Subject Headings to Get Email Read

Read receipts, importance designation, and other tools have been employed in attempts to get your corporate email read by the recipients. My favorite time waster is to send an email, then send a text message or instant message (IM) notifying the person that an email was sent. Another trite method is the habit of attaching “URGENT” to your subject lines. The practice gets old fairly quickly. Urgent will more than likely be attached to something you do not find as urgent. More importantly, “URGENT” does not tell the reader what they will be required to do. Little mental filing or prioritizing can occur with an inbox of urgent messages.

Urgent email is like causing Villagers to race up the hill but no wolfIf you are like me, you still overlook important emails. I am not going to accept the total blame. My excuse is that it is a significant challenge, even with rules and filters, to quickly process the hundreds of emails received in a business account in a work day. If you are a supervisor, the number can be even more daunting. If you are a business owner who has not employed the trick of utilizing different mailboxes for registrations, marketing, personal contacts, and other functions, you have every email contact to sift through in one spot. That pre-planning is for another blog, but this blog is about sending the best subject headings in your emails.

Beginning with Specification

My first recommendation is that you consider the types of email that you will send from the account in question. Related to your pre-planning on multiple accounts, this process helps you share and message more intentionally. In this step, you identify whether your email is for marketing, general communication (i.e. social engagement), or business communication. Marketing encompasses all manner of sales pitches, product presentations, and sell/funnel based communication. General communication as a category houses all the customer relationship management, warm touches, and “don’t forget me” or “remember me” emails. Business communications are emails that have a business purpose, typically with an business-critical action requested. Human resources, benefits enrollment, expense reporting, training deadlines–anything that requires a time-limited response. The keys are as follows:

Marketing: What step in the sales funnel is the communication?
General Communication: What is the memorable touch point to communicate?
Business Communication: What is the call to action and timeline to communicate?

All-Caps Email Subject Heading Tags

With this in mind, I offer the following All-Caps Email Subject Heading Tags that will help your email recipients quickly scan the subject heading to determine how much mental space to give your email. Common understanding across the organization through repeated use, training, or simple FAQs for best practices can create a culture of efficiency around emails.

Urgent Headings
TIME-SENSITIVE: Used when the information contained expires.
ACTION-REQUIRED: Used when the reader must perform a critical action in response to the email.

Follow-Up Headings
DATE-UPDATE: Used to confirm a change of date or time of event.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Used when the contents communicate congratulations, holidays, events, or achievements.
AFFIRMATION: Used when the contents of the message are morale building, affirmative, or reflections.
MEETING-MINUTES: Used to denote contents detailing a meeting that has passed.

Promotional Headings
ADVERTISEMENT: Used when the email contents are advertising or promotional copy meant for clients or end users.
OPPORTUNITY: Used to delineate a message with an offer of optional participation.
TRAINING: Used when the message communicates a training available in-house.

Department Specific Headings
SUPPORT-IT-RESPONSE: Used when the message is a follow-up from the IT department.
MARKETING-PROOFS: Used when the message includes content that the recipient must review.
FINANCE: Used when the message is from the Finance department.
COMPLIANCE: Used when the message is from the Compliance department.

What other headings can you think of?