often I would pick up important points from the memo and ‘fit in’ the changes into the product. For example, if there is a price revision of a particular product we are offering, I would mark at the fees and charges of that product with a link pointing to the update.

2. Sending out official communication in pdf format

Previously I had worked in a company that consisted of many freelance agents. Whenever the company issue any official communication, it would come in a few simple innocent looking sentences with the gist if the info in the pdf attachment.

I have heard that what prompted such implementation was because in the past some unscrupulous agents have reworded the email sent for their own benefits which resulted in dispute. Therefore I can understand why the company have no choice but to convert all its communication into pdf format.

The downside of using such format is that:

  • if the policy changes again, then the pdf would be void. There are chances that agents or employees are keeping an obsolete copy of the policy changes.
  • if there is limitation in the recipient’s mailbox, he/she may not be able to receive the pdf copy
  • sometimes pdf format is unsupported in some PCs (yes I have seen it happening before)

3. Sending out email in graphic

For example “Message from the CEO” which probably include the CEO’s picture with text messages. And everything is converted into a graphic format to prevent misuse (ie the email being possibly amended). Sometimes official press release also adopt the same format.

This method may be acceptable when it comes to press releases or official communication from the top management. However for daily communication emails, this is not practical because:

  • if you wish to have the words to be clear, the size of the graphic would be huge.
  • this either causes someone’s email to burst or the email takes up loading time
  • worst still, it makes it impractical for you or your backup to do amendments later without the original source file especially when everything is always changing. If you send a lot of such emails, you may end up having to keep many source files. Worst, if you don’t keep any, then if you need to do only minor amendments, you would need to do everything from scratch (yikes!).

So far in my many years sending emails, I have not came across a staff who amended my email content and twisted the story. Because they know I will always have the original email and even if not, my IT department would be able to pull out the email should a dispute arise. If the emails are going to external parties, you may choose to change them to graphic but to internal staff, I really don’t think it is practical and worth the effort.

What method do I use when sending communication to staff:

Most of my emails are sent using simple format- I typed out the article using Microsoft word, then I use the “Send to Email Recipient icon” and send out the email to my distribution list.

Microsoft words enabled the email to be prepared in a more flexible format- for example presenting information in table format, adding headlines and colours… I personally just find it so much easier to work using Word first before emailing out.

And I always email first to myself to check the email structure, alignments and the size of the email. I am very conscious of the email size that I send out as the employees in my company are provided with limited email space hence a 2MB email can cause a number of mailboxes to burst. Hence I always do my best to keep my emails to below 300kb in size.

I keep the important info within the body of the email and not in pdf or powerpoint. In my emails, I always point back to my intranet or information portal for them to access to the latest information.

The texts are amendable and not graphics. This is because the organizations that I worked for were all fast paced and information are changing everyday. Sometimes, there are also errors in the communication which I need to correct.

That being the case, I would use the “forward” email function to send a follow up email to them, referencing the previous email with a simple liner to indicate the error. Then at the original email at the bottom, I will strike off the mistake or text to amend and indicate the amendment next to the text. This enables the recipients to see at a glance where is the amendments.

I always think about new comers to the organization. For example a staff who joined today may not know about the past ‘legacies’. Hence I have a section where I archive all my past emails for reference. Should I send a revision email, I would always resave to the latest emails.

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