Monday, April 07, 2014

Top 5 tips for your Weekly CU email


I've been receiving weekly emails from Christian Unions for most of the last 17 years since I signed up for one as a fresher. I've been working with CUs pretty much ever since.

Here's my top 5 tips on using this medium well which I'd suggest as part of a wider communication strategy. For some strategy is a dirty word but being organised and well ordered is a deeply spiritual thing, and sponteneity is often used as an excuse for disorder and laziness.

Longest and most important point first.
Please add your tips and thoughts in the comments.

1. Pretty much anyone can sign up for the CU email. 
That means this is not an "in house" commmunication but a public communication. Assume you have a mixed readership.

Don't talk about "non-Christians" (lets ban the term please!), beware of stuff that would be weird if your friends who don't know Jesus read it - because they (or someone elses friends) probably are reading it. You wouldn't talk about someone in their presence as if they weren't there so don't do it in an email. The CU exists for "every student" so write like you're writing to every student. This is a skill that takes a lot of practice but needs working on.

When you do this you start to realise that a whole lot of words and event themes and tones of voice that get used among Christians are unintentionally offensive and counter-productive and need changing too.

And, even if your email was "in house", maintaining a bilingual culture is self-defeating. Let's develop one language that we can use every where in the University. A high level of emotional intelligence is needed to do communication well, and that's increasingly true the further the medium is away from being face-to-face. Most people wouldn't be deliberately rude face-to-face so don't be carelessly and thoughtlessly rude in an email.

2. People misinterpret emails. 
Email is a really bad form for anything complex or requiring nuance. Intention can be misread very easily. Clarity is vital. There are things that shouldn't go in the email.

3. People can publish your emails. 
It was already a public communication but it can be copied out of context. Think about what you write! There are things that really are too sensitive to go in an email. If you wouldn't want it to appear in the Students Union paper or a National Newspaper or the Huffpost then don't put it in your email.

4. People don't read (long) emails. 
Keep it punchy. Brevity is vital. The subject line is important. The opening paragraph is vital and should contain the top thing you want to share. Not everything needs to go in the email. Less is more.

5. People use other channels too.
Good emails are a start, but you need a Communications Strategy. The CU exists to be a community who communicate so this is really important. Think Twitter. Think Facebook. Apply the above lessons appropriately to all your media communications. Think about the interesting articles that CU members can write on all kinds of subjects for the SU paper. Think about your flyers (minimal content, maximum clarity -for instant impact), posters, hoodies (no dates and diaries on clothing and no Bible verses please...)
 
One other thing... Communication with local churches, with alumni and others also needs some thought. Three things can improve communication with local churches - and they're largely dependent on your logistics and administration strategy being excellent. Clarity, generosity and long-term planning. Do these things well and everything else will run better. Do it badly and you're running up hill all year.

Over to you...

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