Lets Talk about Email

Email_Shiny_Icon.svgI am not shy about it, I don’t like email. I don’t like it because there is currently no universal understand of how to use it. Therefore, I get too much of it. Too much of what I get is unnecessary. Too many people treat it like certified mail. In other words, they assume if they have sent me something via email, I have received it and will immediately act.

Despite all that, I must admit, email continues to be a powerful communications tool. It is not a perfect tool by any means. Too many communicators rely on it too heavily. It is useful when used as one tool in a communicator’s toolkit. In other words, if used correctly, it will be effective, but if used without other tools, messages will only get to a portion of your audience.

Some younger people have pretty much-abandoned email. A lot of people don’t check their email on a regular basis. People like me get so many emails that we don’t get a chance to read them all. Add to that spam filters and new technology that attempts to sort email into categories means that just because you send someone an email, that doesn’t mean they read it.

Some Stats
In the latest email I sent to our Annual Conference mailing list, I achieved a 49.1% open rate. Just under 50% of the people I emailed opened the message. That is very good. The average open rate for that list is 56.6%. The industry average for religious institutions is 30.7%. But let’s dig deeper. Good emails are full of links. The purpose is to get people to do something, like watch a video, read a full article or sign up for something. For my latest email, 19.6% of recipients clicked on something. This was a good week, the average for this list is 10.2%. The average for religious institutions is 3.5%.

My list and my content are doing very well. However, that still means that half of the people on my list are not even opening the email. Half of those who do aren’t doing anything about it. That’s why email is an important tool and a tool that can’t be used alone.

I posted a link on Facebook to the same email newsletter, and I know from my analytics that another 322 people saw the link. If I paid to boost the post, I could look to see how many of those people read it. Two viewers also shared it on their Facebook wall, so there is another opportunity for views. I also post a link to the newsletter on the RioTexas.org website that may garner a few more reads.

Then, there are the individual articles that make up that newsletter. Those pieces live elsewhere. They are either articles, posts or events on the website or videos and photos on YouTube or Flickr. Most of the time, they have been individually shared on Facebook, Twitter or even Instagram.

I am using email as part of a larger strategy. My strategy is still a little messy, but we are just getting started. If you are at a church, you may have some more pieces to work with. Information can be shared during worship announcements, in bulletins, during pre-service loops, on posters, on digital signage, etc.

The truth is this: no one place will reach every person. Some church people are convinced that worship announcements are the ultimate venue for information sharing. I wish it were that easy. Sometimes announcements come at the beginning of the service, and not everyone is there. Sometimes people just don’t listen. Add to this the fact that telling people something one time does not guarantee they heard it. So announcing something in only one format, no matter how great the format, seriously limits the chances of people hearing it.

Do you know want to know the #1 most effective way to reach people with your message? Tell them. In person. And then ask them if they have any questions. That is very labor intensive. In the meantime, email is a great tool.

Are you still sending email from Outlook or Gmail? The effectiveness of your email will greatly increase if you switch to an email service. The best part if that, for smaller churches and organizations, you can use these services for free.

To learn more about some great service providers, check out the website at RioTexas.org/email.


  1. So I checked out http://riotexas.org/email and the first thing I noticed were the headings at the top in a rich, dark black that stand out well on the white page. Then everything following is GRAY or BLUE which make me strain to read. This is common among most web sites these days. Talk about competing for my attention; if my eyes are the least bit tired, I either choose to “forget about it” or I make a note to save and come back to read when my eyes are not already tired. I’ve even noticed this trend in hard-copy books (as opposed to e-books). I find it difficult to consider I’m alone in my frustration. Why or how did this move to gray ink begin and why is it continuing?

    • Thanks for letting me know. I thought I had changed that on the site. I have now. Check back and tell me what you think.

      I think designers think the gray looks cool online and in print books. It does look cool but it makes it hard to read.

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