I do a voluntary role as an editor for a high-traffic website within the music industry here in Australia. As part of that role I get reams of emails everyday from PR companies trying to talk me into arranging interviews or feature pieces with their artists. Good God are some of them messy. I’ve seen it all when it comes to promotional emails. You work too hard for your products or services to be overlooked because the emails you send are gaudy and off-putting. So I’ve compiled this list of the things that I think should be addressed when creating promotional emails.
If I had to name one thing that peeves me more than any other about promotional emails, it’s the fact that they are nearly always void of any real structure. Being time poor in your job doesn’t excuse you for completely abandoning logic when it comes to structuring emails. Often I’ll see four or five different heading levels and three or four different font sizes attributed to text in a totally arbitrary fashion. Here are the hard and fast rules:
- One large, concise heading to sum up the email content.
- All other headings at the same font size – a few points higher than the regular text.
- Only use headings to maintain flow and emphasize new information. Think to yourself, “do I really need this heading”?
- Only bold fundamentally important information. This is what people who are scanning will read, but if the whole sodding thing is in bold, you’ll be overlooked.
- Use proper paragraphs with consistent formatting. E.g – either they’re all left aligned, or all justified, not a mix. It might look fun, but it’s not at all effective. Avoid centre alignment where possible, it’s the devil for readers.
At the end of the day, if the Introduction → Body → Conclusion structure is good enough for academics, I see no reason why it shouldn’t be good enough for you!
The Image Effect
People love putting images in promotional emails. None can make the thing look barren, this I understand. But exercise some restraint. Obviously a picture or two to either describe or compliment the content of the email is good. Visual aids help sell things, no doubt about it. But please don’t overdo it. If I’m trying to get the maximum amount of information from an email as quickly as possible, too many images are simply going to get in the way.
Formula: More images ≠ Better emails
Also, make sure that the images you are using are relevant and aesthetically inoffensive. I can’t tell you how many times a day I get emails that use over 10 images to promote something, at least 6 of which are completely irrelevant to the email’s content. And don’t assume that just because your product or service is edgy and raw your email audience is too. Not everyone likes photos of Satan or bikini clad women flowing through their inbox. There is a time and place to use those marketing techniques, but promo emails are not it.
Colour Is Your Friend, Don’t Abuse It
It’s bad enough to get an email that has all but 5 lines in bold. It’s far worse to receive an email which has sixteen different font colours, all used in a totally random arrays. Colours won’t make what you’re saying more attractive. Some colour, used responsibly, can be effective. Basically, you should apply the same rules to font colour as you do to using bold text. Does it really need to be fluorescent pink?
Language, Grammar and Punctuation
Being an English degree graduate, I am aware that I can sometimes be a little too sensitive when it comes to this topic. So call me a relic if you must, but I still believe that this stuff matters.
You’d inevitably have been taught about a little thing called tone when you were in high school English class. Whether or not you paid any attention will become clear when you try to write a promotional email. If you read through this post, you’ll notice my tone is deliberately sarcastic at times. Sarcasm is okay for blog posts. It’s probably not best to employ it when writing a promotional email. Further, please don’t tell me that I’m “stupid” if I don’t do whatever ever it is your promo email is asking me to. Some guidelines for using language in promo emails:
- Avoid profanity or deliberately aggressive language.
- Some flippancy is okay, but don’t become offensive.
- Use inclusive pronouns such as “us”, “we” and “our”.
- Don’t use 50 words when 5 will do.
I’d say 90% of promotional emails are written in a hell of a hurry. You know how I know that? Spelling. It’s largely awful in these types of emails. The usual culprits are all their (or should I say there). A couple of minutes tops is all it takes to properly proofread your emails. And not only will it increase the likelihood that people will actually read it, it will enhance your credibility at the same time.
If it’s not cringe worthy spelling, then it’s improper use of grammar. Mixed metaphors and obscure adjectives are my favourites. For the love of sanity, if you don’t understand a colloquialism or adjective, just don’t use it. After all, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t teach it new tricks.
Punctuation isn’t, as much as high school students believe it is, something created by the authorities to make writing harder for us. It’s actually supposed to make reading easier. Without it, it would take us twice as long to decipher written messages.
If you’re planning to write a promo email without regard for commas, full stops and capital letters, then you may as well do away with spaces between words too – make it a real challenge for people. If I have to spend 5 minutes figuring out where one sentence ends and another begins, chances are I’m not going to bother with the email at all. English isn’t a core subject in schools because teachers are mean, it’s because once we enter the workforce we’re supposed to know how to use it properly.
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to comment below 🙂