Tips for standout internal newsletters

To increase employee engagement and open rates in a monthly newsletter to roughly 1,700 University Services employees, University Relations internal communicators recently tried out Axios’ Smart Brevity approach (this video series goes more in depth).

Get to the gist

  • Familiar details dilute messages and distract from important information. Focus on what’s surprising or new to show your email isn't a waste of your reader’s time.
  • Pick “1 Big Thing” and place it at the top of your message.
  • Email greetings are often too long. Use a sentence or two and then get into the main point of the email.
  • Bullets make your message easily scannable.
  • Following a consistent format helps readers know what to expect.

Check out these apples

Since launching this format in May 2022, the emails have a 62% open rate and 6.56% click rate on average. In addition:

  • The majority of respondents to a survey preferred the Axios-style format compared to the previous format.
  • Some of the most clicked links were in the third or fourth item listed, which demonstrates people are scrolling further than the first few sentences.

Key ingredients

Attention-grabbing email subjects beat generic, repetitive ones

  • Become a flu-fighter!
  • Get the best benefits for your buck!

Don’t fear puns, alliteration, or rhyming words when they make sense

  • It doesn't get "cheddar" than this.
    “Cheese” wisely! Visit the Meat and Dairy Salesroom from 2-5 p.m. on Wednesdays to buy a variety of U of M-made cheeses, ice creams, and frozen yogurt located on the main floor of the Andrew Boss Lab of Meat Science.
  • Nar-what?
    What makes the narwhal, a type of whale with a unique spiral tusk that lives exclusively near the Arctic Circle, so special? Find out at the Smithsonian’s Narwhal: Revealing an Arctic Legend exhibit at the Bell Museum through January 8.

Keep it regular
Include 1 Big Thing, a fun fact, closing thoughts, and don't include more than five items.

  • 1 Big Thing: Get to antibody-building!
    Don’t let the flu sneak up on you! It’s the best time of year to get your annual flu vaccine. Make a flu shot appointment today at Boynton.
  • Did you know?
    The University’s Locksmith Shop manages more than 200,000 keys! They certainly open a lot of doors.

Don’t freak out—link out
Provide key details and use links to supplement the rest. People who want to learn more about a subject will click on them.

If you have any questions about making your internal emails stand out, reach out to the UR Internal Communications team at