One of the largest free-standing behavioral health providers in the US, Pine Rest is a nonprofit founded in 1910. Its comprehensive behavioral health center is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan and has a network of 18 outpatient offices in Michigan and Iowa, providing individualized and group therapy for people of all ages and all levels of need.


Being a healthcare organization, Pine Rest employees’ access to technology and computers is limited, only being able to check their email once or twice a day at most. With 60% of Pine Rest staff working in hospitals, 40% of the staff hold office positions and as a result, have access to their email throughout the day.

Not knowing how these decentralized employees were receiving information was an issue for the communications team that was in the process of developing a new communications strategy. Improving internal email communications was step number one for Internal Communicator Matthew Hiskes and his team.

The Challenge of Internal Email Communications

Matthew’s struggle with internal email at Pine Rest was all too familiar for internal communicators. “A lot of our emailing was done by gut feelings — we would send something out, hope employees open and read it and usually the resulting feeling was “no, no one read that email”, Matthew tells us. “So departments would send out four or five more emails that day.”

"We had no clue how employees were connecting with all that information we were emailing out."

The result left employees inundated by emails. Not only were non-desk employees, working in the hospital, unable to keep up with all the information throughout the day, but Matthew found they were sending too many internal emails without rhyme or reason.

At the time, each department head at Pine Rest was sending their own messages and ultimately made the decisions about the types of messages and content going out to employees. “There was very little consistency about how the messages were being distributed and we had no clue how employees were connecting with all that information,” says Matthew.

Bananatag Solution in Action

Matthew’s new communications strategy prioritized email and he understood that he needed to harness its often hidden superpowers. “I’ve always known email was our most important and impactful tool we use. I needed to have some idea to what extent that all these emails were effective,” Matthew explains.

Using Bananatag email tracking, he tested open and click rates with one of the most important emails they send out at Pine Rest: newsletters. “I tracked the clickthrough rates of the newsletters, which gave me a clear picture of how many people were reading and then going to our intranet site, where the newsletter lives,” says Matthew.

"I needed to have some idea to what extent that all these emails were effective."

Matthew also used internal email tracking for high-interest issues (like signing up for an event, reading important news, or accessing a document) or to anticipate how many employees would be taking action on something.

“Getting open and click information helps me anticipate that 70% of people will be taking an action. Then I can determine how we can get the other 30% on board,” Matthew explains. “This has been key for us. Being able to ask, how do we get the rest to engage? With the data, we can now zero-in on new strategies for people who dropped off,” says Matthew.

Bananatag Results

Having access to the internal email data at Pine Rest helped Matthew think of how employees consume internal messages in different ways. “I tend to think of email of having a lifespan of a day or two once it goes out and then it’s dead,” Matthew tells us. “But the data tells me otherwise.”

This insight wouldn’t have been possible without internal email data. Now Matthew can ensure emails are relevant, weeks after he first sent them.

"[Bananatag] has given me the power to build upon email to ensure everybody at Pine Rest is getting the communication in the best way possible."

Internal email data also influenced the amount of emails Matthew was sending on a daily basis. After having various departments sending their own emails, the data allowed Matthew to consolidate in a big way. “The data helped me send fewer emails, covering more topics,” he says. The result? Fewer emails overwhelming employee inboxes, with more pertinent information.

On a personal level for Matthew, sending fewer emails saved him time and added efficiency to his workday. “I was no longer wondering what was going on. It frees up my time to focus on other communications tactics so I can spend time doing more,” says Matthew.

The best part of internal email data is what it has meant for Pine Rest’s internal emails as a whole. “Knowing what’s really going on after I click ‘send’ has given me the power to build upon email to ensure everybody at Pine Rest is getting the communication in the best way possible.” That’s something every communicator can get behind.