Email Communication During COVID-19: Tips and Examples

March 13, 2020
Written by
Kelsey Bernius
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

Email Communication During COVID-19: Tips and Examples

Updated 6/1/2021

COVID-19 has affected everyone in some form, but certain industries and local businesses have carried a heavier burden in terms of customer communications. Besides the airline and travel industry, many local businesses have sent out their own COVID-19 email updates as residents second-guess whether or not their favorite coffee shop has re-opened or whether or not they need to make a reservation before going to the gym. 

Some companies have dedicated teams and vendors who prepare year-round for crisis communications in situations just like this. But many smaller businesses and brands do not. Our recent Email Benchmark and Engagement Study revealed that, on average, people subscribe to and receive email from around 50 brands and businesses. As businesses begin to reopen, adjust hours, and set new protocols, many businesses are sending emails about what steps they are taking to reduce the risk of COVID-19 and keep customers safe while taking steps back to normalcy.

This post provides some best practice tips if you want to send your own COVID-19 email update and are looking for some guidance. 

First, do you need to send a COVID-19 email?

Just because you are seeing all of these COVID-19 emails pop up in your inbox doesn’t mean that you must send your own. In no way should you be sending emails about COVID-19 just to “capitalize” on the frenzy. Only send these emails if you have a legitimate business need to do so.

Some use cases that would necessitate extra crisis communication include:
  • Company event updates or cancellations
  • Store hour updates, closures, or re-openings
  • Information on how to access the services of a company remotely
  • Updates from businesses with high foot-traffic where individuals may come into close contact with each other
Please note: This is not an exhaustive list of when you need to send a COVID-19 email, but hopefully, this helps you decide what the next steps should be for your business. If you'd like to talk to an email expert, contact us here. 

Sender and subject line: be clear about what’s inside

Now is not the time to play around with changing your sender name. We recommend that senders avoid using personal names because it may confuse the recipient. They might not recognize the sender and glaze over the email. In situations like this, clarity is the number one priority and being consistent will help you achieve a clear message.

We recommend providing clear, succinct subject lines. In promotional emails, putting an intriguing spin can be an effective way to entice recipients to open your emails. But, for the COVID-19 email, keep to simple subject lines such as “Our Response to COVID-19.” If your recipient uses or visits your business, they will likely want to know more and open this email.

Adjust your brand voice and tone

Maybe your brand voice is typically super cheeky and free-spirited. Now would be a good time to adjust the tone and focus on the facts and developments within your control. But don’t over-correct so much and write in such a solemn or dire tone that you increase the recipient’s stress.

When writing the body copy of your COVID-19 email, connect with your recipient by acknowledging their anxiety, but keep a calm, objective tone throughout the email.

Your reader will understand the shift given the situation, and your brand will actually seem much more human.

Focus on action

Your recipients are going to be most interested in the actions you are taking to reduce the risk and spread of COVID-19. Consider providing those actions in a bulleted list so the reader can efficiently skim through your measures. Have you hired additional cleaners to deep clean your gym every week? This is what your recipient wants to know.

Chase Bank recently sent out a COVID-19 email with useful resources and tips for how to access the bank remotely:

Consider sectioning out your email into what you as a business are doing and what your customers can do to help. A Precious Child is a non-profit organization in the Denver Metro that provides gently used clothing and supplies for qualifying families. They outlined their preventive measures, as well as what they ask of volunteers, in easy to read bullet points:

During any sort of crisis, there is typically a sea of opinions and voices out there on news outlets, Twitter accounts, and more. Don’t use your COVID-19 email as an opportunity to add to that noise.
Avoid taking an editorial stance on a crisis unless you work for an agency that is dedicated to doing so.
Your recipients will sniff that out, and there is a good chance they may disagree with your views.  As a result, you only risk your brand reputation once the crisis is over.

Focus on the facts you have, and what actions you are taking because of those facts.

COVID company updates and reopening examples

As more and more COVID requirements are lifted, it is up to businesses to provide clear communications to their customers as to how they are following COVID protocols and any adjustments they are making to capacity, hours, or offerings. 

The above tips with a focus on clarity and action still apply. Here are a couple of examples of businesses that have clearly communicated how the lifted restrictions will affect their customers.

Restart your membership

ClassPass allowed customers to pause their plans throughout 2020 while COVID was in full force. But as restrictions around the country began to lift, ClassPass sent out an email detailing the steps to help get back into fitness. The email lists fitness businesses in the area that have reopened, clearly details when the customer’s membership will unpause, and provides a list of important updates regarding credits, safety and cleanliness, and how you can adjust your plan.

If you're planning to start up your services again, clearly outline to customers how they can get started with your business or stop their membership if they are no longer interested. Use bold text like ClassPass's email to highlight the most important pieces of information.

Health care: COVID vaccination email and SMS

We’d be remiss if we didn’t include a vaccine update email, a communication that health care providers acround the globe have been sharing with their patients to ensure they are informed and aware of how to sign up to receive their COVID vaccine.

This email from Kaiser Permanente has no fluff—it gets straight to the point starting with the subject line “New CDC mask guidelines.” It then details how you can sign up for your vaccine appointment and how Kaiser plans to address the mask guidelines, highlighting CTAs for each section. The email is simple but effective.

Many health care providers and businesses have also leaned on SMS (more commonly known as text messages) to quickly communicate with patients about upcoming appointments and available vaccines. 

For example, Dr. B relied on SMS to alert patients when vaccines became available. SMS allowed Dr. B to reach patients and get responses from them as quickly as possible. 

While email is excellent for communicating company updates and reopening procedures, if you need to contact your customers immediately, then SMS is an excellent tool to have in your communication arsenal.

Store re-opening COVID email

Like many businesses in 2020-21, Jalan Facial Spa had to temporarily close. Once the business was ready to re-open, they sent an excellent email outlining their cleaning procedures, COVID protocols, and capacity restrictions. Try using bold CTAs, like Jalan's email, to guide readers to learn more about your re-opening and COVID-19 safety policies. 

Be ready to adapt

As with any rapidly-changing situation, today’s developments can quickly become outdated. Be ready to respond to any other COVID-19 developments or updates so you can keep your employees and customers safe and healthy.

Hopefully, these tips will help you as you navigate the COVID-19 developments and provide effective email communications during this time. For the most accurate and up to date information on the spread of COVID-19, refer to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 Dashboard.

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