You’ve crafted the perfect newsletter.

It’s engaging, thoughtful, and damn, it looks good.

You’re practically foaming at the mouth, waiting for that sweet, sweet data to come rolling in.

You can’t wait to see which social reactions people are using. You’ve finally got a way to measure how people are receiving your content.

An hour goes by.

And another.

You know most emails get opened within the first hour, right?

It’s been two hours and your open-rate is still abysmal.

Even worse, there’s almost no responses to that benchmarking pulse survey question you asked.


What did you do wrong?

You double check that you sent it to your whole list. Yup, that’s fine. Everyone should have got it...

And then you see it.

You can’t believe you missed it.

Your subject line is blank.

No one knows what you were sending and why you were sending it. Hence the crap opens and lack of responses.

But how much does the subject line really matter for opens?

If you believe mainstream marketing wisdom, subject lines will make or break your opens. In one study, 47% of people said the subject line is the main reason they open an email.

That being said, internal communications is obviously different than B2B or even B2C communications, because employees are generally encouraged to open pertinent internal emails.
But in order to know if the company email is important, they need to know what the email is about—that’s where great subject lines come in.

Why you need a great subject line for your internal emails

Your newsletter or company-wide email is competing with, on average, 147 other emails that your employees receive in their inbox every single day.

Now the stats vary on this, but most research we looked at showed that the average office employee is receiving between 88-147 emails per day. And almost 50% of those emails are spam.

That sure is a lot of competition.

The Good News: For internal employee emails, open rates are actually pretty high. Our research showed that companies using Bananatag to measure employee engagement had up to an 89% open-rate. Most marketing emails score open rates of about 30%, even with all that effort they put into epic subject lines.

The Bad News: If you are sending an important employee email, missing out on 11% of your employees is kind of a big deal. On an email list of 1000 people that is 111 people who will not read your email! Maximizing your opens is, therefore, essential.

That’s where an enticing subject line can really save you.

But how do you create the perfect, oh-so-clickable internal email subject line?

1. Keep it short and sweet

It’s well-documented that more and more people are checking their emails on their phones. For that reason, your subject line needs to be short enough to be viewed on a five-inch screen.

On the other hand, when it comes to internal employee emails, only 12% of employees are opening internal email on their phones (according to our research).

So does this mean that you can be as long-winded as you’d like?

No. No, you can’t.  

Simple is always better, and if people can’t understand what your email subject line is saying, or if it’s too complicated, you will lose them. We recommend making your subject line glanceable—that means that it’s so easy to read you can get the gist in a short scan of your inbox.

In a study of 200 million emails, MailChimp found that email subject lines with 28-39 characters have the highest click rates. But as long as you keep your character count under 50, (which is about 5-7 words) your entire subject line should appear in full on most email clients.

Here are some examples of well-performing, simple and straight-forward email subject lines:


2. Make it worth their while

You have probably noticed that marketing emails are almost always focused on incentivizing a behavior or describing benefits to their prospective customers. Using catchy phrases “Buy Now and Save” or “24-Hours Only” is a benefits-focused, urgency tactic that incentivizes taking action right away by tapping into our inner FOMO (fear of missing out).

And you, internal communicator, are trying to sell employees on opening your email right away—so tell them what’s in it for them, and make them want it.

Example: Your company's benefit provider is changing. The change means a heap of paperwork to get every employee re-enrolled. But it also means that staff will have $500 more in their health spending account, or 100% of their prescriptions will now be covered.

Lame Email Subject Line: “Benefit provider transition: action required”

Why it won’t work: This email subject line is groan city, and one that all employees will want to avoid–even if it means better benefits. It doesn’t illustrate the immediate benefit to the employee, and it is insinuating that they will have to do more work.

Better Email Subject Line: “Better benefits, Lower Monthly Fees - Find Out More.”

Why it works: The subject leads with something the employees want (better benefits) and continues with something that will excite them (lower monthly fees). It finishes with an invitation to learn more by opening up the email. Who could resist?

Here are some other examples of incentivized urgent subject lines:


3. Get personal

Have you ever noticed how good it feels when someone you only met once remembers your name? It’s a little ego bump that we all love.

Being seen and heard feels good, and you can use your email subject lines to make people feel good.

One study showed that personalized email subject lines that included a name, catapulted open rates by 29.3% across industries.

Personalization also creates a sense of accountability if the email goes unopened. You can easily personalize subject lines by using “you”, “me”, or the department name for the list. By using the psychology of exclusivity, you can make recipients feel special, which will drive them to open.  

Here are some examples of great personal subject lines:


4. Make it easy

Email shouldn’t make employees' lives harder.

If your email subject lines are too obscure, it will make them hard to find and index, if they are needed in the future. That is why you should be using logical keywords that are easy to search in an email client, and easy to filter.

It may not be much fun, but if an email subject line doesn’t give any indication of what is in the email, it is much easier to dismiss if employees are busy.

If you send out monthly, quarterly, or other timely campaigns to employees, make the subject recognizable so employees know what to expect and won’t dismiss it.

And if you need employees to take action on the email, tell them!

If you need something from them immediately, it is logical to ask them for it in the subject line so they know that their attention is needed right away. Otherwise, you run the risk of people putting off emails they had no idea they had to deal with.

Here’s some subject lines that rely on keywords and are easily searchable:


5. Get excited

Inspiring people to action isn’t so hard when they are emotionally invested. Using words that spark the imagination, tickle the senses, encourage a laugh, or get people jazzed is a great way to get more opens.

Try out different action verbs, sensory descriptions, intriguing questions or emotional one-liners.

Just make sure that your email subject line still has something to do with your content. If it doesn’t, people could become accustomed to your click-bait subject lines and will be less interested in opening if they know the subject line has nothing to do with what the email is probably about.

Here are some examples of exciting subject lines:


Beware: Marketing emails ≠ Employee emails

As you have seen, most of our tips and examples have come from marketing emails. This is mostly because there are a lot more examples of great marketing email subject lines than internal email subject lines, and internal communicators (understandably) don’t often share their work outside their own organizations.

And as much as we love it when internal communicators look to marketers for inspiration and get creative with their comms, we have to admit that some marketing communications can come off as click-baity and inauthentic.

Remember that you are sending to a different kind of audience than the average marketer and you have different long-term goals.

Get creative with your subject lines and by all means, sell it, but don’t waste time trying to trick people into opening your emails, or using click-bait to drive opens. People will catch on and stop opening if they feel duped.

In the long-term, an authentic comms strategy will get you closer to your goals of developing trust with your readers than an inauthentic marketing email strategy.   

BONUS TIP: Test, test, test

Though internal employee emails are inherently different than marketing emails, when it comes to looking at your internal email data, it pays to take a page out of the marketer's playbook.

Marketers know that maximizing opens and optimizing your strategy is all about testing and analyzing your open rates.

To start, test different subject lines to see which kind performs the best with your employees. But make sure to analyze the data and take into account other factors that might be affecting your open rates like sending time, industry standards and your own corporate email culture.

In the end, if you are looking to make sure every single one of your important company-wide emails is opened, having a killer subject line, paired with the optimal sending time, could make a huge difference.

Bananatag makes collecting this data super easy—request a demo to get started running your own subject line tests and collecting valuable email and employee metrics.