Sending an email seems easy, right? It is if you know how to write a good one that is actually useful for the people you’re sending it to. A single email can be the difference between explaining something once or twice and repeating yourself 100x. It can be the difference between meeting deadlines and not even knowing you had a deadline.
As a project manager, I’ve found that the most important communication between IT and clients are update emails. They serve as a consistent form of communication, reminder of priorities and upcoming due dates, and a quick overview of the project’s completed, in progress, and planned to do items. Providing emails that are organized, valuable and relevant to your clients is just as important as providing rich content to your site visitors. It helps build trust!
These 7 elements of an update email will help improve the communication and efficiency of projects:
Choose ahead of time how often you are going to send an update email and notify everyone involved. This will not only give something for clients to look out for but will also hold you accountable for writing them consistently. The frequency may differ depending on the stage of your project but just be prepared for some flexibility.
Similar Email Titles
Make the headline consistent each week. Take this title for example: MediaPress Website: Update for 7/22/15 (Format- ‘Project Name’: Update for ‘Date’). Using a title format will make each one easy to locate for future reference and stand out among the hundreds of other emails flowing through their inbox every week.
Send To Only a Few
Only send update emails to those key players in the project. You can always cc someone on one or two of them when needed, but having too many voices can be a dangerous thing, especially when opinions are running wild. It’s much easier to wrangle in a smaller group.
Always start out with a positive. For example, name the biggest accomplishment in the past week, mention the project is still on track, or do a little shout out to a specific team member. It’s important to keep everyone’s spirits up in order to avoid burn out or snappy responses.
Be concise but not vague in order to avoid the infamous email chain of Q&A. Your developers may have overcome a huge technical feat but usually your clients don’t care- they just want a website that works and looks great. Only mention things that are relevant to them and in line with their knowledge base. Remember to simplify complicated language as much as possible to avoid confusion.
Short Bulleted Lists
Avoid creating a long list of To-Dos. No one likes to finish a challenging task, just to get another long list to start working on. If progress is being made, you want the team to feel like it rather than overwhelming them with continuous task items. However; this doesn’t mean put off things that need to get done. It’s all about setting priorities. Only include things that need their attention within the next week or two.
When specifying next steps, follow the same "next week or two" concept. You don’t want the team to be concerned with things that aren’t an immediate priority.
Quick UX Advice: Use bullet points instead of numbers if there are more than 3 things to do or to come- this will give the illusion of a smaller list.
To do, In progress, Completed, Soon to come or next steps.
After your little piece of positivity, start out the meat of the email with anything you need from the client or any task they need to accomplish. You want this to be at the very top because if this is as far as they read, at least they will know what responsibilities/stakes they still have in the project. Next, mention everything that is still in progress and if necessary include estimated completion time. Then include a summary of the most recent completed tasks. Finally, list the next steps that are going to happen within the next few days or week. Remember not to get too ahead of yourself- focus on the relevant.
If there is nothing new from your previous update email, you can always use the email to mention any reminders of missed or late tasks. Using the TICS format will keep your emails organized and allow for your team to easily navigate through them.
The more I use this formula the less confusion, miscommunication, and missed deadlines my team has. As always, a level of flexibility is needed in our industry but there are some things that if kept consistent can make a project run that much more smoothly!