7 Ways to Get Families to Open Your Emails

David Leshaw
4 min read
Teacher checking a Class Poll created with Smore.

“I didn’t know Parent-Teacher Conferences were this week!”

“What form did I need to fill out?”

“Is the soccer game home or away?”

Sound familiar?

Like all of us, families are super-busy, and it can be incredibly difficult to reach them with critical info. According to recent data, email open rates in the Education sector average only 25%, meaning that important school emails are getting lost in the clutter.

Broadly speaking, the partnership between school admins, teachers, and families, is critical in determining student success. In a recent study, over 80% of families and school leaders agreed that school communications help families engage in their children’s learning.  

“Communication channels must go above and beyond the occasional parent-teacher conference.”  

Center for American Progress

So, how do you get families to see, open, and then read your emails? Here are seven tips that may help:

1. Use timely details in the subject line – For example, “Message from the Principal” will seem less timely than, “November school forms to sign & more!” or “Your child’s grades this semester.”

You can also experiment with putting a riddle in the subject line and the answer in the body of the email. Here’s one you can try in your November newsletter: “What music did the pilgrims listen to?” – “Plymouth Rock!” Another great trick is to use sequential numbers that will make your email seem familiar, as part of ongoing communication between you and families or community members. For example, Ms. Maple’s Memo #24 or Principal Hutchins: December Dispatch #1.

2. Use Emojis to Stand Out: According to an email marketing study, the use of emojis in subject lines increased open rates by 56%! So don’t shy away from showing your emojis.

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3. Make Your Subject Line Mobile-Friendly: Like anyone, families are super-busy and are most likely reading school communications on their phones. In fact, in 2019, over 60% of people opened their emails on a mobile device. Make your subject line mobile-friendly to ensure it reaches all of your readers. The ideal length for a subject line to be both desktop- and mobile-friendly is up to about 40 characters. Use a word counter such as this one and try to keep your subject within this range.

4. Keep things Consistent – We’ve spoken about this in a few of our blog posts: keeping a consistent sharing schedule will increase your open and engagement rates. Region 10 Teaching and Learning Consultant and Smore user, Jennifer Hood, spoke with us on the subject in an interview here.

Jennifer noted that predictability through consistency helps boost the reader’s confidence in your content and builds a trust-based relationship between educators, faculty, and families. Pick a day of the week to send your weekly newsletter and maintain that schedule throughout the year.

5. Check your analytics… – …and resend! If the tool or service you use has an analytics feature, see who has actually opened your email. You should then send an email follow-up to those who haven’t yet opened it.

6. Survey your readers – Have you asked your families which communication method they prefer? It may be worth sending out a survey to families early in the year or handing them out during parent/teacher conferences on how they prefer to be contacted and what kind of information they would like to receive. Let families understand the importance of your communications and the sharing schedule you’ll have in place. If you are already dealing with poor open rates, find involved families you can speak with and ask them how you can communicate better; use their feedback when crafting your updates in the future.

7. Ask families to move you to “Primary” – Email providers like Gmail catergorize certain emails by Primary, Social, Updates, and Promotions, depending on the sender.

At the beginning of the school year, ask families to move your emails to the Primary tab, so that Gmail will know to subsequently deliver school communications straight to their inbox, rather than to a tab with emails from the local supermarket.

8. Bonus: Share your newsletter on social media, too! 😊

For More School Newsletter Tips, Click on the Template Below

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David Leshaw

When David isn't making pour-over coffee or running up mountains in search of an ultra-marathon PR, he oversees B2C marketing efforts for Smore, the world's most-loved newsletter software.

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