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Email basics for sending urgent ministry updates

By Darby Jones

Balancing ministry and family can often leave you scrambling to get out email messages. When you send last-minute emails, it's easy to overlook best practices. If plans change, you especially want a high open rate, so nobody misses out. When time is of the essence, it's crucial to craft a good subject and call to action. But don't stop there. Carve out a little more time to execute these important email best practices.

Use the preheader text to support the subject.

The preheader (also lede or snippet text) is the first line of text in an email. It's also displayed next to the subject line in many email clients such as gmail, yahoo and in native iPhone/Android email clients. In a recent MyCom article, we provided several creative ideas on how to use the preheader to get people to open and read emails. If you use an email service provider, ask a support person how to include a preheader in HTML emails.

Optimize for preview pane.

The preview pane is the top portion of an email that is viewable without needing to scroll down. It's imperative for this section to be enticing and actionable or recipients will delete and move on. It should also clearly identify your brand, church or ministry. Design for common preview panes, which are between 300 and 500 pixels high.

If your email template is not responsive to different device sizes, users may have to scroll to the right to view the entire email. If your client does not offer responsive templates or if manually building responsive HTML emails is too difficult to learn, it's even more important to put enticing information or calls to action in the top left portion of emails. That way, email subscribers will not have to scroll over to get the gist of the email.

Craft and strategically place the call to action.

The call to action (CTA) is a clear statement of what you want the audience to do, such as joining a small group, sharing news through social media, giving to a cause or clicking a link. Focus on the CTA's language and placement to increase engagement. It's best to place the CTA in a few different locations, but it definitely needs to go at the top, so it's viewable in the preview pane. Here's a good email example of how we place our CTA in an email inviting people to subscribe to MyCom.

If your CTA is to click a link, then make the link a button. Buttons typically get a greater response than text links, but it's good to have both. If you can edit your email in HTML, use this bulletproof email button generator to create buttons that will display correctly in every major email client.

Cater content to audience preferences.

Emails get better results when the content aligns with subscriber needs. According to Return Path, around 50% of subscribers open emails on mobile devices now, and 63% of those users say they delete emails immediately if they are not optimized for mobile. If switching to a responsive design seems too daunting, research scalable email designs. Scalable emails look great on all devices and are easier to build because they don't involve HTML hacks or fluid table widths.

Also, use an inbox preview tool like email on Acid or Litmus. See exactly how your email will look in 70+ email clients and mobile devices so you can fix any rendering issues before you hit send. These tools also provide solutions to common design problems and email glitches.

It may take a little more time and effort to execute these techniques, but it's well worth knowing that your work helped reach as many of God's children as possible.