After 20+ years this is how I send an important email at work

Paul Duffy
7 min readMar 8, 2021

What to consider in the 5 elements of Recipient, Sender, Timing, Subject, and Content.

Photo by Edoardo Tommasini from Pexels

Sending an email is easy, but how do we increase the chances of our message being read? Better still, how do we increase our chances of it being acted on? I share my process, whether sending an important email to a small group, or to thousands of people working across the globe. Although aimed for those sending mail at work I believe anyone sending email, for any reason, will find helpful pointers.

I’ve worked in global organizations for over two decades, and in that time I’ve lived and worked on three continents and sent emails to thousands of corporate employees at a time. In spite of that experience there is still no guarantee that people will read your email, but you can take steps to increases the chances they will do so.

1. The Recipient(s)

We can get so focused on getting the message out that we lose sight of who needs to hear the message, and why . Some people in your organization may need to take action, but a different group may merely need to be informed. Will you achieve this with one email, or with two? I’ve used both approaches. I’ve even spread the timing. When I was communicating a big change affecting thousands the local directors asked for a copy of the correspondence 24 hours ahead of time, so they could head off potential issues with those under their care.

When you’re sending an email to one person, or to a small, defined group of people, your job is a little easier, and you can probably move on to point 2. But if you’re sending an email to hundreds, or even thousands of people, your job is harder if there is no ready way to identify these people.

A lot of organizations will have a mailing list for ‘everyone,’ but if your email is only to a subsection of those people — e.g. those enrolled in a certain insurance plan, or those who use a certain technology — does your mailing list exist? You might be able to pull the list of affected people people from an HR system, or some other repository, but does it also include their email addresses?

Some email systems have an upper limit on recipients. For Outlook that limit is 500. If this email is just a ‘one and done’ you…

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Paul Duffy

An ocean loving, tea drinking nomad. Curiosity can elevate us above our wiring.