Communicating via email

Email is a highly valuable tool to communicate with the University community, but there are several considerations and best practices to implement before hitting “send.”


Consider the following when communicating via email:

Purpose and connection to broader strategy

  • Is an email the best way to communicate your message or would managers or supervisors talking about your topic in a team meeting be more effective for example?
  • What is the goal of/results you hope to gain from your email?
  • What is the core message you want to convey?
  • Does your email provide new or breaking information? Has your audience received a similar email about that topic from anywhere else? Is it meant to provide a local point of view to a larger issue or is it meant to follow up on next steps?
  • Would the University face any negative consequences if your email reached the media? Remember, your University email is subject to Data Practices Act (DPA) requests.


  • Who should receive your email? People want emails that are specifically targeted towards them rather than to a large number of people.
  • Who should your email come from to effectively reach your audience?


  • When (date/time) should you send your email? If a senior leader is announcing the subject of your message first, think about how long after that you should send your email.

Message and tone

  • Does your email follow email brand standards?
  • What tone is appropriate for your email? Make sure you haven’t lost nuance, humanity, or empathy.


  • How will you measure the success of your email (open and click rates, did your audience complete your call to action, etc.)?

Other considerations

  • Who needs to approve your email?
  • Who should be given a head’s up about your email? 

University faculty and staff communication preferences

Key findings regarding email in University Relations’ 2022 Communications Preferences Survey, which was sent to 9,000 faculty and staff systemwide, revealed:

  • Faculty and staff ranked emails from their dean or department head in the top three preferred communication methods. University employees valued these emails even more compared to a previous survey, moving up to 60% in 2022 from 46% in 2020.
  • Faculty and staff want fewer and shorter emails with key takeaways.


Several best practices we recommend to increase your readership are:

  • Use attention-grabbing email subjects and don’t be afraid to have fun with them, where appropriate, for your audience and subject matter. Keep them to 10 words or less (about 60 characters), which is roughly two lines on a phone.
  • Don’t forget about the preheader text, which is displayed in a person's Inbox after the email subject. If it is not used, body text fills this small space. Use preheader text to provide a synopsis or highlight from the message to encourage your audience to open the email.
  • Email greetings or introductions are often too long. Use a sentence or two and then get to the main point of the email.
  • Pick one big thing to focus on and place it at the top of your message so that it’s visible before readers scroll. Consider, “If my readers don’t read the rest of my message, what’s the most important thing I want them to remember?” 
  • Familiar details dilute messages and distract from important information. When we see something familiar, we disengage. Focus on what your audience cares most about and what’s surprising or new to show your email isn't a waste of your reader’s time.
  • Cut unneeded details, use muscular, vivid words, bullet for scannability, bold text for impact and link out to go deeper. 
  • Use short, simple, active words, which can create more energy and emotion than we give them credit for.
  • Include clear calls to action, including for those asked to cascade the information (i.e., Please share this with [people] by [date]).
  • Follow a consistent format so readers know what to expect.
  • Provide information as early as possible to communications directors and leaders to ensure consistent resources are shared. 
  • Have someone else proofread your email in its final draft form.

If you’d like to learn more about one effective format for email newsletters, watch Axios’ free video series.


After you send your email, evaluate the following: 

  • What was your open rate and click rate?
  • When did most of your audience read your email? Was it shortly after you sent it or a few days after? 
  • Did your audience complete your call to action? 
  • Did you receive feedback/questions? If so, did they reinforce your approach? If not, what can you change? Is more follow up needed based on the feedback and additional questions?
  • Consider sending a survey to find out what your audience values in emails in general.