"Internal email is dead."

As a company with products centered around internal email measurement, we hear this claim once in a while.

Usually the suggestion that internal email as a medium is dead or dying comes with the promise of a new technology or platform, but the reality is that email is not any less prevalent in large organizations than it was five years ago.

Research has just begun for the 2015-2016 Gatehouse State of the Sector Report, and although we're excited to see which new channels are growing, one thing we don't expect to change is the top communication channel used by internal communicators.

From the previous report (2014-2015) it's clear that the three most popular internal channels remain unchanged year-on-year -- central emails, intranet, and electronic newsletters (in that order).
 

Can your organization function without internal email?

In almost all scenarios, absolutely not. As Gatehouse's last report predicts, email will still be the most important internal communication channel in 2016, and for the foreseeable future.

Why are the experts so sure? After all, the internal landscape is changing. More social and collaborative communications channels are being added by internal communicators every year. Intranets and Enterprise Social Networks are slowly improving too.

Still, whether you love it or hate it, no other channel is better at reaching everyone than email. It's the default employee communication channel for most organizations, and one of the few ways outside of a face to face conversation that you can be sure your recipient received your message. But that's part of the problem. Every email is your recipients' inboxes is competing for attention with every other email they receive.

Email is technically well suited for the role it's being used for -- it's instant and universally available to every employee. So why is it so frustrating?
 

Maybe you're using it wrong?

Being the default channel for communication is no easy task. Internal email is messy, especially when you have thousands of employees across the world.

While some people are working on ideas to replace email, it's important to remember that email, as a technology, was a replacement for a number of different mediums -- everything from phone conversations to formal memos and print media. And now it's being used to meet all those needs in every rapidly changing workplace.

Right now, email is overused to communicate almost every type of message and that's before executives ask you to 'send another internal email' on a whim.

Those other communications tools we mentioned earlier can replace some emails. In fact, many communicators that use our product move to sending fewer internal emails. All of these decisions should be based on engagement data with the emails currently being sent however (Are they getting opened? Are employees clicking links?).

Communicating effectively one-to-one over email is difficult enough, so it's no surprise that using it to reach thousands of people at once without engagement data comes with some common issues.
 

What does an awesome internal email strategy look like?

In our new four part blog post, we'll cover what the role of internal email should be in your organization for the coming year, and how to make sure your strategy makes the most of the medium. We'll talk about measurement and how to get the numbers to back up your intuitions. We'll also get creative and give you ideas and tools you can use to make your emails more engaging.

In the coming weeks, we'll help you:

  • Compare and select an email measurement tool
  • Understand your email engagement data
  • Make every internal email you send more interesting

 

How you can improve your internal emails

We know that internal email is a topic that is important to large organizations. We also know that large organizations aren't often quick to adopt new internal strategies.

We've kept that in mind throughout these posts and will provide mostly quick, low cost ideas you can try yourself in your organization.

If you're feeling like your organization's email strategy hasn't been updated since before the first iPhone was released, you're not alone. Maybe it's been a while since anything has been updated on your internal email templates, and like many other large organizations, maybe you don't have data on how email is actually being used. Fear not -- we'll help you get the information to fill these gaps and improve.

You won’t kill internal email. And at the same time, you've come to expect engagement data from most of the other communications tools you're using. So if the measurement options exist, why be satisfied with not having data on your emails?

And if it's the most important channel year after year, make this the year that every one of your internal email counts.
 

What metrics are most important?

What metrics are important to get? We wanted to get this question out of the way because it's often a roadblock for those new to measuring emails.

Regardless of the platform you use to get data on your emails, there are only a few metrics that explain engagement with email in your organization. In a way this step is about picking the metrics that matter most, but at the same time, knowing which ones aren't as useful to your team.

For the vast majority of questions communicators are trying to answer about internal email engagement, opens and clicks are still the most important.

Email Open Data

Email open data is possible to collect completely anonymously and transparently with a tracking pixel added to your emails.

In the case of Bananatag, your emails appear no different to your recipients, and it's possible to see how many of your outbound emails were actually opened in your recipients' inboxes. We'll get into more on what trends in open data means in part three of this series.

Email Click Data

Email click data refers to the number of times the links in your emails are clicked by recipients (normally shown as a list of all the links you included with stats for each). These include any links, whether they be to your intranet, enterprise social media, or the external internet.

Again, we'll get into more detail on what the click metrics mean for your internal emails, but largely this is a primary metric for understanding how engaging and effective your email content is.

What about the other metrics I'm seeing?

Other metrics include numbers on engagement by device type, engagement by location, and interaction with the email over time. These metrics can help answer questions specific to your organization -- how different conditions (i.e. devices, location, time zone) impact engagement.

While these are often secondary considerations to overall engagement (opens and clicks), they may be more important to your strategy.

Next up, we compared Bananatag to another popular email tool -- Mailchimp.