7 ways to use email to drive internal readers to your intranet content

Email can be a dynamic force that brings your employees to your stories, videos and other information. Keep it brief. Format matters. Don’t forget non-desk workers.

Like many companies, the storied automaker FCA US produces news on the intranet for its 50,000 employees.

To spread the word about the latest stories its internal site, known as The Scoop, the maker of Fiats and Chryslers dishes out an occasional update called Scoop to Go. It announces news that that sales are up or that a new model of Pacifica has been launched.

“If that’s all they’ve got time for, then at least they’ve got the big picture of what’s going on in the company,” says Beth Ann Bayus, head of internal communications at FCA US.

Email can be a major driver of clicks to your website. But what makes one organization successful at pushing employees to content through emails, while another doesn’t get any traction?

One driver behind intranets was that they were going to get rid of email, says Michael DesRochers, managing director of PoliteMail Software. Instead, think of email as a platform that supports longer-form content. Without email reminders, employees often won’t go to the intranet.

“Intranets can become ghost towns,” DesRochers says. “Email loops people back in.”

Another advantage of email is that “it works like a DVR-recipients can read it on their own schedule, not the sender’s,” DesRochers says.

Here are some tips from Bayus and communicators at other organizations for driving traffic to your content:

Keep it brief.

FCA summarizes the internal news in a headline and a couple of sentences, Bayus says. The headline links through to the full intranet article, where they can get more in-depth information. That leaves readers informed without forcing them to scan pages of copy.

Depending on the news, Scoop to Go might go out several times a week, or only once.

DesRochers of PoliteMail, recommends sending on a routine schedule, so employees know what to expect when.

Format matters.

While intranet pages are better suited to long form articles, “email is an information-processing medium,” DesRochers says.

Design for scanability, he says. Make the page 600 to 650 pixels wide, so the entire message falls into the Outlook preview pane on the majority of monitors.

Limit your line length to about 75 characters. Set your headlines and subheads between 24 and 16 point, and your text between 11 and 14 point. Using a slightly larger font than the default 11-point size will make your message feel more comfortable to read.

Finally, design the emails so they are mobile responsive, DesRochers adds. This will encourage people to swipe up and read your message.

Offer high-quality content.

It ought to go without saying, but-judging from some of the videos, stories and other content being sent out there—it bears repeating. Emails shouldn’t include long dense paragraphs or be loaded with overused buzzwords, says Alexander Grosu, digital marketer at inSegment.

Email messages should be simple, clear and to the point, DesRochers of PoliteMail suggests. Use white space and lead the eye through the message using font size and color to improve scanability. This helps ensure your messages are not only opened, but actually read.

Reach non-desk workers.

Some 70 percent of FCA’s employees are factory workers and others who don’t spend their day on desktops and aren’t issued company devices. How to get the Scoop to Go news to them?

To do this, FCA has established a network of roughly 200 key people who handle communications in all of its manufacturing facilities, parts factories and engineering and design shops.

“They know that when they see a Scoop to Go come into their mailbox, their job is to repurpose that information however best they see fit at their location,” Bayus says.

These communicators are fairly autonomous, and they can spread the word in ways best suited to their respective groups. In plants, some print out the email and leave copies in common areas such as break rooms. Others give it to team leaders to discuss during the meetings before or after shift changes.

The news can appear on screens, and some factories have sign boards showing what lines are running and what the production is. These sites scroll the Scoop to Go news in a chyron across the bottom of the sign board. “It’s a push that has legs and goes beyond what you would normally get in an email,” Bayus says.

Many companies are also looking at mobile apps as a way to leverage an employee’s personal smartphone for company messages, DesRochers says. He suggests—with Microsoft Office 365 now available on the desktop, browser and on mobile devices—that email may be the best tool to reach everyone in your organization.

Know your audience.

Segmentation is just as important for internal as external communications. Identify your audience and send only the most relevant content.

If you don’t have the right distribution groups, get them from your active directory or exchange team. Corporations usually group by region, division and department, and it’s also useful to have distribution groups according to roles, management level, and location or building.

“Who are your email readers?” asks Grosu. “Are there multiple groups of people interested in what you have to say?”

Use strong visuals.

The most effective email designs are those that promote valuable website content with strong visuals and sparse copy, says Daniel Brzezinski, chief marketing officer of GetResponse.com.

“This type of email creative is highly mobile-friendly, but it also works great for desktop subscribers,” he says.

Fix those images for mobile.

While you’re at it, if you’re going to provide images in the hopes of drawing remote employees, make sure those images work on smartphones. Your employees will never follow through to your content if your picture is so small that it looks like a billboard for ants.

“We find that email is often even more effective when targeting users on their mobile, provided that you’ve optimized appropriately,” says Sam Williamson of Aims Media. “If you’re including images in your email then you need to ensure that they are responsive and will adapt to any screen size, including smartphones and tablets.”

“Images have to be seen to work,” DesRochers says. “If your people see the gray boxes with red Xs instead of your images, the majority will just ignore the message.”

@ByWorking

This story is in partnership with PoliteMail.

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