Crisis Communication

Crisis communication

Get the word out: Four tips for effective email communication during a crisis.

By Colby Cavanaugh

Many of our franchise customers have found themselves faced with the task of using mass email to communicate vital information during a crisis situation.

Though email marketing is typically considered a means of pushing out promotions or content to a list of subscribers, it’s also one of the most effective ways to quickly reach a large group of people with an important message. Perhaps you need to let customers know that certain stores will be closed until further notice, or maybe you need to share specific evacuation details with employees at some of your franchise locations. Regardless of the need, here are four best practices you should follow to ensure effective email communications during an emergency.


1. Stay Concise

When communicating during a crisis, it’s important that emailed messages quickly get to the point and that the most vital information is easily scannable. Eighty percent of people only scan emails, so ideally they should be able to only read your subject line, headline(s), and call to action and still understand what you’re trying to get them to do.

Bold headlines make it easy for your subscribers to scan your email and glean the most important information in a matter of seconds. Remember: Details should not be buried at the bottom, where many of your contacts might not even see them. If you need to expand upon your message, link out to a landing page that contains that information.

 2. Think Mobile

According to Litmus, more than half of all emails are now read on a mobile device. Couple that with the fact that during times of crisis people are often evacuating or displaced from their homes, so you know they’ll likely be reading messages only on mobile.

Optimize your emails for mobile by making sure the text is large enough to read on a smartphone, all the links work properly, and that overall your design renders well on smaller screens. Avoid putting anything important on images just in case your audience uses images-off inbox settings, and don’t use too many images in general – image-heavy emails may take more time to load, causing people to abandon the email before they ever see your message.

 3. Use Segmentation

Smart segmentation is a part of virtually every successful email marketing program, but it might be tempting to blanket your entire audience with the same message to save time during a time of crisis.

Don’t do it. If whatever is happening is location-specific, be sure to segment your audience by zip code so that only the people affected will get your email. Not only will it help ensure that only the right people hear what you need to say, it will condition your audience to pay attention to your emails because you only send when the message is relevant to them.

For instance, our franchise client Orangetheory Fitness used email to inform the members of their Florida locations about class cancellations and evacuation information during Hurricane Irma. By only sending to locations in Florida, Orangetheory simultaneously addressed the situation and prevented any confusion among non-Florida members.

4. Follow Deliverability Best Practices

When there’s a sense of urgency to your message, it’s important for emails to get delivered – period. The worst case scenario for an email that contains vital information is that it gets stuck in a spam filter, so follow deliverability best practices to ensure messages reach the inbox.

The best thing to do is to only send to people who have explicitly opted into your email list and focus on strong subscriber engagement – that’s what will help you avoid the spam filter for today’s emails and any future emails you send. However, here are a few additional tips that should help your chances of reaching the inbox:

  • Update your organization's sender policy framework (SPF) record and register your ESP as a sender on your behalf. Simply contact your ESP for resources on how to do this – all the major players should have them available.
  • Avoid using an overabundance of colors and font styles and types in your email. Not only will your audience have trouble reading your message, but excessive design can make for an overly hefty email that gets trapped in the spam filter.
  • Use a consistent “from” name and address. That way, your recipients will recognize who they’re hearing from and be less likely to mark your message as spam.

In times of crisis, email can be one of your franchise’s most powerful communication tools. Follow these tips to ensure that no matter what situation occurs, you’re able to quickly and effectively get the right information to the right people at exactly the right time.

Colby Cavanaugh is senior vice president of marketing for Emma.


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