I've got a client who has always sent an e-newsletter on Thursday afternoon. Another has a tradition of pushing an e-digest to employees on Friday morning. And a third communicator insists that the only time to send emails is Tuesday around noon.

Who is right? They all could be--but their approach is wrong. By sticking to one day and time because "that's the way we do things around here," these internal communicators could be hitting Send at a time that doesn't work for employees.

I was reminded of the trickiness of timing when I read "Top 5 Myths About the Best Time to Send Emails" by Emma, an email marketer.  

As Emma writes, "You could spend every waking hour of your day crafting the best email campaign the world has ever seen, and it wouldn't mean anything if no one was around to read it.

"This is why timing is so crucial in email marketing. It's important to make sure you're sending emails at a time when your audience is most likely to be checking their inbox."

But here's the tricky part: "When you're looking for advice and best practices about the best time to send--whether it's a campaign or a single email--a lot has been written, and a lot has been wrong. Whether it comes from the internet or a crusty relic of tradition, there are many myths surrounding the business of email marketing."

And when it comes to internal communication, it's even harder to get timing right--because you can't just read a marketing report and apply those same rules to your employee email or e-newsletter.

For example, here are two myths about emails:

  • Mondays and Tuesdays are the best days of the week to send.
  • Morning is better than any other time of day.

As Emma explains, "The best day of the week to send out emails is going to depend entirely on your specific industry." And for external marketing, "the best time of day to send out emails, generally, is in the afternoon, especially around 3 p.m. This is when the workday is winding down, there might be some time to kill, yet people are still active in front of a computer."

So where does this leave us? 

Simple. You need to do three things to figure out the best days (and times) for your organization's email: 

1. Obtain the best data you can. 

2. Study the data. If you need more context, facilitate focus groups to ask employees about the "why" behind the numbers.

3. Test different options until you find the best days and times for your email.

For example, at one company, the data showed that an email digest that went out on Friday at noon had poor metrics (opens and clicks). So, as part of an internal communication audit, we facilitated focus groups to find out why employees weren't reading the digest.

"I'm trying to finish my work for the week on Friday, and don't have time for anything else," said one employee. 

Other focus group participants agreed. "I like the e-digest, but I never seem to get to it," another employee explained.

The solution was easy: Change distribution to Thursday morning. 

But your situation may be different. For some organizations, Friday is the email pit of despair, to be vigorously avoided at all costs. At others, Friday may work well, since key deadlines fall on Thursday.

As with every other aspect of email, there's no magic formula. Instead, you need to analyze data and test options to find the best approach (including timing) for your internal email.