I constantly have conversations with communicators who are eager to find the hot new technology--internal social platforms, apps, even artificial intelligence--to replace boring, clunky old email for communicating with employees.

But the reality is that, for the foreseeable future, email is here to stay as a foundation of internal communication. Email is simply too universal, too easy to use and too convenient to recklessly abandon.

But just because email is the devil we know doesn't mean that we have to be sloppy about how we use it. And there's one element of email that most communicators are doing poorly--which leads employees to ignore or delete even the most important organizational messages.

That element? Subject lines. External marketers know that 47% of recipients decide whether to open an email based solely on the subject line. So when you create subject lines that are meaningless or irrelevant, you've missed the opportunity to capture employees' attention.

That's why you need to make sure your subject lines accomplish at least one of these 5 objectives:

  1. Pique curiosity. The old way of thinking about subject lines is that they need to summarize the email itself. But marketers know that, since people have itchy trigger fingers (poised over the delete button), they need an incentive to open the message. That's why some of the best subject lines are intriguing. Examples: "Build this essential skill to accomplish your goals" and "Don't open this mail . . . unless you want to learn award-winners' secrets."
  2. Make an offer. We're all familiar with retailers who try to entice us with special sales. But everyone likes a deal, which is why offers work internally as well. Examples: "Download this valuable checklist for project management" and "Getting promoted can be just this simple."
  3. Meet employees' needs. Appealing to self-interest is always a winning strategy. That's why subject lines that are not about us (the organization) but are about you (the individual) cut through the clutter. Examples: "Stop wasting your time on non-productive tasks" and "5 benefits that can save you money."
  4. Avoid turn-offs. Marketers have studied practices that prevent people from opening emails. For instance, words like "newsletter," "meeting" and "training" all negatively affect open rates. Other turn-offs? Adopting a corporate tone or using bureaucratic language. Be friendly and conversational.
  5. Create a sense of urgency. If an email doesn't seem timely, it quickly falls to the bottom of the inbox--and then is lost forever. That's why using words like "limited," "urgent" and "special" encourage employees to act fast. Examples of better-pay-attention-now subject lines: "After today, this offer expires (really!)" and "Uh-oh, the deadline is fast approaching."

Writing great subject lines isn't easy, but it easy to find how-to resources about external email you can adapt for your internal messages. So brush up your knowledge to make every email count.